A high school reunion sparks a personal project that uses the present as a way to make sense of the past
“I suppose I’m a perpetual peripatetic,” says Sebastian Collett, who was raised in America and France, and now spends much of his time travelling across the US and Europe with his photography.
But his project Vanishing Point took him back to Ohio, where he spent much of his childhood, where he decided to “explore the familiar sites of my youth and retrace my steps, so-to-speak”.
The project was born in 2012 when the 41-year-old went back to attend his 20th high school reunion; he ended up staying for a month, and soon found he was reconnecting “with parts of myself that I’d almost forgotten”.
He soon started taking photographs that captured the feeling, seeking out individuals and scenes that chimed with his memories.
“Rather than setting out to convey a particular message I allowed instinct to lead me to the places and people I needed to photograph,” the Hartford Art School graduate says.
“I began to trust that my intuition was guiding me to people or places that would serve as portals, or ‘wrinkles in time’. They became access points that allowed me to integrate past, present and future experiences on a subconscious level.
“I was especially drawn to boys in their teens and early twenties who appeared uncomfortable in their own skin or eager to try on new identities,” he added. “This period of life is unstable – it’s all about change and transition.
“These young men seemed to desire to be somewhere or someone else… I looked for liminal moments when the subject seemed on the verge of becoming or vanishing.”
Collett took most of the images in situ and using natural light, but his photographs are anything but documentary, he says.
“If anything, it is a ‘photojournalism of the psyche’,” he explains. “This meant I could introduce other images as long as the tone and mood were consistent with the project. For example, I included two photographs made twenty years ago: a self-portrait and a photograph of my mother’s attic. While the map of my face has certainly changed the attic looks much the same as it did twenty years ago.
“In truth, I don’t think in terms of separate projects until after the fact,” he adds. “My photography is a seamless extension of the wonder I experience when looking at the world.”
See more of Sebastian’s work here.