Eight With Artly: Collin Howell

Eight questions with documentary photographer Collin Howell.

Collin Howell has an eye for beauty. Transcendence, moment, and memory...find out about the powerful themes behind Collin's art and take a closer look into her artistic practice and process, inspirations and influences.

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Photographer Collin Howell headshot

1. Why did you choose photography as a profession?

My decision to choose photography as a profession evolved over time. I would spend time as a teenager and young adult poring over photography books, but didn’t become interested in photography as a profession until I started taking pictures while traveling in my twenties. Using a camera as a tool to document a scene or a moment, while simultaneously trying to create a work of art, is a fascinating challenge to me.

2. What artist(s) and/or movement(s) have had the most influence on you and why?

I’m influenced by Edward Hopper’s and Winslow Homer’s work in New England. Their work captures the emotion of being there. The ability Henri Cartier-Bresson had of capturing moment as a documentary photographer has also had a big influence on me.

3. The value of art transcends aesthetics, what contribution do you endeavor to make to contemporary art with your work?

I’d like my contribution to be imaginative, meaningful, and beautiful. As a photographer, my work is rooted in curiosity. I travel and photograph to experience the transcendent moments, the freedom and wonder inherent in exploration. Through my images, I seek to celebrate the discovery of place, and to convey the sense of reverence and awe I feel through the beauty of the natural world.

4. What do you believe is your most significant body of work?

My "Sage" project. Sage is a long-term documentary project that looks at life on a family farm through the eyes of a young girl. It was my first complete body of work as a photographer and is the project that secured my acceptance into the Eddie Adams Workshop XXIX, which helped me gain confidence as I was starting out in photography. It's still the body of work that I am the most proud of.

Image from Howell's Sage project

See Howell's "Sage" body of work here.

5. Do your best ideas come organically or do you purposefully make time to contemplate your next body of work?

Maine is the state that inspires me the most and where my best work has come from. When I first went to Maine as a child, I fell completely in love with it and have now spent a significant amount of my adult life there. No other place has shaped me more personally or professionally. I do sit down and contemplate projects that I would like to do, but I find that my work tends to take me in directions that I can’t anticipate beforehand.

6. Which contemporary photographers inspire you?

Photographers I am currently taking inspiration from are Cig Harvey, Corey Arnold, particularly his Aleutian Dreams body of work, Acacia Johnson’s Polaris, and Maroesjka Lavigne’s work in Argentina.

7. Have there been moments you have photographed where you happened to be in the right place at the right time and where was the toughest place you've put yourself to take an image?

Yes, and that is when photography feels magical. The project where I’ve felt those moments the most was while working on "Sage", which was a documentary project. My most challenging situation has been photographing on lobster boats off the Maine coast.

image from Maine Coast Fisheries project

See Howell's "Maine Coast Fisheries" project here.

8. What advice do you have for emerging photographers or those considering photography as a profession?

I know it may feel like we’re overwhelmed with images these days, but no one can take the photos you can take. You have something unique to offer. Find what it is that interests and inspires you and focus your work there. And don’t be afraid to put your work out in the world!

(Fig 1. Collin Howell, Fig 2. Image from "Sage" project, Fig 3. Image from "Maine Coast Fisheries" project. All images courtesy of the artist.)
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