Cade Overton:Photography as Exploration with a Purpose
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sedgwick, Maine, a small town on the coast about three hours north of Portland.
When did you get into photography and why?
I liked to take pictures as a kid, especially when we traveled on family vacations, and I took photography classes in high school, which is where I learned to develop and print in a darkroom. I got serious about it in college, where I majored in studio art and spent a few years doing long-exposure night photographs of urban architecture. This is also when I began using a Rolleiflex, and that camera really cemented my love for shooting. For me, it’s all about exploration with a purpose, and photography allows wanderlust to be a tool, an integral part of the process. What could be better than that?
How would you describe your shooting style?
I’m mostly shooting rural landscape now. If I’m on or near the road, I’m always looking for the human element of the landscape, signs and totems of people’s unfathomable existence. People’s yards are so weird. I live in a really rural, white part of the country, so it would be very easy to photograph poverty porn, endless yards full of rusting cars and garbage, broken swing sets in front of rotting trailers, etc., so I try to stay away from that and find the more nuanced things that will describe this little world I have in my mind. I try to find scenes that I can add to an ongoing description of a quiet, out-of-the-way universe that is mine, that exists partly in my imagination. This includes a lot of natural/wilderness stuff lately as well; nature’s implacable forces are definitely on my mind a lot more these days.
What kind of gear and technology do you use; and how does this influence or impact your work?
I use a Rolleiflex and color film, and when I’m hiking I always take a Pentax K-1000 and some black and white film. If I’m feeling very serious and disciplined I’ll have the Rolleiflex on a tripod, but most of the time now I’m cycling, hiking in the mountains, or carrying a toddler on my back while I’m shooting, so gear-wise I keep it pretty minimal. I carry a light meter and a cable release, but besides the camera that’s about it. Film is expensive and scanning (which I do at home) is time-consuming, so I work really slowly and shoot very deliberately. There’s something satisfying about editing my work weeks or even months after I shot it, too. Hindsight is part of the process.
What photographer or artist has had the biggest influence on your own photography?
That’s nearly impossible to answer, but one of my teachers, Frank Armstrong, has had a huge impact on me stylistically. He hates the word “composition,” but much of what I know about looking through a viewfinder and considering what’s inside the boundaries of the negative, and why, I learned from him. He’s fallen deeply in love with every single scene he’s ever photographed, which sure is something to think about. I also love the work of Rinko Kawauchi, and though I don’t shoot like she does at all, I always think about her poetic, curious approach to seemingly simple subjects.
What motivates or inspires you to continue taking pictures?
I’m not really sure. It’s the one thing that I don’t think I could ever stop doing… but I guess I also feel like I haven’t accomplished anything yet. My best work is still in front of me. I’ve also stopped taking it so seriously now that I’m a little bit older, too. I understand now that it’s something I do for myself, and it’s possible to make my best photo of the year while I’m on a tiny nature trail with my kid, or while we’re walking the dog or something. I’ve let go of the idea that I have to be some kind of genius artist, working fanatically all the time, and so now photography is just part of my life, and life is relaxing and good. And suddenly I’m getting my negatives back and holding them up to the window in my kitchen and going “Wow, I’m making work that I’m really excited about.” Life is strange, man.
To see more work by Cade Overton, visit his website at cadeoverton.com
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