Interview with Travis Huggett // Photographer

Along with many others, we recently got a little bit obsessed with an on-going Photography series, Last Night at The Bus Stop. The simplicity of the series allows the photographs to speak for themselves. The strange, eerie and occasionally comical portraits, evoke that sleepy, uncomfortable and horribly familiar feeling that we all know a bit too well! We got in touch with Travis Huggett, an inspiring, New York based, Photographer, who also happens to be the brilliant mind behind, Last Night at The Bus Stop… 

IMG_8210.jpgHey Travis! Tell us a bit about yourself and your Photography…

OK, about me. I’m from Rhode Island, but have been in New York City for years. I moved here to study photography at The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I now live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. About my photography, I usually say I’m a portrait photographer, because I don’t really have a better way to describe it. If you have any ideas I’m open to suggestions.

Aside from your beautifully polished Fashion and Editorial Photography, you also focus on capturing more ‘real’ and gritty scenes, like in your awesome, ‘Last Night At The Bus Stop’, series. The emotion within these photographs is so intense; there’s a great sense of unease, but also of overwhelming familiarity. Could you tell us more about this inspiration behind this series?

Thanks so much! I like to have a personal project going, it gives me something to focus on if work is slow or not very interesting. This one was pretty simple in its inspiration. I like how the buses look at night, the contrast of the overly lit interiors moving through the dark streets. I thought it could make for some interesting portraits, and it was something I could do in the evenings after work. I was really happy with what I was getting almost immediately, so I kept at it.

For many Artists and Designers, the thought of taking their craft and turning it into a full-time career seems pretty terrifying. What was your journey like, from amateur photographer to having your work featured in publications such as Vanity Fair, GQ and Flaunt, and working for clients like Levi’s, New Era and Red Bull?

I after I graduated from school I knew I wanted to be a photographer, but I didn’t really have a good sense of what it took to do that. What I eventually did is a pretty common route, at least for people here in NYC. I worked at a coffee shop, I worked as a bartender, and I tried to find photographers to assist. It’s hard at first, when you really know nothing about how a commercial photo shoot works, you just have to keep at it and learn. Luckily I fell in with some photographers that didn’t care too much that I knew so little, as long as I showed up on time and was helpful. 

I assisted photographers that were doing all kinds of different photography, and I used those jobs to help me figure out what I wanted to do. For example, I learned pretty quickly that I am not patient enough to be a good still life photographer. Once I knew what I liked and hoped I’d be good at, I transitioned from assisting to shooting. I would take any and every shooting job I could, while only assisting for people I loved working with. Eventually I phased out the assisting all together and was able to be more selective about my work.

Having followed your work for a while, your favourite subject matter, and main focus, seems to be humans. What do you look for when you’re capturing a portrait?

Yeah, like I said, I’m not patient enough for still life. I really like shooting people, models or otherwise. There is an energy in shooting people that I need in order to stay engaged. 
When shooting a portrait I’m hoping that I can capture something that makes me feel something. At there best, a great portrait can seem like it’s telling a story. The viewer is really the one that decides that story maybe, but it doesn’t really matter. I love seeing portraits that feel like a jumping off point, they make my brain go somewhere else with that person. As for working with models, I think the best ones can give you that same thing. Does that make sense? With them it’s all make believe, but that’s fun too. What I have a hard time with is, and this doesn’t stop me from doing it all the time for work, I don’t like photos of models in places or positions no person would ever be in, right? Think of all the crazy shit we have models doing that nobody would ever do. I shoot those photos, but I never really love them. I’m usually just thinking “Why the hell is she wearing nothing but a fur coat in the back of this taxi?”. (If any potential clients are reading this, ignore what I just said. I LOVE shooting those).

Do you have a favourite camera and/or lens?

I use Canon Digital. I’m not super passionate about equipment. I like Canon, I know it well and I’ve been really happy with it, but if someone tries to explain to me why another camera is better, I tend to just nod and think about other stuff. As for my favorite cameras, I love Mamiya 7s and The Pentax 67s. Medium format film cameras, I don’t shoot them much but they make me happy to look at on the shelf.

Obviously, networking is an important part of building up your name and brand within the Art and Design industry. Do you find working out of New York, a hub of Artists and Designers, has helped further your career?

I think so, yes. I’ve never worked out of anywhere else, so it’s hard for me to say what it would be like. The industry is certainly here, and that must count for something. I know photographers that don’t live here that get great jobs and do great work, but they did establish themselves here first, and then leave. It all depends on what you want. A lot of the jobs are generated here, but then it also feels like every 3rd person on the L train is a photographer.

What’s your favourite photograph that you have taken to date and why?

Oh man. Today it’s one from the bus series of a couple kissing. It’s got some nice purple casts on it, it’s dark in all the right spots, there is some text on the bus that I love. Yeah. That one, but if you ask me again tomorrow it will be different.

Who is your favourite photographer of all time?

That’s tough. This is another answer that would change depending on the day you ask. Let’s go with Mary Ellen Mark today. She passed away recently and I found her and her photographs inspiring. I shot her portrait once and it was scary and great.

016.jpgFinally, do you have a favourite campaign or project that you have taken part in?

I almost always have the fondest memories of the jobs I do with friends. Last year I did a road trip shoot for Levi’s and it was with some of my favorite people, so that was great. Jobs like that don’t feel like work and I think that shows in the photos.

Well, thanks for your time Travis! As our first Featured Photographer, do you have any advice for our readers?

My advice is: Be nice. Many jobs involve long days, and for the most part, the people hiring photographers (or whoever) want to spend those long days with people that they like being around.

Keep up-to-date with Travis’ work…

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