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Adam Hester was raised in Seattle and graduated with an AA in commercial photography from Seattle Central Community College in 2002. He spent a summer trying to sleep through 20 hours of daylight on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska while salmon fishing; two years working and traveling through Europe, South American and North America; served Shannon Doughtery a cheese pizza while working at a hotel bar in Manhattan and graduated with a BA in photography from SVA in 2006. He also changed lenses, organized negatives and packed and unpacked lighting equipment for Shannon Fagan, Chris Buck and Jonathan Chapman before moving to Minneapolis to fall in love, learn about the loon, discover what a 30-below wind chill felt like and become a photographer. He is currently commissioned by clients locally and nationally to bring his artistic vision and production experience to many different visual projects.

06.07.11

Rewarding Journeys Without Distinct Directions

If you have a degree in what field is it? Associate of Arts in commercial photography from Seattle Central Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in photography from The School of Visual Arts.

What was your strangest assignment? A few months after I moved to Minneapolis I was asked by a local magazine to profile a handful of unique restaurants in the Twin Cities, one of which was a Scandinavian deli that specialized in cheese, meats and lutefisk. I enjoy many different types of ethnic foods, but if you haven’t had lutefisk, it’s my opinion that you’re not missing anything; it’s dried and salted Ling Fish that I did my best to pleasantly choke down after the owner offered me a sample.

Which photographer would you like to meet? Recently I’ve enjoyed meeting a handful of creative people who inspire me, including photographer Kwaku Alston; designers Nathan Strandberg and Katie Kirk from Eight Hour Day; fashion designer Lisa Schachter; and art director Lou Flores. But if I had a time machine I would have loved to have met and loaded 8x10 film backs for Avedon while he was creating his Out West series.

What famous person would you most like to photograph? I’m a pretty huge futbol fan and I’m still excited about how great the World Cup was this summer. I would love to have a few hours with my camera, a ball and the greatest player of all time—Pelé.

Aside from your camera and lighting, what item could you not work without? Music. I try to have music playing on any and every set; it brings a fun and eclectic energy that I’m also trying to convey in my photographs and motion projects.

Is there anything you would not digitally retouch? I created a series of portraits in Cuenca, Ecuador with my Graphiflex and T-55 Polaroid that I will never retouch. I’m currently working on a long-term project documenting Native Americans and I have no plans of digitally retouching that work.

From where do your best ideas originate? My ideas are not derived from one place in particular, rather they come from a variety of places where I allow my mind the ability to wander. My day-to-day business is filled with to-do lists and stress, but when I let myself relax on road trips, in movie theaters or while exercising, my mind seems to ignite ideas that are quite intriguing—this tends to result in a lot of scribbled-on random paper and napkins in my pockets which ultimately result in photographs. You have to allow yourself the strength to not worry about when your next creative idea will occur but to be open for one to arise and enjoy your ability to execute it.

How do you overcome a creative block? I keep a few different idea- and inspiration-books as well as a wall of my own photographs that are both successes and failures. When I’m frustrated by not having created something recently, I randomly choose an idea I’ve written down, even if I’m not sure whether it’s really a good one, and force myself to execute it. Many times it turns out it really wasn't a good idea. But sometimes I create something I really like or, while shooting my initial idea, I think of something else that’s much better.

Do you have creative pursuits other than photography? My soon-to-be wife is a preschool teacher who is passionate about teaching children of all backgrounds and ethnicities to read and write. We are currently researching and conceptualizing a series of children’s books that we hope to create in the next few years.

What music are you listening to right now? I usually buy a handful of songs every week and create these somewhat seasonal play lists. My current play list includes Sleigh Bells, Yeasayer, Hugh Masekela, Dawes, Phosphorescent and some John Prine. Although during the summer months I seem to always go back to some of my early Hip Hop roots including The Beastie Boys, Sublime, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest and Digital Underground.

What’s your approach to balancing work and life? To be honest this balance, or lack thereof, probably isn’t my strongest attribute right now. But I do let myself get away from the office and I do respect how much this time away can recharge my batteries. It’s just that while I’m away from work I’m usually making photographs in some way or another. At this point I pretty much live and breathe the business of solving visual problems for both clients and myself. One day I do see myself painting, reading and finding some leisure activities that I enjoy.

What’s your favorite quote? During my first two years of college in Seattle I drove around with a bumper sticker in my rear window that read, “Don’t Die Wondering.” I don’t know whether it’s my favorite quote but I still like it quite a bit. I also like Joseph Chilton Pearce’s “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? After many years of crafting, creating and believing in my own vision of the world, it is starting to really pay off in more ways than one. I would encourage others who are starting any sort of creative profession to believe in their own unique vision.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? In the beginning I was searching for a specific road map that would lead me to that successful career I desired. But after a few years of searching, what I found was the ability to be more patient and to enjoy what has been an extremely rewarding journey even while it doesn’t have a distinct direction.