“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.“
These reflective words from iconic landscape photographer Ansel Adams are indicative of the inner trials that some great artists endure. The fascination with expressing complicated emotions through thoughtful art. The eagerness to make sense of the world and in that search, to make a difference. The desire to be observant in spite of the chaotic noise.
If you ask photographer Ben Suydam to describe his work he’ll pause, think, and struggle. It’s difficult for him to come up with an answer because his work is his constantly evolving self. His struggle with anxiety and depression. His triumphs. His loves. His world.
He takes pride in ignoring the fact that other artists put their work into a neat and tidy box. He scoffs at others who pressure him to choose a direction, pick a niche, or pigeonhole his style. He’s content to let his art be as complex as he is.
“My work has never really fit into a single kind of photography. I decided that I am going to do it my way in college, and have stuck with that since,” said Ben.
Ben developed a love for photography in high school. “I already liked being out in nature, and I knew I liked art. Photography assignments gave me an excuse to go outside all day in the middle of the woods by myself for 8 or 10 hours at a time,” Ben explained. “At the end of the day I would have 700 pictures and out of those, 4 that I liked. But I knew I was getting somewhere.”
He credits photography with saving his life and his mother for spurring him to pursue his artistic passions. “My mom always drilled into my head that the human mind is the happiest when it’s being creative,” remembers Ben. “I would be feeling sad about something and sorry for myself and she would yell up the stairs, ‘You can be pitiful or powerful but you can’t be both.’”
He now hopes to use his work to encourage others who struggle with anxiety and depression. Often Ben looks to nature to calm his nerves and inspire his artistic and spiritual senses instead of wallowing in negative emotions. His interest in patterns and textures found in nature drive his creativity.
“I believe nature is where you can find more answers about life. That’s where you’re going to understand yourself better,” he said. “I have found a lot of peace among the animals and trees.”
Ben teaches others his form of meditative photography when they ask about his unique style and compositions. He likes to find a place in the forest and let his mind get quiet. He focuses on breathing, calming himself, and letting go of all the outside pressures weighing down on him. In this serene moment, he starts to slowly notice the little details, the little things around him that most others would miss.
“Most photographers, they’re going to walk right over it because they are trying to get to where the deer is, or where the sunsets going to be, or where the next bridge or waterfall is,” he said. “My favorite things are the little in between moments, the insignificant things that most people would just walk right past or ignore.”
His intense observational ability and desire to be creative has driven him to experiment with different lighting methods, unusual objects, unique photoshop techniques, and interesting objects or animals he finds along his path. Many self-portraits are scattered throughout his images and his frequent experimentation has produced a portfolio that is as wide as it is deep.
“Honestly, if I put every picture I have ever taken into chronological order you would be looking at a series of my life – the good, the ugly, the beautiful, and the painful.” he said. “I hope that people can look at my work and see that they are not alone in their suffering.”
Ben has traveled throughout the area displaying his work at art and music festivals. His range of work is so broad that there is something in the booth that calls out to everyone that stops. “When whole families step in there is something that appeals to every age group – grandparents, parents, and kids,” Ben recalls from past shows. He considers this a great compliment and loves that visitors to his booth can’t believe one person has taken all of the photos.
Ben loves sharing the stories behind his work, as well as the sometimes surprising tools and ways that he captures his eclectic blend of artistic images. Stop and see him at Artalicious to view his broad range of work for yourself and learn more about him.