Social theorist Erich Fromm stated, “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” For David Stuart, this maxim couldn’t ring more true. It’s a rare gift to be able to let go of preconceptions and allow the circumstance to dictate the destination.
While drinking in Stuart’s visually entrancing images, one gets the impression that this photographer spends hours on conception, composing the balance of color and symmetry in a photograph. But speak with Stuart himself, and a very different impression is formed. His blank-canvas approach to his work is not only surprising, but refreshing as well.
Stuart draws from a medley of past experience, travel, present circumstance and pure raw talent. It’s hard to pinpoint one influence that shapes his style. The brightly colored images that pop from the pages of his work seem refined and stylized, but for Stuart, it was just how it happened.
“I didn’t make a decision to create colorful photographs,” he says. “That’s just what I did. I prefer punchy colors, but nothing too silly or too campy.”
As a world traveler and an avid scuba diver, Stuart has a penchant for bright, scintillating colors and a world that’s constantly in motion. He has called both Costa Rica and Ecuador home and has recently finished his first underwater editorial project for Fortune Small Business.
Says Stuart, “The love of nature can inspire beautiful colors. I love being on the islands. The intense blue of the ocean goes with the intense sky. I’d love to do more underwater work, but it would have to be more meaningful than just shooting fish and coral. I don’t like things to be too static. I’m concentrating on putting more motion and dynamism into the shots.”
Beyond the great outdoors, Stuart is constantly on the lookout for inspiration, whether it’s new photographers with cutting-edge work or great classic paintings from the Baroque era. It’s not surprising that his first photographic inspiration was film, however. The work of Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch and Tim Burton has helped to cultivate Stuart’s high-concept style. And like these great masters, Stuart has the ability to develop highly imaginative characters. He takes everyday situations, adds his own unique expression and colors, and invites the viewer’s imagination to create whimsical and beguiling stories.
However creative and imaginative Stuart may be on his own though, his work is fortified with the talent of many people. He knows how dynamic the power of collaboration can be.
“After all the research and scouting and shooting, I’m tired,” he says. “The last thing I want to do is look at the images. I like getting a fresh eye on things. If you work with people who are equally as talented, you come out with a wonderful product. People shape things differently every time.”
Stuart’s choice of camera equipment is versatile. He fluctuates seamlessly between digital and film. Though he prefers the look of film, Stuart recognizes the benefit of digital.
“Although I haven’t given up film completely,” he says, “and I still use my Mamiya RZ on some projects, it’s definitely shifting more and more toward digital capture. I love the look of negative film, but quite frequently, I require the immediacy of digital.
“I shoot with all types of cameras. I prefer the look of film 35mm, but I shoot composite on digital. It all depends on the lens. People get so caught up in the megapixels, but really it’s about the lens. They’re much more important.”
Adds Stuart, “The one item that I consider indispensable right now—this could change tomorrow—is my Canon EOS 5D body and Canon 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 lens. It seems like I always have that camera along for the ride. I’ve shot tons of skies and elements that I’ve used to build images with. It’s also relatively inexpensive, so if I’m on vacation and it gets trashed, stolen or I drop it in the water, I won’t cry like a baby. I don’t like to get too dependent on equipment. I’m always trying to change things up a bit. I’m using hot lights again. I haven’t used them in five years!”
Stuart’s constant willingness to be affected by his surroundings is reflected in his photography. He’s inspired by the beauty of the earth and all the glorious colors and images around us. By allowing us to see through his eyes, we’re able to experience the world as an intensely sharp and vibrant place, one that’s both brilliant and fluid in its everyday motion.
To see more of David Stuart’s photography, visit www.davidstuart.net.
Article written for DigitalPhotoPro, www.digitalphotopro.com.