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Q&A: Tucson Photographer Seth Critchley on Photo Contests and His Upcoming Show

A hackberry emperor butterfly prepares to take flight in Oracle. | Seth Critchley

A hackberry emperor butterfly prepares to take flight in Oracle. | Seth Critchley

You might recognize Seth Critchley’s name. A frequent contributor to our Online Photography Contests, Critchley earned an honorable mention in last year’s contest for his photo of a walking stick. This year, he’s at it again with a photo (above) of a hackberry emperor butterfly — one of 10 finalists in the Macro category. (To see all the finalists, click here.)

Critchley’s work will also be on display in Tucson, at DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun‘s Little Gallery, from Sunday, January 26, through Friday, February 7. The show, titled From Arizona, is his first as a photographer. We asked him a few questions about the show and his craft.

Q: Tell us about yourself, your history with photography, and how and why you started submitting photos to our Online Photo Contests.
A: I was born in Maricopa County in 1976. My parents, both musicians and “free thinkers,” raised and surrounded me with music, theater and art in all its forms. With my head in the clouds and art in my blood, I moved to the Midwest when I was 17 to pursue a career in music. All the while, I was drawing, writing, and making photos.  After 10 years as a bass player in a successful regional band, but not feeling fully in my place, I decided to return to my home in the desert. Constantly torn between the regular corporate have-to-pay-the-bills grind and the desire to fulfill my artistic needs, I left a fairly lucrative career in project management to pursue a career – with the help and support of friends and loved ones – in photography.

I started submitting photos to Arizona Highways toward the end of 2012, just to push myself to develop. Seeing my work up against some of the best photographers in the country has a way of accelerating your learning and sharpening your focus. It’s also a great way to network and meet other photographers and new friends who have similar interests and goals.

Q: What can photography enthusiasts expect at From Arizona?
A: It will include everything from massive three-piece canvas landscapes to tiny creatures and flowers of the desert printed on metal. Many of the photos that will be on display were taken as I walked the same hills as Ted DeGrazia himself. Some people see Arizona as nothing but a dry desert without much color. The essence of this show is to expose Arizona’s natural, rugged beauty in a modern way, hopefully giving the audience a new appreciation for the place I call home. I am honored to be a featured artist, and cannot imagine a better location for the next step in my career as a photographer than at the iconic DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun.

Q: How would you describe your photographic style, and what, to you, makes a photograph successful?
A: I am compelled to tell a story with my images, whatever the subject matter. The only way I can do that is to “get into” the moment — follow that butterfly and see what its agenda is for the day, or sit with the mountain for a while and be ready to capture what it wants to reveal.

The final images that I publish are harmoniously vibrant and dark. I often use shadows and silhouettes against vividly colorful backgrounds to celebrate and illuminate the range of the environment I am in. There is no light without dark, and as a photographer, my basic function is to play with that light, attempting to convey the true spirit of the moment and/or subject of my focus.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give a novice photographer?
A: Keep your hands dirty and your gear clean. What I mean by that is, don’t be afraid to crawl on your belly or climb a fence post to find the best way to shoot a subject. I often lay my camera on the ground, albeit carefully, for a different perspective. Also, general maintenance and cleaning of your equipment is a no-brainer, but also know your camera settings and how to navigate through them quickly. Be willing and able to change your direction on the fly. This goes for editing as well. Find a way to streamline your workflow so as not to interrupt your artistic “flow” when putting together your final images.

Q: Where else can people see your work?
A: My website, my Facebook page and on Twitter. And I’d like to thank Arizona Highways and the DeGrazia Gallery for providing such amazing opportunities, such as the annual photo contests and the Little Gallery presentations, as an outlet for local budding photographers and artists to illustrate their talents and engage a broader audience.


Filed under Photography, Q&A