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Total Presence: the Photography of Scott Kaplan

Who: Scott Kaplan
Where he was born: Skokie, Illinois
Where he lives now: Chicago, Illinois
What he does: Photographer/ Cinematographer and Creative Director.


Why photography? (or filmmaking):
Honestly, if there was anything else that I thought I was as good at or that I could tolerate as much, I’d probably consider it.

All jokes aside, being a photographer and filmmaker is really one of the only professions that I think caters to my mischievous and curious personality. It’s provided countless opportunities to experience new places, new people and collaborate on radically different ideas with other creatives, so there’s always a sense of “newness” about it that I love.

After all the lens captures only what you put in front of it, so philosophically I fell in love with the idea of having an excuse to put myself in all kinds of situations and circumstances to “get the shot” so to speak. It’s an intoxicating feeling really, like a drug almost.

It’s hard to describe: but it’s like a dance between total presence and precognition. I start with an idea and then instinct just takes over. The rush of chasing after the shot or placing myself somewhere to perfectly encapsulate a feeling or tell a story never gets old. It’s a high I’ll certainlybe chasing all my life, testing my edge and learning how to continue to authentically use my voice as an artist.


What inspires him:
I’m constantly inspired by the work of my friends and colleagues. I feel so lucky to know so many inspiring people. When a friend creates a song, a movie, a photo or any kind of good story it keeps my mind working—like a good book when you’re not reading it you’re thinking about it… and often times how you might do it better. But in all honestly I’m passionate about people who are passionate about something, anything really.

Photographically, I’m naturally drawn to characters and situations where someone or something displays a kind of rawness. There’s a visceral power there that is like a shot of adrenaline. I’m always looking to capture moments when a subject or situation gives me a glimpse into just what makes them tick. I look for those moments that people share when it’s just someone naked (emotionally or physically) with himself or herself or when they are possessed by an idea, where there’s a sense of pause or determination, and the rest of the noise chatter in the world seems to fall away.

What he wanted to be when was growing up:
I haven’t yet so I’ll let you know whenI find out.

What’s most important in life:
Showing up. And remembering to load to the camera properly.

I think being present and learning to roll with the punches is half the battle. Life throws a lot of curveballs, but having a sense of humor about the way life works is really important. My father has always made it his mantra, “There’s always something funny and it’s easier to laugh then to cry,” and I feel like I try and keep that in the back of my mind all the time.


A very recent inspiration:
I’ve been revisiting the work that Tim Walker has done; as a protégé of Richard Avedon (another great inspiration), I love how he’s perfected his own unique style and the way he’s able to portray many familiar celebrities and show them in a totally new light, as both vulnerable and yet strong is spectacular.

Something great he’s read:
I’ve recently been into Alain de Botton, his books have a way of weaving sociology and philosophy into very honest accounts of personal relationship tribulations and evocative storytelling, then there’s obviously Haruki Murakami and Tom Robbins, who skillfully remind me that there’s still magic abound in the world.

Scott’s WILD Wish:
A box of Leica and Contax cameras just shows up at my door, Kodak starts making Ektachrome again…and well winning a MacArthur fellowship would be great too.


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text by: Nadia Tanian

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