Seth Taras: fusion of images to transcend time

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It is not common to mix the past and the present in the same place. But it was possible for the photographer Seth Taras, who made the History Channel Campaign “Know Where You Stand”. The locations were already chosen but he chose the original imagery.

Seth juxtaposed pictures from World War II, The Berlin Wall and D day; among others, with modern photographs. He has won a Cannes Lion for his job in the campaign.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Seth spoke about the trip which made him considered to be a photographer, the campaign and his techniques.

How did your interest in photography start?

​I’ve been taking pictures for as long as I can remember.  My father was an amateur photographer so there was always an odd assortment of cameras around the house. My first SLR camera never came into my hands until I was literally on the road out of college.  My best friend sold some speakers to a pawn shop and took a camera in exchange and generously gave it to me.  ​But I never considered a life in photography until I was 25 and traveling in Africa.   I had some extraordinary experiences and returned to New York City convinced I needed to become a visual artist.

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Have you returned to Africa after that trip? Are you planning to go back to take pictures?

I returned several years later on a project to photograph one of Africa’s biggest music stars, Youssou N’Dour.  I would love to go back again.

How did you get the opportunity doing the History Channel Campaign “Know Where You Stand”?

I met the art director on the project, in a Cinematography course at UCLA.  He saw my portfolio and asked me how I would shoot the project.  I told him there are only two ways to do this project… ‘The right way and the wrong way…’   And that was the beginning.

How did you select the places where to take the photographs?  Did the people from History Channel select them? Was it your choice?

The locations were chosen by the history channel but we chose the original imagery.

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How does it feel mixing the past and the present in a photograph?

​I think it’s a tricky proposition unless you can really blend the visuals seamlessly.  When done correctly, the final fusion of images transcend time.

What does it mean to you winning a Cannes Lion for this campaign?

It’s a great honor and hopefully not my last award from Cannes.

Which was the reaction from people with those photographs?

The reaction has been amazing.  The core idea of the campaign really speaks to people.  The campaign has had the opportunity to go viral on the web and millions of people from around the world have seen them.  And now there are art teachers giving their students assignments of fusing past and present images based on the campaign.   I couldn’t be happier.

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What can you tell us about the “The Likelihood Cartoon Series”?

The Likelihood is a cartoon series I created about two stick figures at various points in their relationship.

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Your nearly pictures are direct prints from original films negatives without digital alteration, what do you like about this technique and what do you think about using Photoshop or tools like this?

Aside from the history channel campaign and my digital “Observations” series, all of my images are straight interpretations of the original film negatives.  I use Photoshop as a means to accurately depict the original experience.  All of my vertical and horizontal panoramic images were created on film and the prints are straight interpretations. I’m probably a purist. I don’t see the need for digital enhancement unless it’s integral to the process. Film, if properly preserved, has a long life.

Are you planning to do more campaigns?

I will certainly shoot my campaigns.   I would love to expand on the original history channel series.   I think it would make a great historical teaching companion.

Samantha Schuster

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