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Photographer of the Week: Dominic Casserly

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  January 28, 2009 04:36 PM

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Late Day Riding
"Late Day Riding" / California, 2008 / Photo by Dominic Casserly

By Dominic Casserly

I found photography, like many people, by accident. My sister is a photographer and she always had photos and camera equipment all over the house. Although it was always around, I was never interested in photography until I began to travel.

In 2006, I was working as a web-poster for a 10-day endurance race in Moab, Utah called Primal Quest. I brought my point-and-shoot as any first-time traveler would, to take snapshots of the experience. After a few days of editing and posting professionals' photos to the website, I wanted to get outside and see the race for myself. I went out with my camera and was surprised when some of my pictures were chosen to be posted to the site, used on Yahoo! News, for outdoor retail promotion, postcards, and even published in Men's Journal.

That experience made me realize that photography was something I wanted to pursue.

After that first trip, I started using a camera to tell my personal stories of travel. I took a semester off from MassArt and embarked on a cross-country camping trip with two friends. We spent three months going from one National Park to the next, backcountry camping for days on end in each one.

On that trip, we experienced the vast geographic diversity that exists right here in America: from arid deserts in the South Dakota Badlands and California's Death Valley, to the magnificent mountain ranges of the Tetons, Mt. Olympus, and Mt. Rainier. We encountered bear, elk, rattlesnakes, bison, mule deer, mountain goats and other classic Western-movie animals.

I documented everything we did and everything we saw: setting up tents beneath giant redwood trees, a mother bear and cub crossing our path high up in the Olympic backcountry, even our frequent stops at old Western gas stations with analog pumps and coyote pelts for sale.

Coming from Boston, all these textures and vistas were new, and it was easy for my eyes to become engaged in something that the locals would find mundane, as I would seeing someone from South America taking 100 photos of a squirrel on Boston Common.

As we traveled, I made a website to let friends and family back home know what our daily lives were like, but made a point to not include text. I wanted to use photography as editorial. I found that by pairing photos together, I could make a greater narrative than a single shot. I used different layouts to showcase not just my friends hiking, but my friends hiking in the environment. I could show the textures of the land, the leaves on the trees, the road itself, as well as the sheer scope of the land -- the enormity of it.

High Sierra
"High Sierra" / California, 2006 / Photo by Dominic Casserly

In 2008, I began another trip, RideHardUSA. A friend and I biked from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Southernmostpoint in Key West, Florida. For three months, we lived in small-town America, pitching our tents in graveyards, church lots, and behind baseball diamonds, carrying everything we needed on our bikes. I saved weight by bringing only two of each essential: socks, underwear, and T-shirts, but I brought four cameras and a tripod.

I've learned through all my travels that the only important thing is to keep taking pictures, no matter what. The difference between getting good shots or not are the excuses you come up with when faced with discomfort. It's going to be cold or really hot, you're going to be hungry and definitely tired, you won't feel like taking your camera out, and if you do you won't want to set up the tripod. There's always a reason to not take the shot, but by putting myself through forced hardship, like biking 140 miles in one day then setting up camp and making my own dinner, I've gotten pretty good at accepting discomfort. There's no real secret to getting good photographs, just keep taking shots and there's bound to be pictures you'll like, or at least pictures that tell the story of your progress.

Atlantic Ride
"Atlantic Ride" / Florida Keys, 2008 / Photo by Dominic Casserly

After RideHardUSA, I wanted to go out and see New England, the mountains and the forests. I sought to use the camera to capture a time and a place. To capture the breeze blowing over the White Mountains, playing with the alpine grass, as the sun sets on an August evening. I wanted to show viewers the story of these places and of me, what it feels like to stand here, on this wet summer day, trees soaked from an all-night rain, soft pine-needles under my feet. I take photos to help me remember the moment that I was there, standing in the ancient forests, biking across the open deserts of Texas, or looking out over Yosemite from atop Half-Dome as a storm rolled into the valley below.

Wet Woods
"Wet Woods" / New England Wilderness, 2008 / Photo by Dominic Casserly

I have the benefit of coming at photography with no real notions of how it "should" be done. I don't get all wrapped up in gear, in technical information. Canon or Nikon? Aperture and filters, tilt-shift lenses and image-stabilizers. I'm not overly concerned with these. For me, photography is more about the narrative, about telling the story of what happened. With digital workflow, you can create any image you can imagine, making the content that much more important.

My work has always been about the process and the narrative. It's not about the images you take; it's about the journey that got you there.


Dominic Casserly
Since graduating from Massachusetts College of Art in 2007, Dominic has pursued a varied career in art. His large-scale sculptures can be seen as installations all over the East Coast, as part of the Boston-Based Art Collective
! N D ! V ! D U A L S. When not traveling for his own projects, Dominic spends his time filming and editing a wildlife/travel show, NatureCalls.tv, a web-based
experience documenting host Pat Spain's quest to bring nature shows to the MySpace generation. As a photographer, Dominic's work is shown throughout New England in galleries and art spaces. You can see more of his work here (open in IE) as well as in the Flash gallery below (use the Full-screen link). You can email him here.

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