Trinity Arts Interview Series: Theron Humphrey

Do you ever meet someone whose story is so interesting, you want to tell everyone you know about them? Photographer Theron Humphrey does, every day. And he’s not just telling their stories, he’s taking their pictures. Read on to learn more about the man behind this wild idea.

Q: What is your favorite space to create?

Theron Humphrey: There seems to be two types of photographers. Folks that find what they photograph, and folks that create what they photograph. I like hitting the streets.

Q: How do you handle artist’s block (times when it is hard to create)?

TH: I was feeling dead as an artist in 2010. I kept making images that had no unified vision. I picked up a pack of Polaroid film, and gave myself the parameters to photograph beautiful light. Pretty simple, and it got me all stirred up to keep making images. A sense of accomplishment is a wonderful thing.

Q: How do you stay motivated and disciplined as an artist in our distracting society?

TH: I met a fisherman on my last project across America. He was born and raised on the water. When he wasn’t on his boat, he was thinking about being on his boat. I came to that same point in the past few years with my camera. Making compelling images is hard work, but if you love it, you’ll be thinking about it when you wake.

(Steven Speir. Day 29.)

Q: What is the best advice someone has given you?

TH: You’ll hear more “No’s” than “Yes’s.”

Q: What is your theme song?

TH: Avett Brothers – “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise.” It’s on repeat when I’m trying to write. And I’ve recently been listening to the Almanac Singers. They’re a folk band from the 1940’s. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the like, singing pro union songs.

Q: Who/what has inspired you lately and/or locally (i.e. other artists, exhibits, shows, bands, designers, etc)?

TH: I love folks who are intrinsically connected to what they create in this life. I read a story in the New York Times a few months back about a blacksmith that still makes all the basketball hoops by hand in the city. I want to go meet that guy and shake his hand. Folks like that inspire me.

Q: Have you worked in your medium in some sort of community lately, be it collaboration, brainstorming, etc? How has that environment affected the work?

TH: Photography is often a lone wolfs game. Part of the project, This Wild Idea, was to collaborate with another artist and integrate the subject in a compelling way. I ended up collaborating with Chris Barnes, he’s a top shelf web developer and graphic designer. We integrated community in our project through the website, it allowed anyone across America to sign up, and for me to go meet ‘em and tell their story. Using social media in a fresh way, not just for self-promotion, stirred me up to keep creating. I could tangibly see that folks care about the project.

(Margaret Eubanks. Day 27.)

Q: What is one book/song/painting/piece/etc that has been enriching to your faith?

TH: Authors and Photographers who discovered what it means to be human across America resonate inside me. Steinbeck and Hunter S. Thomas stuck with me. Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, and Robert Frank went out and pointed their cameras at America. I love those guys.

Q: What is your connection to the Divine when you create? Does it resonate with you spiritually when you come up with new work?

TH: Part of being an artist is determining what success means. The Holy Spirit has worked hard in my life and brought me to a point of simplicity. Success for me isn’t recognition of my work, it’s that I get to talk to folk’s everyday. I impact their lives with photography. There isn’t anything profound about it. It’s about loving your neighbor, everyday, with your work.

Q: Describe your process behind the featured piece.

TH: This Wild Idea started with a simple idea that everyone wants to be heard and everyone wants to be loved. The goal was to travel 30 days across America, meeting 1 new person a day, everyday, and share their story through photography. Setting up those parameters was important to the project. It gave it dimension and scale. The pressure to make to meet one new person everyday was beautiful; it pushed me way out of my comfort zone.

To learn more about The Wild Idea and the people Theron met along the way, visit http://30.thiswildidea.com/. Hear about his upcoming year-long wild idea at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/theron/this-wild-idea-365-days-365-stories-traversing-ame.

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