Interview with Garrett Lucas, age 23, SCAD GRAD 2021
WRITTEN BY: LILLIAN KIGHT
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: LINDY MOODY
What is it a photographer sees from behind the lens that makes them capture an image? Perhaps, it’s the lighting, a smile, emotion, or the elusive beauty of a moment. Let’s reflect on the perspectives of several local photographers.
To see all that’s hopeful in a city known for its historical inferences, there’s no better place to start than with the forgotten. According to the Historic Savannah Foundation, “The Eastside District includes two middle-class streetcar developments: Collinsville, c. 1890s and the Meadows, a more upscale subdivision to the east of Collinsville. Waters Avenue separates the two developments and marks the northern boundary of the Meadows.” Today some may see Waters Avenue as a high-traffic, pedestrian heavy corridor for those living on the edge of town. But for many such as myself, we call it home.
Moments leading up to this interview, I found myself frantically searching for the perfect red nail color and my recently gifted Trader Joe’s ginger mints. Nail polish applied, ginger mints forgotten, I head to my destination, 2308 Waters Avenue, Savannah, Georgia.
Last August, Garrett Lucas, an upcoming photographer and local creative, set out on a night shoot choreographed from Victory Drive to 33rd Street up Waters Avenue. It was during this time he captured a photo that proved to be more poignant than he could ever imagine.
Stakes are high for Lucas as an independent artist making his way into the Savannah art scene. A much different world from his hometown, Nunda, in western New York. We agree to meet in the lobby of Studio 13, where Lucas works as lead screen-printer. Studio 13, formally known as 13 Bricks, is a print shop and clothing brand whose founder, Vann-Ellison Seales, now operates a creative agency supporting startups and clothing brands. When asked his opinion on the area prior to the scheduled interview, he recommended I check out one of his non-published works supporting his Kickstarter: Studio 13 - Waters Ave. Mural Project.
So I did.
Through the eyes of Seales, we see a future where he envisions a community no longer referred to as ‘“No-man’s” land.” Where people are told to stay away, especially after dark” (V.Seales, Kickstarter, 2021). Seales writes of walking through the streets where the landscapes are concrete, trash, metal bars, and people struggling to make ends meet. Mural Project is a collaboration with local neighborhood organizations and SCAD graduate and well-known muralist Alfredo Martinez. Through the Kickstarter, Seales, and Martinez hope to raise funds to create a mural where the community can envision possibilities and the future of a thriving neighborhood.
Settling into the art corner Lucas created for our interview, he quickly smiles and glances at me somewhat bashfully, I give him a reassuring nod, and we begin.
I began by asking him, “What brought you to Savannah, Garrett?”
It was his love for cycling, the sport of racing road bikes, that brought him to Savannah. Sought out by Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), who would later offer him a scholarship to be an artist athlete for the next four years while competing with the Varsity Cycling Program. Artistically speaking, Lucas reflected on his influences. He spoke dearly of his Grandpa Lucas, who was an elementary school art teacher with a knack for woodworking who instilled a desire for Lucas to seek his own creative path. He later stated it wasn’t until his sophomore year in high school that he acquired his first camera. So when SCAD came knocking, he explained, “It wasn’t a jump to come to Savannah to do art full-time, but it was definitely a push…” Lucas also attributed the city and SCAD as “huge” influences in his artistic career.
We playfully joked over his athletic accomplishments during the week of November 11, 2018, where Lucas was featured as one of SCAD’s “BEES OF THE WEEK.” He smiled nostalgically and paused to reflect on a memory he had long forgotten, creating the perfect silence I needed to begin my real questioning.
“Garrett, tell me about the night shoot on Waters Avenue,” I earnestly asked. “You captured some really amazing photos.”
Lucas replied, “Thank you, I tried.”
He began by saying, “We definitely encountered locals and all types of street traffic. Just the experience of going down a dark road in general with three people, one carrying a video camera, one walking around with a little backpack, and one with a camera in hand … draws attention.”
He discussed his initial struggle as a photographer with the idea of looking silly during public photo shoots. Lucas stated, “At first doing shoots like that out in public… it wasn’t scary, but I was a little nervous. Everyone’s carrying on, then there’s a person with a camera, looking silly… laying down on the ground. But what comes out is really cool. Sometimes you find yourself looking at a photo, and you know the exact position you were in when you photographed it.” (Which Lucas thought to be a pretty funny moment as well.)
Searching for more depth I questioned Lucas on his awe-inspiring photo captured that late August evening, “What about this photo reflects the edge of town, the end of Waters Avenue before Victory?”
“Yeah,” he replied eagerly. “Out of the series of photos I took that night, this one stood out to me as, for what you said, “the edge of town” just kind of ‘passing time.’ I like this photo for the reason of it’s a gas station but it’s not a chain. In 5 years or 10 years it’ll probably be … I don’t know what are the…”
Excitedly I chimed-in, “Like a Valero or a Shell?”
Lucas continues, “Yeah something like that, but it's not, it’s a small business. I don’t know its origins, but I liked it. The photo was nice. There was a car that went by and left a trail of lights layered over the building. It's kind of a stretch, but it was a nice little reflection of the fast life going by. Not really paying attention until there is something new there worthy of…what they think is worthy of their attention. That’s why I like that photo to represent the edge of town and what’s forgotten.”
“That’s fabulous,” I said, appreciating Lucas. “Would you mind expounding on any special techniques you may have used that evening,” I asked curiously.
“With the night photography, with the photos we were producing; I really wasn’t even using a flash. It was more long exposure. I had a tripod. Those are the photos I like the most because you have to wait, and wait, and wait; then hopefully, you get something cool. I believe that photo was around 12 second exposure. Others range from 8 to 30 seconds. So it was a lot of low light, capturing that, and that’s cool because you can get the trails of light from cars. I like that look; I was looking for that. And black and white, of course. Not of course, but I enjoy black and white.”
Smiling back, I replied, “So do I.”
Last couple of questions, I said (though this would turn out to be a slight underestimate): “One, if you were going to speak to the world of aspiring photographers, what would you say? And two, will we see more of you, Garrett Lucas?”
“Okay,” Lucas said, “to answer your first question, I’m going to gear it towards anybody wanting to do anything creative or anything worthwhile because I find the same motivation through cycling and my art. It’s just time and repetition. I know everything’s on YouTube, and you can watch stuff and look it up and figure out exactly how to do it, um, do it. Take time, set time aside. Through cycling, it took me two hours a day to get a scholarship; with art, it takes 1/60th of a second to take a photograph. So take a lot of them.”
“Any upcoming plans for potential exhibitions or displaying your works this year?”
“Yeah, it’s looking like this year I’ll be establishing myself as a local artist, photographer, and graphic designer. One of my goals this year is to have a gallery. Possibly, sometime towards the summer. I’d like to take some photos over the Spring. I know cycling is starting, so there’s a possibility of seeing some cool stuff.”
After collectively gathering our gear from the interview, we took a short stroll down to the exact gas station Lucas found himself on that warm August night last year. I caught myself studying Lucas as he peered into the camera, and I think it’s safe to say that Mr. Lucas no longer feels silly during public photo shoots.
Garrett Lucas is and will be a dynamic force in the art world for the foreseeable future. For more information on Lucas follow him on IG: @garrettlucas_ and/or swing by your local screenprinting shop, Studio 13 off of Waters Avenue and 40th Street.
My name is Lillian Kight, red nails are a necessity, and this is the first edition of “From Behind the Lens.”