10,000 km to set in motion your future through the lonely and isolated road
Kent Andreasen is an incredibly talented photographer from Cape Town, South Africa. Kent just returned from a long trip in the U.S. Actually, a 10,000 km trip that included driving through different states all alone, capturing beautiful scenery, and enjoying the unknown and unplanned. This trip became a photography project that reveals to the viewers’ eyes spots in a moving manner. Reality of the place in the frame, of the beauty untold is almost unrecognizable.
We decided to call Kent and have a chat about the recent trip. Kent is a wonderful, genuine person, a storyteller ready to share his experience, inspirational moments, and advice.
S: Hi Kent, it is so great to have you for this interview! A couple of words about our vision. Our main focus is on a personal perspective of a creator, his rational and ideas, what makes him tick, and the way he lives his daily life. We strive to know more not only about the project but also about the person who's standing behind the lens. This is also why we are so keen on speaking with people and getting more information asking different types of questions that bring in the personal perspective of the artist.
K: Yeah, it's amazing. I always prefer doing calls or be able to speak like this because you actually bring a proper perspective. If you just send questions and then you have to type back the answers you don't always have that personal feel.
S: Yes, absolutely, the personal touch. So, how are you doing? You have woken up this morning,.. it’s 10:30 right now on your side...
K: Yeah, I'm actually doing some editing for a commercial, so that's how my day has started.
S: That's a nice way to start your Monday.
K: Yeah, it's nice to get back into work. I'm also shooting this afternoon.
S: So, you are back to Cape Town? Back home?
K: Yeah, I'm back home for a while. I leave tomorrow to go up to the coast of South Africa to do an assignment. My travel is quite unpredictable.
S: Lots of good luck tomorrow! Sounds like a hectic day.
K: It's going to be a good one though. I'm excited. Very excited!
S: I will be also very excited to see the results. Let's jump back to your trip to the United States. When I was reading about it I was really amazed. You did 10,000 kilometers, going through different states on your own, traveling, taking photos. That's a huge project! How did you come up with this idea, why the United States?
K: I think it was 2015 when I was in the United States when I bought a van and I did the trip from Seattle down to L.A, and I circled back and did the whole bunch of California, Utah, and Arizona.
That's where my photography clicked, things actually got put into place.
I thought I would go back and do a similar trip but just all the different areas. That's kind of how the idea came about.
I also find traveling in America quite easy because I get to travel quite a bit, as I'm sure you've seen. I'm lucky to be able to do that, but a lot of the places I go is quite hard to travel especially traveling in Africa is quite tough. So, going to America was an easy choice for me.
I've had quite a busy year. I wanted to have two weeks to just shoot whatever I want, travel wherever I want, sleep wherever I want, and just remind myself why I got into Photography in the first place and why I enjoy it. There was no set route, I knew what states I wanted to see, some of the national parks that I wanted to see, but other than that I was just driving each day and see what presented itself.
You've been making plans during that specific day, or you’ve been spontaneous of where to go and what to see?
"There was nothing planned at all. I would just drive in a certain direction and I knew that I had to be back in Seattle at a certain date because I had to fly to another commission but other than that I just drove. Whatever I came up with on GPS like some cool things to see or have a chat to someone and they told me to go check the hot spring or go drive up that mountain or go to these areas. It was kind of completely unplanned".
S: What was the most beautiful location or scenery you captured? This trip was quite different as opposed to the one back in 2015. You saw a lot of new places and a lot of new locations. What was the most captivating in terms photography?
K: It’s hard to say because I’m always traveling such long distances, every day. Certainly American West is really beautiful, and each area is quite different. Each area was amazing on its own special way. Montana is an incredible place, I got to see some really amazing rivers and mountains there. The people are really wholesome and welcoming, so that was really nice. But then driving to Utah and Arizona... the distant areas they are quite bizarre because a lot of the roads are really quiet, you hardly see anyone. It's all very different and kind of special in its own right.
S: What was the longest you traveled without stopping? Driving a van or a car for 6 to 8 hours or did you stop every two hours to go out and discover the scenery and nature?
K: I would drive and I would just stop whenever I saw an image that I like. So, I would be stopping intermittently all the time. I probably was driving 8 hours a day, every day. I was stopping to get food or to jump into a river or take a photograph of a mountain or check on a certain spot. I never thought I was just driving, it was always an exploration in a way. It was honestly a bit tiring, but it never felt hideous or like I need to get somewhere. It was just driving and whatever came up was what happened.
S: What do you do with all the equipment when you jump into a river? Do you leave it in the car or do you take it with you just in case you want to take a picture?
K: I always have the camera with me, on my person. Depending on the time of a day I would take a tripod. I've got a really nice camera back that I use that is very easy for hiking, but most of the stuff was quite accessible from roads. I try not to go on hikes alone just because it can sometimes get dangerous or I drive off-road. I had the great rental van, I was pretty comfortable. I actually slept in the van every night, I had a mattress and kind of a full bed set-up. So, it was pretty much my home for two weeks.
S: When it gets dangerous... did you think about the equipment that you want to take with you? Did you go for the cheapest camera or did you take your favorite camera with you?
K: I think being from South Africa, and with how South Africa is in terms of just looking after your gear... I think, America is pretty relaxed compared to South Africa, so I wasn't too worried about that. All my stuff is ensured, so that wasn't an issue. I had commissions on either side of this trip, so I had to have all my gear with me. I travel with the gear that is going to be the best for making images. I don't worry about the rest of it as gear getting stolen or lost or whatever. What happens - happens. It's just bad luck.
S: So that's your Mamiya camera, right?
K: Yes, I shoot with two different Mamiyas. I shoot with RB67 and Mamiya 7.
S: When traveling alone do you feel sometimes lonely or were you just enjoying yourself? Were you missing people, your favorite food or just watching TV?
K: I actually did a whole piece on this for the Splash & Grab with my friend, she's a writer, and she discussed this psychological aspect of traveling alone like this. I think a lot of people like outsiders think it's quiet... If you haven’t done it and covered those distances alone, it's a bit ridiculous. It does get quite lonely and quite isolated because you are driving those distances every day and you don't have there any friends. The only people you speak to are the people that work at gas stations or maybe at a restaurant or at the national parks. I was there to make images, I wasn't there to make new friends or impact other people. It was very isolated, it does get lonely.
I think, there is something to be said about this loneliness - it is quite productive in a way. They're definitely moments when you're in an amazing place, and there is an amazing lake and amazing scenery.
You wish your buddies were there or your girlfriend or your family members just to share it with. But that's kind of the price you pay for that sort of trip.
I also got to the point where I realized that I don't… If I wait for other people to make decisions on doing trips, I could wait forever, so I’ve kind of decided if I can't find buddies… a lot of my buddies work 9 to 5 jobs so they can’t always take time off. So, I've just decided whoever is keen to come can come but if no one's keen I just go on these trips alone.
What is your favorite picture you've taken while being there?
“One that stands out for me is a shot I took of a Sedan with the amazing pyrocumulus clouds in the back, it's pretty incredible. It's also incredible because I can feel myself standing there and I can see the cloud. It takes me right back into that moment which is pretty incredible. That was a really surreal day, and I'm quite obsessed with fire, so it was a really great day”.
S: Do you remember any weird conversation in a cafe or a gas station when you speak with a person just because you have nobody to speak to and you want to share an emotion or an image you captured and something hilarious or weird comes out of the conversation?
K: I didn't really speak to people about my work because it’s a lot of small town people and trying to discuss your work is sometimes a bit strange. They want to know about your trip and your travels. All the people I came in contact with were really friendly, really welcoming, and quite intrigued about the fact that I was from South Africa. I think each interaction had that theme running through, that I am coming from South Africa and I'm doing this alone. But yeah, there are a lot of weird interactions there.
S: Can you give an example of a conversation that happened or a question you got?
K: There was a lady, a violin teacher, I forgot her name, I actually have her business card somewhere. Like a lot of people in those small towns, they kind of speak about themselves because, I suppose, they are caught in their own loneliness. She was telling me how she used to train wildcats: tigers, leopards, and pumas for this one show which was pretty interesting. She got this really old-school phone out and showed me these pixelated images of her where she's with cats. It was kind of bizarre. She worked in a small diner somewhere in Montana, and she's telling me about this crazy snowfall. They had eight or nine months of winter this year which is kind of crazy to me.
S: When you're traveling, you said that you caught yourself sometimes in dangerous situations. What was the most dangerous situation you came across in the United States?
K: In America I had a really strange encounter, it also has been discussed in another article, with a guy. He had a long history of drug use, I met him in Aberdeen which is actually the hometown of Kurt Cobain. He wanted to show me around the town, and I thought it would be a good idea. Then, I realized that it was not such a good idea, it's just been crazy.
I think that the most dangerous part of the trip was actually just traveling those long distances and actually being on the road that much. A lot of the highways in America are massive trucking lanes, and a lot of the guys are driving long hours. In terms of being on the road at night, that’s quite a thing that gets dangerous, so I tried to limit myself to just driving as much during the day as I could and then just having an early night and get up early in the morning because of the morning light. I think that was the most dangerous. Otherwise, road tripping, as long as you are in the big cities, it's pretty safe in the States.
If you are just vigilant, think carefully of where you sleep, where you want to park, and what areas you want to be at when you stop at night, it’s pretty safe and pretty relaxed.
S: Also, pretty beautiful.
K: Yeah, it’s pretty beautiful, and it kind of seems as you're going back in time. A lot of towns don't seem that they progressed that much since the thirties.
S: When I speak with you I just see the imagery, and I see the pictures that you might have taken. What was your favorite food out there or favorite type of coffee or something different from what you usually do?
K: I’m kind of a weirdo, I don't really drink coffee, it makes me a bit crazy. To be honest, I wasn't really eating very well because if you want to travel those long distances and you want to spend all of your money on gas instead of staying in fancy hotels and eating nicely, then you have got to just eat really bad food. I was eating a lot of Subway, so it wasn't the healthiest two weeks in terms of food consumption.
Mentally I was quite healthy in terms of things I was seeing. There is nothing that really stands out in terms of food I ate. I was so focused on making images that I wasn't worried about what I ate as long as I was surviving. I was going to Brazil afterward, I had incredible food. So I just ate badly until I got to Brazil after the trip.
S: A genuine American food experience - hamburgers and sandwiches.
K: Exactly! There is incredible food when you go to the right places but when you are on your own fast food is super easy and super affordable, so that's kind of an option I went for.
S: You spoke about the process - sometimes while being alone and making photographs you learn about yourself. Did you get inspirational or maybe enlightening moments during the trip?
K: I think, the biggest learning process, the learning curve I had when I was there was just the fact that being alone like that you have so much time just to think about where you need to be and where you need to go and that allowed me to form a plan of where I want to be in the next few months and set in motion a few things.
As I got back, I actually got really busy again. I don’t know if it was because I formulated these ideas of where I want to be, and things came together. Now I work on setting up a solo exhibition next year and a whole bunch of things. I think the main thing for me was just having that time of thinking about myself, not worry about anyone else, hash out with my own ideas, and just work out some sort of character where I want to be.
S: What would be your advice for someone who would like to do the same trip? What is the hardest thing this person will encounter, and how would you suggest to pack the baggage, or prepare for this trip?
K: Pack lightly, make sure you have warm stuff, and get a car that's reliable. Renting is actually a lot easier than buying. I bought when I was on the first trip, and I got lucky to sell it. But if you get into a trip, and you need to leave, and it doesn’t work out then you just have a van sitting around in America that's going to get fines and turn into a disaster. Just rent, it's a lot cheaper, and then take a whole bunch of gas money, and a whole bunch of film or memory cards or whatever your preferred choice of photography is and then just drive and go experience it. It's very easy.
S: Just something that I remembered, you're a big fan of surfing, right?
K: I surf and bodyboard a lot back in Cape Town, and I’ve been lucky enough to do it in enough areas. I’m a big fan.
S: Did you find a surf location in the United States during this trip or it wasn't just about surfing?
K: My trip was pretty much all inland but any time I saw waves... when I got to Oregon I stopped for a little while. No, this was not at all focused on surfing. The last trip I did I had my stuff and I did get some waves in California, but this time it was just photography.
S: What is your favorite music album this year or something you perhaps played while traveling in the States?
K: I'm really, really into music and my last trip. I listen to The Blaze quit a lot. I also listen to Modest Mouse a lot, it’s kind of a nostalgic band for me, and they’ve got a really great documentary called ‘A Lonesome Crowded West', it speaks a lot about the areas I went to. I’ve got quite a broad spectrum of stuff I listen to. I put it on shuffle. When you are covering those distances you kind of need it to shuffle, otherwise you constantly try to pick songs instead of letting the music to run through and enjoy it as it comes.
S: Do you a photo that you took and when you look at it you become nostalgic about the recent trip?
K: It's interesting with this type of trip because, as we discussed earlier, you're traveling such big distances, and you sometimes miss home, and you get a bit lonely. But then, as soon as you’re back you kind of want back traveling again because it is quite liberating.
This image I took a bright green cannabis dispensary in Washington state where I stayed on my final night which is quite nostalgic, kind of the end of the trip when I had had the ordeal with that drug addict. That image symbolizes the punctuation of the trip, the final scene, kind of a poetic image.
S: that’s amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I feel like I’ve seen a little bit of your trip through your eyes.
K: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.