Photography is More than Instagram - Kaleb Musser
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Interview with Kaleb Musser by Joshua Stanley

Kaleb: “I call myself an Adventure Lifestyle photographer primarily because my hobby is to be outside hiking and exploring and hanging out with friends, finding new places. When I come alive is when i'm like exploring somewhere new. I love doing landscape photography and portrait and like all that, but there's something really special and unique about the little moments; random things you know in between, not always just like the super huge epic viewpoint that is the ultimate destination of a hike, but just like the random moments along as well.”

Josh: “So how did you sort of develope this style and this type of shooting?”

Kaleb: “Yeah that's a good question. So, when I really originally got into photography and even like found out about people doing interesting photography, I stumbled across this guy's page on Instagram. I don't even remember, it was probably like at least three or four years ago now, and he was a German photographer. A lot of what he did was literally just go out in like the fields in Germany and take photos of cows and then other random (things), like beautiful destinations in Germany. But (what) was different about his photos and his Instagram feed was that everything was consistent and it had the same style and I guess I just never stumbled across a photographer's page before, and I was like, “this is incredible!” I was so intrigued by (it). It turns out that he was actually part of this group called the German Roamers, and it was a whole bunch of photographers from Germany, they're all incredible photographers. So I found photography on Instagram, so to speak. I loved it;  it was so awesome. I kind of started doing you know, dabbling trying to figure it out initially, just like on my iPhone or whatever. Humble beginnings, but finding those guys (on Instagram) really had shaped my eye and what I wanted to ultimately do. I’ve always loved camping and the outdoors, and I grew up going canoeing with my grandpa and my family goes camping every year. I grew up outside, and so it just kind of naturally makes sense you know, that would be my subject.”

Josh: “You mentioned finding that page and sort of that being maybe a jumping off point; so tell me about your path to becoming a photographer like how did that all progress and take place?”

Kaleb” “Totally, it's all kind of like little things kind of directed me along the way. Obviously (what) was something that definitely influenced me a lot, was when I found people actually like doing it. I had friends who did photography somewhat and like my my younger sister also like somewhat dabbled in photography; so I think just slowly over time I was like “no you know, I actually really do enjoy this and want to do it.” I think one of the actual bigger like turning points was in 2014, I went to Thailand. I just shot photos on my iPod. Then I remember like coming back from that trip and looking through my photos and being like “I really enjoyed this and this is actually a lot of fun and I like the photos I took you know, like i'm going to actually, like continue to do this.” So I remember like, the the next couple months I started taking photos whenever I saw like an interesting moment on my iPhone. Then toss(ed)) it in ah, I think like Snapseed (iPhone app) and I just kind of kept on doing that randomly. It's funny because it seems so small now, but I would  go on like a walk about five minutes from my house and (taking) a bunch of photos like this was such an adventure. When in reality, it was just like walking to the end of the road, but it was the beginning point, you know. I loved it; and I genuinely fell in love with, like, seeing little moments and little things throughout life. It’s definitely developed into a passion. I'm very passionate about photography now, so it's like, a progression, but I think that's kind of where it originated.”

Josh: Tell me a little bit about your inspiration. How is it that nature and the little moments inspire you to take photos?

Kaleb: I think a lot of it for me has to do with, and maybe it sounds cliche, but just like a sense of adventure and a sense of, like, being an adventurer, growing up. I always loved, you know, all kinds of novels and things about Hatchet or whatever, you know where that someone goes off on this epic, amazing adventure and, like, discovers all kinds of crazy stuff and discovers himself really, um, a lot of times, but I think that has always inspired me. I think I want my photography to be a vehicle for me; to be able to live in and actually go to those places. Another aspect of photography that i've really fallen in love with, is just the community that's around it and the opportunities that it's opened up for me. I can't tell you how many of my best friends I met because of the fact that I do photography, and because of the fact that, like, I'm kind of in a creative industry so to speak; even like this conversation, you know, is ultimately because of that. And so, as much as I love photography, I love even more just the the community that it's created, and the community that I get to be a part of because of it.”

Josh: “Why is it so important for creators like yourself to be a part of a community to be a part of something bigger than just themselves?”

Kaleb: “I think that whether it's a creative community, or whether it's you know the coffee community or people who collect comic books.  There (are) going to be communities that create and form around that thing and I think that's just part of, like, how we experience things in life. It’s so much more fulfilling when you enjoy something. But at the same time, being in a community just opens up so many more opportunities and things that you can do as a group. Like me on my own, just doing photography, you know. I could never do just by myself, like being a part of a group just opened so many more doors to I don't know anything.”

Josh: “How did you learn to be a photographer? Did you go to school? Did you sort of self teach yourself?”

Kaleb: “I did not go to school at all. My sister had like these dvds about photography and I think I watched like one of those dvds or something and that was really just like so I could figure out how to operate camera. It's really just been self taught; a lot of like seeing things online or wherever. You know and just kind of figuring things out along the way and on my own. It’s definitely been a long process.”

Josh: “So when you don't study something formally though, it opens up other doors to write; sort of to experiment to maybe bend rules?”

Kaleb: “Absolutely! I think especially in creative industries, formal education can be stifling and obviously it depends on what it is because there's some things were like you need a certain level of education to even be able to do. But  um even like my friend Josh who makes music, he literally started making music in a program that was meant for recording like podcasts, you know it's not that it wasn't meant for music, but he was like, it doesn't matter. I'm just going to create something. And I think that type of expression is so beautiful and there's so much interesting and amazing stuff has been created that way rather than the proper way, so to speak. So I think that there's definitely a lot of value in just kind of winging it and like figuring it out for yourself.”

Josh: “So, you're a follower of Jesus and a photographer. So, how do those two things work together for you?”

Kaleb: “I think that's there's a couple of layers to that for me. I really enjoy going and exploring and and taking photos of the Earth because it's just beautiful and God’s created something, incredible and really inspiring. So on that level, it's literally just like, ah, my photography is a way of experiencing and enjoying the earth. Um, that sounds really like a I don't know philosophical or something; it's not, I just enjoy adventuring and stuff. Yeah I think honestly it's in some ways a form of worship to like capture the beauty that God’s created. But then also, practically right now i'm touring with a group called the Circuit Riders on the Carry the Love Tour and so I get to use my photography for that basically thirty second elevator pitch of what Circuit Riders is; we’re a group who were currently touring all across the United States and literally just carrying the love of Jesus to college campuses. We are seeing lots of people be healed, and set free of things in their life, and come to experience the love of Jesus for the first time, or again in a new way and that's a really really beautiful thing. Part of my role in that tour is i'm the primary media person or photographer, videographer person on our team and so I get to just document what God is doing in people's lives all over the country and that's an incredible opportunity right now. I love being able to like genuinely use what i'm passionate about for something you know, outside of myself and outside of just my own personal gain, so to speak.”

Josh: “Now are there artists who inspire you?”

Kaleb: “Yeah, absolutely! So within the photography world, there's several people who I really have, um, been inspired by. Like I mentioned that guy, um, his Instagram profile is @livingitrural, he's definitely like one of the OG people who really inspired me in the beginning. Um, right now, I would say, um, Joe Greer is an incredible photographer. He he lives in New York City and does a lot of street photography, and he really actually does a lot of everything, but kind of street is what he's been doing a lot of recently. His work has always been extremely inspiring for me.

Josh: “So for those young artists who are starting out, especially young photographers what would you say to them?”

Kaleb: “Well especially photographers I would say don't do photography because of Instagram; because most likely in like a couple of years Instagram won’t even be a thing, We'll have some other new platform, but basically photography is much bigger than, social media. Don't let Instagram be your motivation,  be motivated by like for me, genuinely I would take photos whether they ever saw the light of day on Instagram or social media or anything or not. I think that is really important because if you if your motivation is just to build a following an Instagram or do whatever that's a really shallow reason to do anything, so I think not that you have to overthink what you're doing; and for me, I totally got into photography through Instagram, and it's great for that. But if that's my end, kind of like if that's the sole focus in the sole goal of my photos, then I don't really think it's accomplishing very much.

And and I would argue, even that if your motivation is just to gain, you know, followers and whatever, you know, yeah, fuse, so to speak. Ah, then you're not even going to create anything really, truly good or interesting. It just lowers the value, and it thinks. Ultimately, it's going to be less inspiring. A lot of times to you, then you'll end up just, you know, doing whatever's trendy and whatever's big at the time. I think that if I could give any advice to someone, starting out in photography,  it (doesn’t) follow trends on Instagram, or whatever, because they're pointless. Um, and if you actually want to create something that is going to be interesting, and people are going to care about, then you need to find your own specific way of viewing the world and capturing. Just do that, and don't worry about what other people are doing.”

Edited by Macy Waddingham and Joshua Stanley