David Hastings is a Brooklyn-based designer at General Assembly who moonlights as a photographer, choral singer, and self-proclaimed “wannabe drag queen.” For this issue, David paired his photographs with poems and essays by our authors, creating a holistic relationship between image and word. David’s work is rich, complex and evocative — we are thrilled to showcase his talent as our “Spotlight” artist. Learn more about David and his work below.
How did photography become your form of artistic expression?
I had always been an expressive kid — drawing and collaging and trying to be a cartoonist — and when I decided to spend my savings on a digital camera in 7th grade, it was an immediate, magnetic fascination. I loved the challenge of taking something mundane and turning it into a work of art through composition and intention, a challenge that still motivates me in my photography. We really do live in a beautiful and remarkable world, and sometimes a photograph is the best way to remind ourselves of that.
What are your favorite things to shoot and why?
I first started taking photos of flowers with my little point-and-shoot. I was completely obsessed with turning the ordinary daisy in my backyard into an explosive, magical world within the frame. Since flowers are relatively static subjects, I was able to study and compose my shots. While I still enjoy the ‘still-life’ environmental shots, what I have grown to love is capturing people — most often my friends and family — in truly candid moments of pure emotion. Capturing somebody mid-laugh or in the middle of an embrace is a moment that can be recreated, but the essence of that raw, emotional moment is impossible to fully mimic.
How do you consider light when shooting a subject?
I function very much as a broke photographer, and don’t have any equipment but a couple lenses and my camera body. Because I don’t have any flashes, reflectors or studio space, I rely on the light of the sun and the occasional spotlight to illuminate my subject. The challenge of lighting an image can be incredibly frustrating because the camera is, for better or for worse, fractionally as powerful as our eyes, and it is sometimes impossible to translate reality to the lens. This provides an exercise in acceptance, and can lead to a unique and unexpected outcome.
Please discuss how you approached pairing your images with the writing.
As I read the featured writings, I zeroed in on especially emotive and feeling words and ideas to help create an ambient visual that I could connect to one of my photographs. Most of the interpretations aren’t literal, so you’ll have to bear with my abstract pairings of color and emotive quality.
Who are some of your favorite photographers and why?
I actually had a difficult time answering this question, because I honestly don’t have a handful of photographers that I have studied and are my go-to sources of inspiration. I’m very much a product of the digital generation, and am influenced and affected by my current obsessions and whatever is in front of me. I’ve had the pleasure to work with and in the presence of Ruvan Wijesooriya this year, who works in the same vein of journalistic, human-centric photography that I am very drawn to. His images are candid, full of energy, and fulfill purposes of both social activism and pure pleasure. I’ve also been following Magnus Hastings’ Drag series. I find the marriage of his polished and studio-based style with the historically gritty and “underground” world of drag to be really incredible and beautiful.
To see more of David Hasting’s work, please visit davidwilliamh.tumblr.com.