America the Beautiful | Michael DePetris
America the Beautiful
We’ve seen many of your lovely “America the Beautiful” photos on your Instagram and website. Could you describe a bit about this gallery?
I feel like this project for me grew out of a desire to escape the surroundings of where I grew up (on the East Coast). I’m from a summer town where people spend millions of dollars for a summer home because of the beauty, yet I found myself, since I grew up here as a normal resident, seeing everything through stale eyes. I’ve always wanted to take a cross-country road trip, and this past fall I packed up and did that — 15,000 miles. It was the best, and at times, most stressful experience in my life. There was no itinerary, I just went wherever I felt like at the time. The name “America the Beautiful” obviously comes from the song, but I just think it is so true. We have so many amazing places in our country, and I think it’s good to appreciate these places, especially in today’s world. The west has some of the most surreal landscapes I’d ever seen. It’s like once you get to Colorado and onward, you sometimes have to question whether or not you’re actually on Earth!
How or when did you become interested in landscape photography?
Honestly, my interest came out of the tools that I had and the circumstances in my life. I went to college for TV/Film, yet never really felt the passion I thought I would. After I graduated, my friends were scattered across the country, and I used photography as a way to get out and explore. Landscape photography is something you can do alone, which was ideal because I wasn’t very close with anyone where I was living. I didn’t start taking photography seriously until a couple years ago. Still, I often feel weird calling myself a photographer. But I can owe a lot of interest in photography to an app called PHHHOTO, which focused on moving images because that got me to see things in a different way. It’s funny because I see my work from even just a year ago and I am embarrassed by some of it. But I’m glad I feel that way because it shows progress.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
I think my greatest source of inspiration just comes from the beauty in the environment. I mean, I never considered myself too political of a person, but after seeing so much in nature that inspired me so greatly, I was/am terrified about how the effects of climate change are going to progress. I hope that my own landscape photography might inspire someone else to feel a passion toward protecting the environment, or at a minimum inspire them to get outside for some fresh air. I’m a firm believer that the more time we spend outside the happier and healthier we’ll be.
Are there any photography projects you are currently pursuing or would like to pursue?
There’s nothing currently in the pipeline, but I always did want to try to shoot more portraits. Maybe blend in those portraits into these awesome landscapes. I think I’ll use that as an excuse to take another cross-country road trip.
How would you describe your style and general aesthetic?
It varies. Sometimes I find myself drawn to a desert aesthetic — lots of tans, whites, and pale blues. Other times I love the moodier looks of stormy mountains and stormy seas. The desert aesthetic always called to me the most, and that’s probably because we don’t have any deserts near where I grew up, so it always brings me that “looking to a far-away land” type feeling.