ANDREW PAFFRATH

Prepping for the shoot at the Mesquite Sand Dunes. Death Valley National Park, Near Stovepipe Wells, CA.

Prepping for the shoot at the Mesquite Sand Dunes. Death Valley National Park, Near Stovepipe Wells, CA.

Where are you from and where do you live now? Has your work as photographer played a role in where you currently reside?

I was born in Northeastern New Jersey and lived there only a short time before my family relocated to a rural area in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, but it really wasn’t until I moved out west that I fell headlong into photography as a passion and as an art form. I currently am based out of Flagstaff, Arizona; at 7000 some-odd feet, it offers many of the constants I appreciated from living in the Northeast as well as unfettered access, in the immediate vicinity and more broadly, to some of the most astoundingly gorgeous landscapes in the country, in my opinion. As I’ve dove deeper and deeper into my role as a producer of mixed multimedia art, I’ve felt my attraction to Northern Arizona growing; twelve years on now and I often find myself wondering how I’ll ever leave. The arc of my life’s experience, I suppose, influences the diversity of my interests in photography and media arts: from my love of photographing urban decay to my passion for dark skies and astrophotography - there are pieces of each chapter of my life in how and what I create.

The Far Box Canyon Ruin at Lomaki Pueblo among the Milky Way Galatic Center as it sets. Lomaki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument, Arizona.

The Far Box Canyon Ruin at Lomaki Pueblo among the Milky Way Galatic Center as it sets. Lomaki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument, Arizona.

In your own words, describe your unique style of photography.

I’m not sure that I’d say I have a distinct style and perhaps that is my style; I like to experiment and tinker with expectation or norms. I do find that landscape and the natural world are my bedrock and whether I’m creating more traditional images or journeying into experimental spaces, the out-of-doors are often the cornerstone of my material. From there I work in other subjects in the context of their role or responsibilities within the natural world. This applies to whichever method I am utilizing to create visual art: photographs, design, composite, digital cinema, etc.

Framing the valley floor in the younger rock on the peaks around Dante's View. Death Valley National Park, Near Death Valley Junction, CA.

Framing the valley floor in the younger rock on the peaks around Dante's View. Death Valley National Park, Near Death Valley Junction, CA.

What got you into photography?

My father. He was a hobbyist as I was growing up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and always had photo theory books lying around the house. When I was maybe ten or eleven, he gave me his Olympus OM-1 35mm SLR and 50mm Zuiko f/1.8; it probably sat on a shelf in my room until my family visited Arizona for the first time in the late 90s. I took that camera with me, and through a process of tinkering and guidance from my Dad, shot rolls and rolls of film which, largely, didn’t amount to much but the handful of properly exposed images were just pure magic - the process and variables that have to align to create a good image, especially on film was impressive to me even at a young age - I was hooked. I shoot on that camera, to this day.

Jeremy Collins of Meridian Line and Emily Lee capture the fleeting early morning light among the gaps in a frigid morning storm. Valley of the Gods, Near Mexican Hat, Utah.

Jeremy Collins of Meridian Line and Emily Lee capture the fleeting early morning light among the gaps in a frigid morning storm. Valley of the Gods, Near Mexican Hat, Utah.

Do you feel that the emergence of apps like Instagram and Facebook has contributed to your growth as a professional?

The pool of inspiration and examples of what to try and what to stay away from have grown to “limitless” status since the advent of social media platforms and more accessible digital imaging technology. Most times, I find that it is more of a detriment to my own creative process [massive distraction] beyond simply dissecting how a photo was made, how it was lit, how it was shot, how the model was posed or directed and so on. The same goes for technology aiding in creating visual art; I’ve found myself edging on pitching my phone across a river or into the darkest reaches of a slot canyon when battling some wonky bluetooth app controlling some peripheral attached to my DSLR. As frustrating as this can be, it is truly incredible what you can do when you begin incorporating new and emerging technologies into your photo game. And on top of that, dealing with finicky tech makes me appreciate shooting on film every time I reach for the old stuff. It’s a balancing act, for sure.

What motivates you to go out and shoot?

In the simplest way, just going out and doing. One of my favorite experiences being the process of planning and executing astrophotography or time-lapse shoots. I’ll often go out alone and I think it is through these opportunities at quiet contemplation, few distractions, and countless opportunities to remove oneself from the static of day to day modern life that I am able to really put pen to paper, in the cognitive sense, and think about what it is I am doing, how minor changes affect the final image….but too, in just letting the mind wander where it will; from this, some of my favorite pieces of writing, illustration, or photo concepts have been born.

Capturing the vastness of the desert basins on an Olympus OM-1 35mm SLR. Death Valley National Park, Near Stovepipe Wells, CA.

Capturing the vastness of the desert basins on an Olympus OM-1 35mm SLR. Death Valley National Park, Near Stovepipe Wells, CA.

What is your advice for someone wanting to become a better photographer or who has just picked up a camera for the first time?

A very close friend of mine and fellow capturer of photos used to carry his camera EVERYWHERE. Always on, never capped, always hanging from his shoulder. He insisted this afforded him as many opportunities to practice his craft and the fewest excuses not to, and I agree. I spent the better part of a year practicing this same habit and while I may not have produced stellar images every single day, it fostered a comfortability with the medium and gave me the platform to grow a deep knowledge of widely varied techniques. From that, I could easily foray into raw experimentation without getting hung up on the minor details of creating an image. So my suggestion: once you shoulder that camera, keep it on you as much as you can and shoot. A lot. Oh, and ask questions; Reddit is there for more than just cat gifs.

2016_08_24_LCM_Sarah_Silhouette_Portrait-2.jpg