|"Reality never stops," he said. "The camera
catches an instant of time, part of what’s happening. But it is an image.
Static. Actually unrelated to the context."
Seewald was surrounded by
examples of his work as he stood at the center of the Valerie E. Wong
Gallery. There, two dozen of his most recent photographs are on
expedition, along with about the same number for sale.
The collector editions are limited edition prints, after which the
negatives are destroyed. Seewald started a sponsorship program 10 years ago,
and after 30 sponsored photo-taking trips now has a waiting list of
collectors eager to sponsor him, and he is booked two years in advance.
The trips have changed, Seewald said. "I used to hitchhike with a back
pack and a budget of $5 or $6 dollars a day, including food. I slept in
parks, abandoned buildings, underpasses. The first thing I'd do in a new
town was to find a bar where I could leave my backpack. While I was working,
I’d look for a place to sleep that night."
Nowadays, Seewald travels by rental car but he sill works the same way. "
I look and look, and wait and wait. Some days I don't shoot anything; others
I’m busy all day. On average I shoot about 1 ½ finished pictures a day."
Click photos to enlarge.
Caesarea, Israel/ Xian, China
Although the locales are foreign, Seewald’s images are universal. An
ultramodern structure appears as a background for an ancient statue. A
composed young pianist's eyes betray his nervousness in competition. The red
blur of a moving bus outlines two men in silhouette.
Like all art, Seewald’s photos increase in value with time. Images from
his first sponsored trip - to Iceland - now sell for almost ten times what
the sponsor contributed.
Reaching this point in his career has taken almost thirty years, Seewald
said. "I actually took my first picture when I was ten years old, when I got
a brownie box camera for my birthday. I became the family photographer,
taking pictures of vacations and holiday celebrations. (I took photos) any
time I could get a roll of film and stand still."
At the beginning, photography was an extension of painting, which Seewald
had been doing for four or five years. "I began with one of those paint by
number kits. But that was too confining. I wanted to do my own drawings."
Click photos to enlarge.
Oahu - Kauai - Maui, Hawaii
That independence paid off. Seewald won a prize, a U.S. savings bond, for
a painting he submitted for a Halloween competition at the age of 10. And
he’s been winning ever since.
The exhibition and the gallery collection include several of Seewald’s
prize-winning photos. The most recent are those that took first place in the
San Diego Art Institute's Midwinter Awards Exhibition and best of show on
the Del Mar Fair’s heavily contested International Photographic Competition.
Seewald has also taken top honors in the San Diego Museum of Photographic
Arts’ annual competition. And after "Bridge Undercarriage, Budapest" won a
competition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, a curator
declared it as one of the top pieces of art in the world.
Seewald has said he was hooked on photography from the beginning. "I studied
all the images in LIFE Magazine, and when I got to High School "
Much of his photo training has been self-taught, Seewald said.
He attended Southwestern College where he studied photo-journalism and after
two years transferred to San Diego State University.
"My registration priority (at Southwestern) was so low that all the photo
classes were filled. But I had friends who would sneak me into the darkroom.
I learned to do my own developing and printing. I knew there was magic in
the darkroom. Within 10 months, I was winning awards."
After college, Seewald sold newspaper advertising (and photographed the
ads), furniture and tended bar in a place where he could hang his photos. When patrons began
buying the images, he got the idea to open his own gallery.