Many thoughts, emotions, and memories are triggered by the sight of a single photograph. As often said, they are “worth a thousand words,” but what about the worth of the individual on the other side of the lens? Enter Aaron Bell. His name alone sparks a myriad of emotion as many recall his vibrant, uplifting personality, but it’s his photographs of our beloved Mitten state and its inhabitants that move mountains for many capital city millennials.
Aaron believes that what we create is a direct translation of what it looks like inside our minds and he intends to show the deepest parts of himself through photographs. I assure you that after you’ve fallen in love with his work, you’re sure to find great respect and admiration in our local celebrity.
I picked Aaron’s brain for some inspiration, photography tips, and his favorite things about growing up in Michigan.
What is your biggest inspiration?
As cliché as this question is, my answer shall follow suit – life itself. I’m inspired by everything and everyone. Honestly.
Where is your favorite place to shoot?
Any place with sand facing the west. Sunset potential is a must! So anywhere on the west side of the state is my absolute favorite to shoot. Such as Holland, Grand Rapids, P.J. Hoffmaster, South Haven.
What is your favorite subject to shoot?
People. Simple as that. We’re forever changing, every day. The opportunity to capture that and the many emotions we go through is an amazing opportunity. Also anyone who knows me and my work knows just exploring the city (any city) is a close second.
What is your favorite time to shoot?
Like I said earlier, that sunset potential is a must! My favorite time to shoot is as soon as the sun rises, and right when it sets. When I first started shooting, I would usually only go out at night, so a 3AM shoot isn’t out of the question.
What do you want to become of your photography?
I want a lot of things out of it to be honest. To evoke a sense of nostalgia in any capacity. I want people to look at my work and feel something. Maybe remind them of someone, or a moment in their life. Or maybe just show people something they haven’t seen before. We look at things every day, but don’t really see them. Without going too deep into it, mainly I just want to create a big enough platform for others to create as well.
Where is your favorite place in Michigan?
That’s actually a tough question. I spent the majority if my life in Lansing, so I’m partial to my city. “Favorite place” would have to be up north somewhere – almost anywhere up north, on a lake. Although the place that stole my heart most recently has to be Grand Rapids. Amazing artistic city.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Well that would remove the mystery if I answered this, right?! Most people don’t know that I’m quite the chef. I’ve always loved cooking for people, and if I’m ever watching TV (which is rare), The Food Network is usually on the screen.
What is your favorite Michigan food/snack?
Monica’s Gourmet Cookies from Grand Rapids (They’re the best!)
Where do you see photography taking you in the future?
I honestly don’t know. Part of me would feel vain answering that question with what/where I’d truly want it to take me to. Hopefully it takes me to more & more opportunities. I’m just so thankful to have found my passion.
Any upcoming projects in the works?
I’m starting a “CREATE” series. It’s going to be short videos I film (3-5 minutes each) of creatives & people that I admire expressing the importance of creating, and what it means to them! From photographers, to authors, designers, mothers, musicians… You get the point.
What got you interested in photography?
A few things actually. I come from an artistic family. My father was a photographer, and a musician. My mother was a videographer, and an artist. I know it’s not really in genetics to become a photographer & videographer, but let’s just say it’s in our blood. I started drawing at age 6 and fell in love with art. Over the years I just kept exploring different mediums until junior year of high school. My father helped me collect [film] cameras growing up – but junior year my step brother came back home from doing a tour in Afghanistan with a digital SLR camera. I instantly fell in love.
Any tips for beginners?
Shoot everything. Explore everything. When you finally shoot everything, and explore everything, do it again. I learned that the best way to really get into it is to just get out there with no game plan. Shoot what you like. It’s cool to have people who you admire creatively – but don’t allow their talent or what they do to make you feel pressured into creating on that level. It takes time.
If you happen to come across Aaron wandering the deserted alleys of downtown or walking the Lansing River Trail before sunrise, make sure to take the time to stop and befriend him. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, I’ll even bet he offers to take you along on his hunt for the perfect lighting.
In the mean time, you can find Aaron on Tumblr (http://forevershooting.tumblr.com) or on Instagram (oohboogie).