Photographer Feature

In Focus: Hugh Forte

Kolla Photographer Feature
Posted on 06/02/2019

Hugh Forte is a husband, father, son, a reader, questioner, watcher, traveler, a waterman (amateur), and an outdoorsman (what's less than amateur?).

All of these things inform what he is when asked for the short answer: a photographer.

Here's our short conversation with this talented California resident. Enjoy!


Who are you, where are you from, what do you do?

Hello there. I'm Hugh. I'm a lot of things, but for the scope of this little introduction: I'm a photographer based out of Southern California. I live in a little mission town called San Juan Capistrano with my wife, Sara, and our two kids, Curran and Cleo.

I've been working professionally as a photographer for 11 years primarily within the wedding and food worlds. Sara and I have published a food blog for the last 9 years, collaborated on two cookbooks, and more recently launched a meal planning program that aims to help people put good food on their tables in a simple and sustainable way.

In the time between family and work and life I try to spend as much time as possible in and around the ocean. 

When viewing your work, it feels like there's a consistency between very different subjects. A surfer photo or maybe a wave can still draw a consistency with, for example, a leaf or a portrait. How would you describe that style which ties it all together?

While trying not to sounds too self important, I think that after dedicating years to photography (or any craft, for that matter), that the individual's style or personality or vision can't help but become more apparent, regardless of the subject matter or the tools used to create the work.

I think that any creative action is an attempt at self expression, and the more honed your craft is, the more accurate that expression can be. I hope to use my camera as a means of capturing what it is that I see and feel when I look out at the world - beauty, reverence, scale, nostalgia.

To hear that a common aesthetic thread can be seen running between a variety of my images is a great compliment.

How did you get to a point with your photography where everything feels like it's been carried out with such intent?

As referenced in the last question, I think this comes as a result of a generous amount of time invested in pursuing a craft. When I don't have to concern myself (or I'm less concerned with) with the technical specifics of what I'm doing, I'm more freely able to be witness to what is taking place around me.

There is beauty everywhere you look. Introduce a camera into that mentality without being distracted by it and watch what results.


Do you have a process or routine that pushes you to create new work (even if you're not particularly motivated to at the time)?

For me, the crux of the process is fiendishly simple and often fiendishly difficult: just go do the work. Sometimes the results are there, sometimes they're not, but the act of committing to create something is the most vital part of the process.

Additionally, doing work that is soulful for one reason or another is crucial. If there is no deeper reason for why I am doing something than for the outward convention of it - because I "should," for likes, for the algorithm, for money - then I find that I'm bound to be disinclined to make that work.


What is your process like to narrow an idea down to a become a project or series, such as the eucalyptus and wave sets on Kolla?

I rarely set out with a specific project in mind, and if I do it's drawn in broad strokes. I'm rather retrospective when curating work. I'll generally compile a loose collection of images to begin with and visually test them with and against each other until I have the curation I'm happy with.

There are a million different ways you can hone in on a curated set of images, but I often find myself leaning towards sets of images in which the color palettes work together for one reason or another, or where there is a juxtaposition of content that adds to the subject as a whole.



What is one thing you're obsessed with right now?

Javascript. In contrast to the limitless subjectivity I experience with photography, I've recently found that I really enjoy working within the finitude of a functional programming language.

There's so much room for problem solving and creative expression but in the end, the code either works or it doesn't. That's a bit of an oversimplification - there are varying degrees of elegance and efficiency to be achieved - but working in a text editor satisfies a different sort of creative urge than working with a camera, and it's definitely become somewhat of an obsession recently.

Embrace the calm and depth in Hugh's work and shop his entire collection today.

For more interviews like this, as well as promotions and special offers, sign up to Photography Art News by Kolla. We'll knock 10 % off on your first order.


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