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Tyler Northrup

Photographer + Director

Raleigh, NC



Q: What song do you play on repeat?

A: This is an impossible question and how dare you ask. Also, it's probably "What's Up Danger" from the Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse soundtrack because it seems like that's all my son ever wants to listen to.

Q: What's the best way to start the day?

A: The best way to start your day? Not looking at social media on your phone. How do I start the day? By looking at social media on my phone.

Q: What are you most looking forward to this year?

A: I'm most looking forward to finishing all of the selection and retouching I'd like to do on the dozen or so projects sitting in my archive so I can get that stuff on my site, which is something I'm definitely going to do this year. Definitely. This is the year. It is.

Q: What is the most impactful project you've worked on and why.

A: One that comes to mind most recently was just a quick, "Humans of NY" style portrait of Harvey Godwin Jr., the Chairman of the Lumbee tribe in eastern, NC. The images were not really exciting, not really the way I typically shoot, and certainly not the type of stuff I'd put on my site, but what a privilege it was to be invited onto the reservation to spend some time with Chairman Godwin.

Q: Which art/photo exhibit that you've seen has impacted you the most?

A: This may have to do with the fact that I haven't seen enough art/photo exhibits, Raleigh isn't exactly a hotspot for them, but probably Sebastio Salgado's Genesis show at ICP in NY. I mean, the work is obviously out of this world, but what made it particularly impactful is knowing that some of that stuff was shot with digital. You think of work like that as being exclusively shot on film, and myself being solidly in the "I never need to shoot film again" camp, it was cool to see such amazing prints from a digital file. Take that analog lovers! I'm just kidding, film is cool and all, I just don't like the notion that it is somehow inherently better and more "art" than digital. But I digress...

Q: What mystery do you wish you knew the answer to?

A: Why, how, do people like green olives? Yuck.

Q: What are some things you had to unlearn?

A: I started out thinking of photography, at least commercial photography, as distinct from art. I didn't like to think of myself and what I was doing as 'an artist making art'. It still seems a pretty lofty and weird thing to call myself, but it is easy to look at the photography others are producing now as some of the best and highest caliber work that's ever been made, and it's *absolutely* art.

Q: What fictional place would you most like to go?

A: Probably the inside of the Doctor's TARDIS (Doctor Who). Tomorrow I'll think of a much better answer to this one and be annoyed that this is what I went with, but to be fair the TARDIS *is* pretty awesome.

Q: What book impacted you the most?

A: They seem kind of kitschy, like something your aunt would give you because she knows you're "creative" and you end up putting them in the bathroom or something, but I think Austin Kleon's books are really fantastic. Particularly Steal Like An Artist and Keep Going, Austin just has a really good way of thinking about art and creativity, and the way he presents his thoughts, half words and half doodles, makes it really easy to internalize and come back to.

I'd love to pick one of my photo books, is it Irving Penn's Small Trades for its stunning simplicity? Is it one of Gregory Crewdson's for the incredibly involved way he approaches making a single photograph? One of Albert Watson's because he's one of the best to ever do it? It's just too hard to choose.

Q: What do you spend the most time thinking about?

A: The state of our country and the entire movement dedicated to reversing progress and making empathy look like weakness, unfortunately. *Debbie Downer sound effect*

Q: Best and worst advice you've ever received.

A: A friend and mentor once told me that any day working as a photographer is better than any day working in a cubicle farm. This is *very* good advice. They also said that a lot of the work you do will be more for the paycheck and won't really be the kind of thing you want to pour your creative heart and soul into, that's what personal work is for. I also think that's really solid advice, it's just sort of a reality for most of us and there's nothing wrong with it; I think there was a time where *I* turned it into bad advice by approaching projects as if they were just means to a paycheck instead of something I should at least strive to get some really good work out of.

I think a better way to interpret this very good advice so that you don't turn it into very bad advice is to set a high bar, try to push for something beautiful if you can, but be realistic about what's realistic and don't get frustrated about it. I'm gonna read this one day and cringe at myself, I know it.

Q: How has your work evolved over the past few years?

A: I'm always trying to make my work look as clean and graphic as I can, so in the last few years I've started doing more compositing to get that aesthetic. Never to the point of looking fake or overdone (I hope), but trying to get the closest I can to how I would illustrate the image if I could, but still having it look like a legitimate photograph.

Q: One thing you can't show up to a shoot without - Besides a camera ;)

A: Probably the right kind of shoes? I'm sure there's something else that's more important, but having the wrong kind of shoes on a shoot is a real bummer.


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