Guestagrammer of the Week: Gaston Lacombe
Momenta welcomes this week’s guestagrammer, Gaston Lacombe!
Current job: Photographer / Filmmaker & Communication Coordinator for the International League of Conservation Photographers
Current location: Washington, DC
Connection to Momenta: Project South Africa 2011 Alum & Momenta Instructor
Tell us about your journey as an image-maker and how you got to where you are today.
I’m not one of those photographers who can say: “I got my first camera when I was seven years old, and the passion was ignited in me.” Nope, that is not me. I actually only began to work seriously with photography at age 37. Before that, I worked in a wide array of careers, from radio announcer, to high-school teacher, to defense consultant, to diplomat, just to name a few. And even if I’m born, raised, and educated in Canada, all of these previous professions took place in Latvia, where I spent most of my life from 1992 to 2008. But in that year, 2008, my life changed dramatically, and I found myself in a different country, the USA, without a job and without a work permit. With free time on my hands, I started to explore my artistic inclinations and discovered photography. I ended up returning to university and getting a degree in photography. I’ve been at this professionally since 2010. In time I have become passionate about the medium, for its ability to be both art, and a strong story-telling tool at the same time.
What stories or issues are you most passionate about covering?
Most of my work deals with the relationships between humans and animals and humans and nature. Early on, as I began developing an interest in photography, I discovered the International League of Conservation Photographers, and I was astounded by their work. They were able to make important, crucial statements about the state of our planet, while still creating breathtaking photography. Seeing their work, I thought to myself: “That’s what I want to do!” So now I consider myself a conservation photographer, and I tend to plan my projects around issues of environmental importance. I am especially attracted to stories involving animals, as they often end up being the ones to suffer the most from the environmental mess we are creating all around us.
Where do you look for inspiration for your work: books, movies, authors, photographers, art, certain people?
Since I am staff at the International League of Conservation Photographers, I am surrounded daily with hundreds of amazing images and stories from this elite group of photographers. Their dedication and the meaningful art they create is a massive inspiration to me. I’m always deeply inspired by the pages of National Geographic magazine as well. Living in Washington DC, I have the great advantage of having direct access to National Geographic headquarters, and I attend photographer events there on a regular basis, where I get to see amazing, inspiring images, and hear the stories behind them, while also meeting my heroes. Nowadays, I also find a lot of inspiration through social media. It’s easy to follow photographers, blogs or publications that I resonate with, and organize all of this information in one single feed.
What social media or news feeds do you follow regularly?
I use Facebook as a professional tool, both as place to follow my favorite photographers, blogs, issues, and also as a place to show samples of my work. It’s been a very dynamic platform for me. I am very selective about what shows up on my newsfeed, and I weed a lot of things out, so I can be more efficient in finding the individuals and the news that really matter to me. I also enjoy looking through Instagram, to see what other photographers are doing, and how they are seeing things. It also allows me to find out in real time who is working on which project, with whom, and where.
What is one passion you have outside of photography that might come as a surprise to our readers?
Oh there are many, if only I had time to do everything that interests me. I love languages. Not necessarily the act of learning the language, but more discovering word origins, and the history of languages. I speak French, English, and Latvian fluently, and have a working knowledge of Spanish and Russian. The journey of words and languages is a fascinating thing. It amazes me for example, that I can go to Sri Lanka, and be able to decipher some words and sentences from my knowledge of Latvian. Because of this, I was very excited a few years ago when the Smithsonian invited me to document a conference on reviving Native American languages. All they wanted was a 3-5 minute video clip of the conference proceedings, but I ended up turning this project into a 2-year journey, visiting Native American groups in various corners of the USA, and culminating in a 45-minute film that will premiere at the Smithsonian in June 2015. This is something that seems to happen to me a lot. My personal interests are never really fully separated from my work.
What can we expect to see next week from your “guestagramming” on our Momenta Instagram account?
Generally speaking, you can expect a lot of animals. I will post a few pics from the workshop I did with Momenta in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2011, where I worked with an animal rescue clinic. I will also post some photos from my project “Captive,” which is a study of the living conditions of animals in zoos worldwide. I’ll also show a few images from my more recent, still ongoing project, about “rewidling” in Latvia. Rewidling, in this case, means attempting to restore nature to its original balance before the age of agriculture and industry. On this rewidling site in Latvia, they have been re-introducing species to nature, including some very charismatic wild horses, that make awesome photo subjects. And, maybe I’ll post something live from the field from my current assignments, let’s see.
#seizethemomenta, and follow @momentaworkshops on Instagram May 17 – 23 to see Gaston’s stunning work!
About the author…
Manuela Marin Salcedo
Manuela Marin Salcedo is a research and development team member and content developer at Momenta Workshops. Her expertise is in visual communications and social media.