Whenever I'm asked what's one of the hardest things about having an Etsy shop, I usually say the photography. It seems so easy to point and click, but there is so much to be said in only five provided slots that you need to capture the essence of the product and all its quirky little details. Photography is so important to online shopping because buyers can't touch and see the item in real life, yet so many people think they can do it. I freely admit I don't know as much as I should, I definitely wouldn't call myself a photographer, but there's something about taking out a camera and capturing the world around you.
One person who does this beautifully, is Brandt from Nature | City. I have been admiring his work for awhile, and I was excited about the opportunity to interview him. From his travels abroad in Asia to his home state of Florida, there is an amazing depth and life to the places he captures. He offers prints of his original works, but you can also purchase decorative and fashion items like throw pillows, wall clocks, tote bags, and even shower curtains.
1. How do you define art?
I like to think of art like storytelling. When I look at art, I look for it to convey meaning to me. What can it tell me about itself as much as possible without the artist giving the story of their inspiration or explanation behind its purpose or meaning to me first? This allows me to go in many different directions with my imagination on it. There is no constriction towards possibilities endless, if that makes sense.
2. How would you describe your art?
I’ve always loved photography. Even when not taking a picture, I find myself drawn towards the work of others. In it, I look for a sense of belonging. Take for example a landscape photograph. I want to imagine myself in it, as if I’m living amongst the work. I try and do the same for viewers with my own work. Whether it’s a landscape or other subject matter, I hope that the viewer is able to make a connection with it similar to the connections I make with it.
3. Name three adjectives that describe your artistic point of view.
Moody, inspiring, and awe striking? I know there’s more. I figured the first three that came off the top of my head would work!
4. Who has most personally influenced and inspired you as an artist?
I’ve been a lover of movies even before I first used a camera; especially the cinematographic element involved in that medium of storytelling. Film Noir and Sci Fi movies, like Blade Runner and Brazil, were always big inspirations to me when imagining a world through imagery. That sort of dystopian future setting always interested me in attempting to tip my hat towards that through my own photography. However, as my inspirations have changed, so too has my work.
5. Has your artistic sensibility changed since you first began?
Absolutely! Like mentioned before, as an artist who also operates as an entrepreneur, the buyer’s market can play a vital role in that decision making process for me. There are a plethora of images I have photographed over the years that I absolutely love, yet have never translated over well to a potential buying audience. In looking to cater to meet those needs, my work has changed somewhat, influenced by the demand and interest of my own audience (and potential visitors).
6. What inspires your art?
Just as in my response to question 4, I’m influenced heavily by the cinematic realm of storytelling. I love for art to convey meaning through storytelling to me. Sometimes, when words can’t seem to do it, like in an otherwise complicated book, a picture (or moving picture) helps.
7. Do you have a favorite artist from another field?
David Fincher, as a film director, perhaps? He has a sort of gritty and dark way of storytelling through his movies, where as a viewer, I know what to expect with each piece he puts out. He creates this dark and moody world that I love escaping to as a viewer, even if only for a few hours. Movies such as Se7en, Fight Club, and The Social Network, all had this similar dark visual feel incorporated, that helped to create this mood of a black, cold world, no matter the premise of the story. Regardless of mainstream influence or pressure, he seems to stick to the same backbone visually that brought him in to it. I admire that!
8. Who is your favorite competitor from your field?
I’m not certain I have one in particular. I do follow the work of others more successful and longstanding than myself (and mostly to get a better sense of how it is that they have come to their own levels of success). However, I feel that I’m mostly in competition with myself?
Personally, I set a high bar in anything that I do: one, to avoid complacency with any success, small or big, and two, to continue driving towards a level of craftsmanship that can still leave me surprised by the end results.
As the saying goes, “you’re only as good as your next performance”! I think that complacency can become a very depressing thing if you believe that this is the best work you can give. I think it’s important to keep developing in your craft, no matter what it is that you do. As influences change, so too should your work?
9. Do you have any occupation hazards or mishaps?
Not necessarily any hazards. But more like war stories?
This is a memory that I will never let go of (or even get over, for that matter). It involved a week long trek through Thailand (I was on vacation) while living and working as a teacher in South Korea.
Anyways, the night I arrived to the hostel I was to stay at in Bangkok, I made a last second decision to switch out the hand strap of my camera for the neck strap, teething with anticipation to walk through the street markets my first night in (after checking in and dropping my luggage). Impatiently, I rigged the camera strap together, unknowingly unsecured, and hurriedly bolted for the staircase leading down and out to the street. Letting the camera dangle freely from my neck (and not bracing it with my hand), it flew free from the strap and shattered in to pieces as it made its way down the stairs.
Needless to say, I spent all of my vacation attempting to fix my camera, enough to the point that I could muster at least some sense of visuals to help explain my exotic experience in Thailand. Thankfully, I managed to get several worthy shots of this beautiful country, yet not as many of particular places of interest to capture during my short time and travel there that I had experienced.
I’d have to say it’s on my bucket list of places to visit (or revisit [and reshoot]), with more preventative measures set in place for myself next time. I’m a bit clumsy, by nature. Ha ha!
10. What did you wish you would have known when starting out?
That I should have devoted my education to my art instead of two degrees in non-related fields? My mindset was different back then, especially in the days when running a business online was seemingly non-existent. From that perspective, it was hard to say with any certainty that I could make some sort of living as an artist outside of my own local market, especially without the tools available to build an international following to my work. So instead, I grinded it out in the academic world, and spent the past several years in the field of education, before realizing that I was meant to do what I’ve been doing now the whole time.
With that, I can happily say to others, who are thinking of leaving the working world of a job they may loathe, that it’s never too late to pursue your own happiness, even if it’s a slow roll (which it is) for the first couple of years. I managed to balance both before my work involved with operating this started to pick up to the point that I struggled setting time aside for my job, which led me to walk away from it completely as a result, and now focus solely on this. Also, with the way that the job market continues to be an unsteady ship, I find more of a sense of security in operating my own business.
At the end of the day, I’m more at peace with myself for doing what I do now (even if for the moment, I earn only a fraction of what I did before when employed). As an artist and business person, it’s become more gratifying to me in as opposed to being an ambitious yet underappreciated and underutilized employee in the workforce.
I’m sure everyone’s experience is different, however. This is just how it’s come to be for me.
11. What is your favorite item currently for sale in your shop?
My Wall Clocks! I work alongside a manufacturer to help with the production and completion of Wall Clocks that feature my photography as the centerpiece or focal point as part of the design process. I was a bit skeptical at first of the sample images showing what the final pieces would look like. But once receiving them in hand, I was really taken aback by how sleek and modern they looked. Aside from offering them to customers for purchasing, I proudly hang one from the walls of my home office as well!
12. Who is your favorite author? What was your favorite book as a child?
I don’t necessarily have a favorite author, by any means. I’m more so drawn to a great piece of literature that can pull me in to the world of its words for a few hours here and there. But going back to films, there are some really great reads I like to revisit now and then, such as No Country For Old Men by Cormack McCarthy, and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. Even though both were made in to movies, the books are still just as good!
13. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An illustrator? I spent a good majority of my time outside of school while growing up, introverted and locked away in my room, drawing sketch upon sketch, regardless if on lined notebook paper or other. It was just sort of something I enjoyed doing. What drew me away from it was when I got in to photography; I’m not sure why I never went back to illustration, honestly. But in a way, both were a great medium for storytelling. I just eventually leaned towards having more of an interest with photography in the end.
14. Where is the farthest you have travelled? Where did you dream about visiting as a child?
I had the opportunity to live and work abroad in South Korea in 2009. Before that, any travel was limited to road trips within the United States. I had a great fear of flights (still do), but circumstances in my life at that time made me leap, uncaringly, as far as Asia without thinking twice. As a child, I wanted to go everywhere that magazines like National Geographic and such introduced me to while growing up. I still do, actually!
15. Which musician or musical group inspires you the most? What was your favorite childhood song?
I’m not big in to music, actually. I do however like to listen to something experimental or meditative from time to time. I can go as deep as an industrial sound, or light as an ambient track of white noise. I incur a lot of self-inflicted stress on myself, and it’s a great release to have to help bring my mind back to a sense of equilibrium.
16. Where can people find you and your art online?
I just recently launched my own dot com site, as I was eager to grow independently outside of being hosted on a market site, such as Etsy. I can be found here at www.naturecity.co, even though I still spend a great deal of time on Etsy with my brand and business. I’m hoping that a migration leads people to my website though as well, so I can eventually focus entirely on that.