Brad Westcott is one of those photographers that make me mad, not because of anything he says or does but because his photographs are just so good. There is a wonder & sincerity that footnotes every one of his photographs & puts you in the action of movement. After following his work for a while I decided to ask him a few questions. Thank you Brad for your time & please seek out more of his work.
Empty Stretch: Can you just start by telling me a little bit about yourself?
Age/ Where you’re based/ Things you like.
Brad Westcott: I’m 22 years old and currently reside in Tempe, Arizona. I really enjoy taking photos, traveling, skateboarding, sending and receiving mail, making mixtapes, and I like to think I’m a connoisseur of fine foods. But that’s just my opinion.
ES: How did you get into photography?
BW: I remember I went on some family vacations when I was really young, like 10 or 11 and I was always stoked on all the awesome skate spots and stuff I would see while on the road. Eventually I obtained a disposable camera and realized I could take these moments home with me in one sense or another. Fast forward a few years and I bought a shitty 35mm SLR to take on a skate trip to California. I was instantly addicted once I got home and processed all the rolls from the trip. It’s been an avalanche ever since.
ES: You often photograph train riding/ writing & skateboarding ,both of which are heavily steeped in traditions. How have the two affected you & your photographs?
BW: Wow, that’s a really great question. There are a million parallels between riding trains and skateboarding. I’ve been skateboarding since I was 10 years old and developed traits that are typical of someone who likes to cut corners. Probably one of my favorite things about skateboarding is that you learn how to trespass “correctly” at a very young age. When I first became interested in trains, it was inherent that I would be good at trespassing and successfully getting away with the mischievous aspect that goes along with riding trains. Naturally I have my camera at my side during any type of activity, but with skateboarding and riding trains I definitely try to expose the type of scenes that gives insight into the culture and tradition. Sometimes it’s difficult to clarify something so rich in history through one single photograph, but I believe it’s possible to do and I like to think that some of my images have successfully captured the true nature of skateboarding and riding trains.
ES: Coming from history of skateboarding & trains does your photographic output reflect those backgrounds. i.e. zines, lo quality, more ephemera based material as opposed to lasting objects.
BW: Yeah, I would say my photographs definitely reflect the backgrounds of the things that I am interested in. All of my images are heavily influenced by the zine culture and low quality methods that people use to project themselves out into the world. The best way I can describe it is by putting my photographic process into perspective. I almost always shoot with little point and shoot 35mm cameras that are bare bones, which makes photography and composition seem secondary and very subconscious. I’m often times more aware and in tune with the actual experience than the image. The final result is an image that is less indicative of photography and more about just capturing a fleeting moment of my life to share with others.
ES: There’s an old quote I found once that says “Would you rather be a photographer, or would you rather have photographed?” essentially asking “What matters to you most? The experience or the memories? “
BW: That’s a great quote. I think it’s hard to say whether I enjoy the experience more, or the memories. The present is a difficult thing to try and comprehend, but in regards to this question I think the experience matters the most to me because the present moments are the only things that truly matter to me, as fleeting as they may be.
ES: Favorite way to travel?
BW: I really love to travel in a van full of my friends on a skate trip. I look forward to every opportunity to jump in a van (or Tahoe) full of friends and criss-cross the states skating different shit along the way. Riding freight trains with friends is also another amazing way to travel. Riding trains is a lot more stressful but in a good way. It puts me in survival mode and really makes me more aware of the entire experience. Since most everything is new and nothing is for certain, I am always at my sharpest point. The best way I have found to travel is to try and go on trips that combine both riding trains and skateboarding. Flying is for the birds.
ES: From someone who travels a lot to another what makes you do it? Why do you keep going on changing places?
BW: Wanderlust. I’ll trace my need to travel back to skateboarding. When I began skateboarding at age 10 I was confined to my neighborhood and the general areas surrounding it. Even though I was 10 years old I always longed to skate the spots downtown and outside my neighborhood. Slowly but surely I started exploring the areas further and further outside my neighborhood, town, and state in hopes of finding new spots to skate. It’s a natural progression. At 22, my motivation to travel is not much different. I just want to keep seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new things.