Foto Find: Sam Sefton

Our next Foto Find hails from the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. Besides being a creative director in the advertising industry, Sam Sefton is also a prolific contributor to iStock photo with over 10,000 downloads.  He also shoots for Air BnB.  When he’s not working on the latest campaign or gathering visual content for iStock, he shoots his travels.  And we found his fresh perspective on Palm Springs to be captivating.  He hasn’t been to Modernism Week yet, but we hope to see him in 2013.

More about Sam Sefton:

What’s your favorite aspect of Palm Springs?

The modern architecture of Palm Springs inspired me to take photographs there, but honestly, I found that I loved everything about the place. It has such a great tradition of style, leisure and fun. There is something very quixotic about Palm Springs. With my Midwestern roots, I found myself romanticizing the idea of Hollywood stars whisking off to this desert oasis for the weekend. Playing golf and tennis. And hanging out in “Desert Modern” hotels and spas. There is something in the air in Palm Springs. A certain atmosphere. It was mostly sunny when I photographed there. But it also rained a bit. Which was great. I tend to go for drama when I shoot and process, even with the simplest of subject matters. The large clouds really made the skies dramatic and heightened the overall look. I often use a flash when there are dark skies in the background. That gives a surreal quality to the light and an odd but rather purposeful contrast. Regarding architecture, the lines, circles and angles of Palm Springs buildings also add to drama. I like the way a modernist building can be cropped to place emphasis on positive and negative spaces. The geometric play makes for extremely interesting compositions. Often, less is more. Just like with modernism. And that’s where the architecture of Palm Springs really comes shining through.
What do you like to shoot and why?
Photography has been a passion of mine ever since I received an unexpected holiday gift from my parents: a Canon AE-1. I like to shoot a variety of subjects. And no pun intended, I really like the focus that’s required of photography. You can get lost in a certain kind of zone where everything else just falls away. I find that very relaxing. To this day, photography is a great creative outlet for me. I work full-time at an advertising agency, which can be a very collaborative process. It takes a lot of people to develop and make a TV commercial. But it only takes one person to take a great photo. So when I am ready to take a break from the collaborative creative effort, photography is my gateway. And because of that, most of my work would probably be considered personal or art. I recently started photographing for Airbnb. Which is great because it is architectural in nature but you still meet some really interesting people along the way. I am waiting for my first really cool modernist interior. Hopefully that will be soon.
What does modernism mean to you? 
To me, modernism is a powerful combination of art, style and design. It embraces simplicity and discipline. Modernism is not afraid of being bold. It is a testament to forward thinking. I live relatively close to the Cranbrook School and campus in suburban Detroit. Cranbrook has a rich tradition of modernism with Charles and Ray Eames and their mid century furniture design. The Cranbrook Art Museum is also very modern in appearance. In addition to places like Cranbrook, the automotive industry in Detroit also adds a kind of cool industrial vibe to the entire art community. Almost everything in this area is touched by cars in some way or another. One of my favorite finds at modernist shows are 1960’s era illustrations of concept cars. And of course, there is modernist influence in certain car designs. I recently bought a Fiat. Part of my attraction to the car was its simple, almost Art Deco design. I photographed the Fiat outside the Cranbrook Art Museum and the contrast of the Fiat’s simple round shapes against the Museum’s stark architecture was very dramatic. Round lines and straight lines. I like finding modernism in the everyday. The Kmart Corporation was based in Michigan (The 1960’s era logo was modern and fantastic.) And although I rarely went to a Kmart store, I did go to their corporate headquarters for their moving sale (when they merged with Sears.) It was cool but a little sad. Modern furniture was everywhere. Chairs. Desks. Lamps. I’m still a proud owner of two orange Steelcase chairs from Kmart’s worldwide headquarters. I can only imagine 1960’s sharp-dressed executives sitting in them as they smiled at rising sales charts.
To see more of Sam’s work, check him out iStock and follow him on Flickr.
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