Sage Brown is a Portland, Oregon-based photographer and art director. Raised in the Appalachian Mountains, Sage launched a personal project called “Places I Am,” a series of beautiful images taken a couple of years ago in Oregon and Washington. He not only created a set of stunning postcards, but a website as well specifically for this project. atlas talks to Sage about how his photography career has evolved and what inspired him to launch the “Places I Am” project. (Editor’s Note: As we roll into 2017, we wanted to get re-inspired by some of our favorite features from the last year. Enjoy these brilliant images from the gifted Sage Brown!)
How did you first get started in photography? Did you have a prior job/career before you started photography?
Sage Brown: When I was sixteen I enrolled in a black and white dark room class at the local community college. It was great. I spent all my free time in the darkroom making prints and stacks of them are still sitting in my closet today. My interests wandered for a good number of years and I wasn’t shooting very much until I dug my old AE-1 out of the closet again five or six years ago. I went on to study graphic design. For the past ten years, I have worked as an interactive designer but photography was always something I did on the side. Last year I was ready for some change and decided to take the leap and pursue photography full time.
How would you describe your photography?
Most of my work has come from the time I spend outdoors. I shoot a lot of landscapes and outdoor lifestyle, but I think that’s just the beginning. I never want to define myself by one type of work.
You grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Has growing up in that region of the country made an impact on your photography? If so, how?
I do not think it has made a direct impact, but I can certainly credit my love for exploring the outdoors to my upbringing. I had a pretty non-traditional childhood. Many of my days were spent traipsing around the woods surrounding our home, building tree forts, and fishing. I think to some degree I am still running around in the wilderness exploring in the same way I was as a child only now with a little more purpose.
You recently completed a personal project called “Places I Am.” The “Places I Am” series as a whole is a gorgeous piece of work. Tell us more about this project. How did this project come about, what was your inspiration? How long did it take to complete?
Thank you. I initially started the project just about a year ago, but due to a myriad of reasons, I was not able to finish it until midway through 2015. At the time, I was a little frustrated with my full time job and was really tired of sitting at a desk all day. I was struggling with some health issues and had started making a list of “places I’d rather be” – places other than my desk. The project took off from there and I continued to solidify the idea. Instead of focusing on the places I’d rather be, a small change in the wording to “Places I Am” made the overall concept much stronger:
Places I Am is a series of photos celebrating places that capture my spirit. Each moment I spend exploring these beautiful places changes and inspires me. With each visit I leave a small piece of myself; these places become a part of me and remain so forever. The memories haunt me and propel me to continue searching for what’s next. I am here always.
I wanted the project to have both a physical and digital component, so I decided to see if I could sell a set of postcards. I had never tried selling any of my work before and figured it would be a good experiment. It was a fun way to push myself to make some personal work to share with the world. I am not sure how many sets of postcards I sold, but I think it was a good exercise for myself to work through a concept and self-publish it.
How did you go about deciding which images to photograph for “Places I Am”?
The process was pretty simple. I culled the list of places down from 20-30 to a manageable number, and then I dug through my work from the past year pulling images that fit the final list of places. Since most of the places were based on trips I had taken, it was pretty easy to find images that fit what I was thinking about. All of the photos were taken in Oregon and Washington in 2014.
Are there any photographers that have influenced you? If so, who?
This is such a hard question for me. I feel overloaded by outside influence these days and I have a hard time filtering through the noise. As I dive back in to the self employed world, I really admire anyone who is following their heart and doing what they love.
How do you see your work evolving over the next 3-5 years?
Right now I am very interested in photographing people more — I want to shoot more portraits. I think the outdoors will always play a part in my work, but at the same time I am interested to see how I can use my work as an means to travel, meet people, and explore new cultures.
What is your next project?
I hope to self-publish a book in 2016.
If you had one piece of advice for a novice photographer, what would it be?
Just go for it. I’ve never been much of a planner and have always followed my gut. It’s not always easy, but it usually works. Follow what you love and see where it takes you. Life is too short to wish you had done something else.
Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Sage!
For more information about Sage, visit his website. All images © Sage Brown.