Keaten Abbott


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Interview By Kelton Woodburn, Photography by Keaten Abbott KW: What makes the Oregon Coast unique, and how do you find new ways to photograph it? 

KA: I’ve always felt a connection with the sea, no matter where that is. The Oregon Coast is on another level. It really has everything to offer. Gorgeous views, crazy rock formations, and old growth forest that is like no other. On the busiest summer day we can still find empty coves to surf or just explore. The vast landscape and the emptiness is what really sets it apart from other places. And honestly it is one of the easiest places to photograph. Everywhere you turn, there is something beautiful and different.

When I look at your work, two emotions that it stirs up in me are nostalgia and adventure. What do you feel when you look through your body of work, and what would you like your viewers to feel? 

That actually makes me really happy you say that. Nostalgia is something that inspires me in everything, and adventure is something I think we all long for in some form. Nostalgia is freedom. Nature and youth is the core of nostalgia in my mind. Nature is the most free place. The vast open space and the power of it is humbling. I just hope to show a sliver of that to the viewer and hopefully they walk away feeling some sense of longing.

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Tell me about one of your favorite images, and the experience behind the day the photo was made. 

One of my favorites in this group would have to be the cliffs, the one with my sister and her husband looking over. It’s from a hike in the Columbia River Gorge and my whole family was there. I guess I am more connected with the day than with the photo. It was just a perfect, typical northwest day. Another is a shot of Lake Mead showing how low the water is. Not technical at all, I just love the lines. I have a weird obsession with symmetry.

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A lot of your work is absent of people. What can you say about the human-less landscape? What is special about a place with nobody in it? 

I believe this has a lot of doing with my upbringing. Living in the northwest my whole life, nature has always been my favorite thing. Portraits bore me. I know thats harsh, but I can only look at a photo of someone for so long. If no one is in it, it’s more engaging to me. Nature has so many different things to look at. The connection I feel with it is something I can’t explain, but I think we all can understand.

Why do you go to these specific places? 

Being a director, I travel a lot for work. So whenever I am somewhere new I try to get out and see the place. New places are really inspiring and make me realize how much I love where I live. When I get home, I just need to get out and see the places I love most. Obviously, the Oregon Coast is somewhere I am obsessed with. It’s only an hour and half from Portland so it’s an easy day trip. The trees are unreal. The natural light is even better. Those three things draw me to everything I shoot.

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