Photographer capturing the outdoor stories and adventures of his backyard - the Pacific Northwest
DESCRIBE YOURSELF AND THE WORK THAT YOU CREATE.
My name is Dylan Furst. I am a photographer based in Bellingham, Washington in the Pacific Northwest and I specialize in outdoor adventure and lifestyle photography. I love trying to show the Pacific Northwest through my eyes, but a lot of my work is also travel based. I thrive off the dark and rainy days we regularly experience, and this mood plays a large role in my photography.
WHO HAVE YOU WORKED WITH AND WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE ASSIGNMENT?
I’ve worked with a variety of outdoor and electronic brands, but I think my favorite project I have ever been a part of was shooting for Amazon in Norway. It started off as a very stressful trip. Nothing seemed to be going as planned. The weather wasn’t cooperating with us and I wasn’t getting photos I was happy with. On one of the last mornings of the shoot, the day turned out to be one of the best of my life. Not only did I get some of my favorite photos I have ever taken, but I had one of the most amazing encounters with a local fisherman. He let me use his fishing boat for some photos. We exchanged stories and laughed trying to communicate over the language barrier. He goes out and fishes every morning in the fjord in front of his house where he has lived his whole life. He didn’t have much, but he had all he needed. He seemed like the happiest guy in the world, and his positivity has really stuck with me from that moment on. It really put things into perspective, and I value experiences like this over anything.
RECOUNT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN ARTIST.
My journey as an artist started when I was in high school. I signed up for a video production class so I could learn how to film my friends and I on our mountain biking adventures. Making little mountain bike videos is what got the camera in my hand, but I think my transition to an artist came in my senior year of high school in 2009 when I started making music. I had always been a huge fan of hip hop, and music always seemed to be the backbone of anything I was doing creatively. Picking a song for a video was always the first step for me in creating, and I also wanted to make the music that accompanied it. I studied music producers, I sampled vinyl and found inspiration through different beats. Photography entered my life when I started taking photos on my adventures back in 2011. This was also around the time I started working an extremely tough job at UPS. It was something I could use to escape the “real world”. It would help take my mind off all the stress that came with my job. It was also around this time when more social media platforms started popping up, and it allowed me to have a great place where I could share my work. I never started art and photography with the intention of making money, but it ended up turning into a career that I wouldn’t trade the world for.
YOU'VE TAKEN A LOT OF RISKS ALONG THE WAY, BUT WHAT WAS YOUR DEFINING ONE WHERE EVERYTHING WAS ON THE LINE?
I think the defining moment where I put everything on the line is when I made the jump to full time, leaving a job of security at UPS. I worked at UPS for three and a half years. I worked nearly every morning starting around 3am and ending around 9am. I loaded the trucks with packages before they went out on delivery. Having this schedule allowed me to have my days free to take photos, but I also went into UPS with the intention of becoming a full time driver. Instead of finishing college I went traveling. I didn’t have any degree to fall back on and UPS was a great option for a financially secure future. I didn’t have much of a social life having to go to bed each day before the sun set, but I was able to put in many hours each day taking photos and exploring around Washington. As I worked my way up at UPS, I was very close to reaching my goal of finally getting my chance to become a driver, but at the same time I had become more busy with photography. I was making some money, but not enough to be comfortable to live off. I knew that once I started driving I wouldn’t have any of my days free to shoot, and I knew it would consume all of my time. I wasn’t happy at UPS, so I decided to drop everything and forfeit my high seniority to pursue photography full time. I knew I would regret it if I could never say I tried, and it turned out to be the best decision of my life.
HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS SUPPORTED YOU THROUGHOUT IT ALL?
My family and friends have been very supportive of everything. The thing that held me back most about leaving UPS were the unknowns, and also the fact I had made my parents so proud for sticking with a tough job for so long. I didn’t want to let them down by failing at photography, but they stressed that I should follow my passion and dreams while I was still young enough to do so. It has been an amazing journey so far, and the support of my family and friends has carried me a long way.
LOOKING BACK ON ALL THAT HAS UNFOLDED, WHAT NUGGETS OF WISDOM HAVE YOU LEARNED AND EMBRACED?
I think I have learned to embrace the fact that even though it’s my dream job, not every day is going to be fun. I think it’s also easy to be discouraged as a freelancer, sometimes not receiving a steady paycheck. As a creative, I believe you must thrive off the discomfort in order to improve and create to your full potential. Once you get comfortable, it’s easy to slow down. It’s also important to not let the work aspect take over the fun of photography. I strongly believe you should start with a passion for art, rather than the goal to make money from it.
IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
Don’t compare your work with other people's work. It can feel like a competition at times, but you have to do it for yourself. There’s always going to be someone much younger and more talented than you. It’s important to enjoy what you’re doing because in the end, that’s all that matters.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL HAS ALLOWED YOU TO BREAK THROUGH AND SUCCEED, PARTICULARLY AMONGST YOUR PEERS?
I feel as though not all photographers are artists. It’s very important to create what you want rather than what you think is popular to people. It’s hard to stand out these days, so having your own style is important. These days it feels like everyone is copying just because they see something working well for someone else. You need to always think differently and not follow the popular trends. Always go the extra mile for your work. I think that by disregarding the politics and drama that comes with social media and photography and just doing your thing will allow you to break through. I know a lot of my peers treat photography more like a social event, but it’s definitely not about that to me. Of course it’s great to connect with others, but I would much rather keep a small circle of friends who push and feed off each other to improve. I know of too many people who only shoot for “Instagram fame.”
WHO ARE THE MENTORS THAT HAVE INFLUENCED AND INSPIRED YOUR LIFE?
As many others are, the most inspiring person to me has to be the filmmaker Casey Neistat. I discovered his videos in high school when I was just getting into making videos. His work ethic and drive to always be pushing creative boundaries has really made an impact on me. He does everything the way he wants, no matter what. Ever since he has started his daily vlogging on YouTube, my morning is usually started by watching his videos. It gives me the motivation and inspiration to get up and start my work full force each day.
IS THERE ANY ADVICE THAT YOU WOULD GIVE A YOUNG PERSON FOLLOWING THEIR PASSION AS AN ARTIST?
It’s okay to fail. Don’t be discouraged when things don’t go your way. Be consistent and persistent. It’s not always going to fall in your lap. Be confident and proud with the work you put out and never doubt yourself. You don’t have to go to college to become a successful creative. If you have enough passion, anything is possible.
WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CREATIVITY, WHAT DO YOU FIND YOURSELF CONSTANTLY SEARCHING FOR?
Being creative. I think once you’ve done something, you should always try and build off it. It’s important to keep pushing your craft as much as possible and going out of your comfort zone.
WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT KEEP YOU CREATIVELY INSPIRED AND CONSISTENTLY INNOVATING?
Music is what constantly keeps me inspired. I often choose a soundtrack or genre of music to set the mood for my creative work. There are so many songs that I can associate with different locations and projects I’ve done. Music has always been a backbone to my creativity.
LOOKING AT OUR WORLD, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN IMPACT AND CHANGE ABOUT IT?
After building a following on social media, I’ve realized how powerful influence can be. Whether that be setting a good example by showing appreciation for the earth or practicing proper principles that come with the outdoor lifestyle, people are watching every move you make. I just want to leave a positive impact on someones day, and I think that can go a long way if spread around.
WE ALL DREAM OF LEAVING A LEGACY. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR, AND WHY?
I’m not really too worried about being known for anything when I’m gone. I just want to die happy with no regrets. If I can leave some positive impact behind, that’s a plus. And if I can inspire people to pick up a camera or pursue art, there’s not really much else I care about regarding a legacy.
ANY CURRENT ALBUMS, ARTISTS OR SONGS ON REPEAT?
I’m always on a constant search for new music, and I seem to cycle through new music each day. But an album I’ve had on repeat for a while would be “Gas Mask” by The Left. I love sample based hip hop, as it was something I used to do back in the day. The balance of soulful samples and hard hitting drums has always been my favorite sound.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MOVIE OR TV SHOW?
I don’t really watch TV or movies often, but when I do, I like to watch The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It’s a good way to stay up on some current events with comedy involved.
To be honest, I don’t have any favorite books. I’m more of an article reader. It takes a lot to engage my attention span during the span of a book.
My favorite food is definitely Mexican food. I also love to eat cereal for dinner.
STAR WARS OR STAR TREK?
To be honest, I didn’t really grow up watching either of them. If I had to choose I would say Star Wars, and I’m only basing that off of feedback I receive on my photos. I quite often get comments like “This looks like the Endor Forest.” I’ve watched some of the Star Wars and Star Trek movies in my recent years, but I don’t really have any emotional connection or bias to either of them, I enjoyed both.
WHAT IMPORTANT TRUTH DO VERY FEW PEOPLE AGREE WITH YOU ON?
I think going to college as a creative is overrated. It’s important to do things the way you want, rather than “by the book”. In the end, the quality of work is much more valuable than a piece of paper of validation you paid lots of money for. I was talking to someone who was just about to graduate with their bachelors in photography. I asked them what lenses they shot with and they had no idea what focal lengths they were using. They only described them as “this lens does this effect and this one zooms in.” They also said they had tons of unnecessary assignments learning things they would never apply to their photography in real life after college. As an artist, I really don’t like being told what is the right or wrong way to do something. It shouldn’t matter, just do whatever works for yourself. I tried taking a year at community college after high school. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I ended up dropping out and solo traveling to Australia for the year. Six years later, I look back on that experience and I realize I gained so much more valuable knowledge and experience than I ever did in a classroom throughout all my years at school. Education is very important, but I think knowledge can be gained in many other ways. You can also learn anything on YouTube these days.