Photographer Spotlight: Collin Hughes

Collin Hughes is a lifestyle, portrait and wedding photographer who calls New York home when he’s not onboard a plane traveling. He also works at Wantful, where at its core, it’s a service about bring together exceptional products and showcasing them through gifting. He’s in charge of delivering and directing all of the companies exceptional photographic material along with help of their design team in NYC.

1. Seems like most photography interviews start off by the interviewer asking the photographer how they got started in the craft so I almost feel wrong deviating from that custom, so I won’t. Everyone’s story is unique and I’m interesting in learning about yours and how that’s kinda lead you to the style of photography you do now.

My story was all completely organic, and most of it just serendipitously fell into place over time as I worked at it. When I was an exchange student in Germany about 7 years ago I was fascinated with film and being able to document the story of my experience there. I brought this notion back home with me and continued taking photos with friends more as a self-indulgence thing where I could look back and remember what we did or how much fun we had.

This continued into college when I bought my first big dslr, against my parent’s wishes of course, and started shooting friends in bands and the local music scene of Minneapolis. Over the course of a few years of photographing bands and friends for some music labels, I reverted back to telling more stories and connected with people who I thought might have a something cool to say or show on camera and inspired me to shoot. I also picked up shooting weddings through a friend of mine in 2009 which pushed me creatively and helped develop my ability to direct, see, and shoot on the fly (as well as fund my travel addiction). In my last year of architecture school as I picked up morxe commercial portrait work and weddings, I managed to maintain a busy shooting and travel schedule on top of my studies in studio.

I graduated this past May 2011 and moved to NYC to pursue and strengthen the client base that I had already started to develop working relationships with. I’ve since started working with a the tech startup Wantful from San Francisco while shooting freelance work. It’s been an incredible journey, but that’s a bit naive in itself to say since I’ve only been shooting a handful of years. As local hip-hop artist Brother Ali said “I’ve lived a whole life in the past two years”

2. With regard to your photography, you mentioned that you’re all about shooting for yourself because it “helps to develop your creativity and vision for what you are shooting.” Is this valuable frame of thought what’s mostly been the inspiration behind your travels and personal sessions you’ve had photographing close friends?  

This question is a bit rhetorical, but most definitely. I was super inspired by Nick Onken and other photographers a few years back to keep shooting for myself. They talked about the importance to your creative process it had and that in a way, you owe it to yourself to invest time back into how you shoot, to make sure you’re continually progressing.

To continue shooting just to shoot is why one becomes a photographer, because you simply just love to shoot. I love working with new people and being inspired by what they’re passionate about. I love being challenged by new opportunities and situation. Becoming comfortable with where you’re at can be a rewarding in small doses, but prolonged becomes indolent and lazy.

By pushing incessantly as a photographer (or any creative for that matter), you will continue to learn what it is you like to photograph and how you like to shoot it, which helps you discover your very own “style”, something no one else can reproduce. I think that “style” is something we’re all searching for in one way or another.

3. There are a lot people who love photography for what it is but who are quick to say that they rather keep as an expensive hobby rather than try converting it into a business. Did you ever have these thoughts or where you always convinced that you wanted to do this professionally and what advice would you give to those that want to do the same?

I only pursued photography because I just really enjoyed doing it for the sake of fun. I didn’t ever see it being a possible business or even leading me to where I am today, but I think that actually helped. I still do it only because I love to. My advice is as simple as that: Find something you love and are passionate about and follow it. The rest will fall into place with time.

4. People rarely ever ask chefs what type of pans they use to cook their food but as you may know, that’s generally the kind of insight we photographers sometimes want to know from one another. So what are we likely to find in your camera bag?

Photo gear of Collin Hughes

No matter the day, weather, or job, you’ll always find a Yashica T4 or Fuji Natura and a few rolls of film in there. Those cameras never leave my side. I just bought a rangefinder to replace my Canon 1v and I’ve been crazy anxious to shoot with it. Otherwise I shoot mostly prime lenses with the 5D Mark II for digital work.

5. Can you share with us a particular photograph that stands out in your mind as the most memorable one and share with us the backstory to it?

Proudest photograph of Collin Hughes

This photo of my friend Nick from this year stands out for a few reasons, but most importantly it summarizes the trip we took really well. This is taken at a dock stretching out into Van Gölü, a salt lake on the border of Iran. Nick is my best friend who travels and helps out on a handful of of the jobs I shoot, but we also have begun doing a trip every year together to explore somewhere we have never been.

In August this year we went to Istanbul and on a whim, with only a few days left, we decided to fly to a remote part of far Eastern Turkey, rent a car, and just see what we could find. It still blows my mind thinking back, because hardly anyone spoke english (we certainly couldn’t speak turkish), we were the only white guys for miles, and we had no idea what we would run into next. A lot of driving, too many crazy encounters with other people, and experiences I probably won’t ever have the chance to relive.

To read up more on other photographers in the Spotlight Series, check out the dedicated page.