Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-11-14
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



BOOKS Brandon Hayes turns his camera toward U.S. parks
by Jake Ekdahl

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Brandon Hayes is a professional photographer who specializes in nature photography.

He and his husband, Sean Santos, plan to travel to and photograph all 59 U.S. national parks. ( Their trips are documented on . )

Windy City Times: What is the main inspiration for your work?

Brandon Hayes: That's a really good question. Certainly, the biggest inspiration for my work is being out in nature in the national parks. These landscapes are saved because we've decided as a nation that we want to protect and hold in esteem this amazing heritage. … Definitely being out in these spaces, you know, seeing Denali [National Park in Alaska], looking into the Grand Canyon. These are inspiring things. Just visually I'm inspired by these spaces. But in addition to that, when we're out there I'm inspired by seeing flowers, trees plants, the way the light plays across. It's sort of capturing that living, dynamic place in nature, too.

WCT: Walk me through your creative process. Do you typically have an idea and then go out and pursue it, or do you just go to a place and let the ideas come to you?

BH: I definitely let the ideas come to me. And so, when we go, we sort of have an idea of what we want to do there. And so we approach them, first and foremost, as this exploration; this odyssey, we've given ourselves 16 years to visit all 59 national parks. … It isn't so much going out and trying to capture the perfect image. It's very much documenting and capturing what we're seeing.

WCT: Do you have a favorite park?

BH: When I'm asked this question, I usually say Big Bend, in Texas. We went for my birthday, and its in November—which really limits the number of parks you can go to, but Big Bend was one of them. And I thought I'd like it, but I fell in love with that park. Because it has desert, it has mountains… It's just a magical, magical park.

WCT: Do you have a favorite plant or animal to photograph?

BH: That's a really good question. … I actually really like coyotes. There's a really great book, called Coyote America, that came out last year by Western historian Dan Flores, and he refers to them as "little Western song dogs" and I find that romantic. And so, I actually just printed four images for a client and its four coyote images, and I call them "sweet little Western song dogs." Yeah, I really like coyotes, actually!

WCT: So where did the idea for As They Are come from?

BH: So, the initial idea, way back when I was a youth—I think I was 12—my aunt took me to the Grand Canyon with my cousins. And I grew up in Detroit, so going out west was always really fun and exciting. It was just amazing. And the following year we went to Yosemite. And I had this book, Reader's Digest book of the national parks—full color, photographs and all that— and I would stare at them and I thought to myself, you know, as a [youth] someday I will go to all the national parks.

Later, my then parter [and current husband] Sean and I went to a friend's wedding in Akron, Ohio. We were there in Akron, in our hotel room, and we were looking out northwest of Akron and there was all this green. And I said to Sean "that has to be Cuyahoga Valley Park, just that sweep of green with all those trees." And he was very much game to try to visit all the national parks.

WCT: You guys [have visited] 23 of 59 national parks. Do you know what 24 is going to be?

BH: [Laughs] we do not. So last year, we hit eight because it was the 100th anniversary of the [National] Parks Service. And I [thought] "Let's catch up" because I had been to four national parks before we started this and Sean had been to one and, so last year, we calibrated.

I went back with Sean to the parks I had been to when I was a kid, and then we went to Dry Tortugas National Park which he had been to back when he was in college and then picked up some other ones along the way. I would say that probably the next big trip we want to do, possibly this fall, would be to fly into Portland and do the three national parks [around there], so Crater Lake, Lassen Volcanic and Redwood, and then we'd fly out of San Francisco.

WCT: I heard that the frames for your photographs are sustainably produced from bamboo and rubber trees. How important is produce and selling environmentally friendly products for you?

BH: It's hugely important. I mean, the photographs that I make, the art that I'm doing; they are inspired by and capture nature. And so to travel to these places and then to put the work together in ways that kind of ignore sustainability would seem like a betrayal of the process.

WCT: Some of your pictures look like they're taken from really high up. Are you and Sean pretty experienced climbers/outdoorsmen?

BH: Some of the images are certainly from hiking up. I do have a fear of heights, so a lot of the stuff that's up high is trails that we've gone to as opposed to actually rock climbing. Sean has a background in rock climbing, but I don't think I could handle that … and some of it is from an airplane flying over.

WCT: Do you think you might ever expand this project and go abroad? Are there any international locations you'd really like to see?

BH: That's a good question. Sean got me this gift: the National Geographic guide to the National Parks in Canada. And I said "Well, let's do the U.S. first." But I think definitely I could see us going to the Canadian national parks, because it's exploring more of North America, and then also the Mexican national parks, too.

WCT: What draws you to nature photography?

BH: I think that the thing that I like about capturing nature and about this project is twofold. I've got this friend who is this really talented street photographer; his portraits of people in Chicago are just extraordinarily good. And that's just not my thing; I think I'm too shy to do that. You know, you can take a picture of a tree, or a mountain, or a coyote, or an elk, and the elk either acknowledges you or it doesn't.

But I also like the idea that these landscapes are also transient. You know, the rocky mountains won't always be there, and certainly when we went to Alaska, these glaciers are actively retreating in front of you. And also, I'm fascinated by … this idea that the national parks are meant to protected in perpetuity, but that the parks themselves change.

WCT: When you're traveling to these parks, I imagine you and Sean have come across some pretty interesting places and people. Are there any that come to mind?

BH: Definitely. There's this couple in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. They were both retired and her husband had [multiple sclerosis], and they had sold their house and were traveling around as much as they possibly could while they were mobile enough for him to still do this. … She knew that eventually they would come back and probably go into assisted living or something and that would be their life. But, for the moment, their life was traveling and seeing these amazing places. They were a really amazing couple to meet.

See .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Competition aims to bring starter homes to working-class families 2018-11-14 - As gentrification seeps into various Chicago communities, affordable housing sits on the opposite side of the table, especially in the design and architectural ...

Gay News

GUEST COLUMN Battling Trump via art, an actor's superpower 2018-11-14 - Let's acknowledge one thing, after two years of misery: Our president is not stupid. He is not an idiot or moron. In ...

Gay News

HIV/AIDS researcher receives MacArthur Genius Grant 2018-11-14 - It seems unlikely in this social media ravaged climate to find a humble genius among us, but Yale University Assistant Professor Gregg Gonsalves ...

Gay News

3Arts announces award winners 2018-11-13 - Chicago-based nonprofit grantmaking organization 3Arts awarded 20 Chicago artists with unrestricted grants at the 11th annual 3Arts Awards Celebration Nov. 5, at the ...

Gay News

This Bitter Earth 2018-11-13 - Author: Harrison David Rivers At: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets:; $20-$38. Runs through: Dec. 8 In bringing This ...

Gay News

AMA policy supports services for LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence 2018-11-13 - CHICAGO — While intimate partner violence ( IPV ) can occur between heterosexual or same-sex couples, efforts to address this public health problem ...

Gay News

Green Line Performing Arts Center opens 2018-11-12 - On Nov. 10, the Green Line Performing Arts Center, 329 E. Garfield Blvd., had its grand opening. Conceived by Theaster Gates, a ...

Gay News

Frida Kahlo works at Glen Ellyn campus in summer 2020 2018-11-09 - Glen Ellyn, Ill. — College of DuPage ( COD ), in partnership with the McAninch Arts Center ( MAC ) and Cleve Carney ...

Gay News

Late gay artist's identity, politics intersect at MoCP 2018-11-07 - Several small portraits of collage artist Ralph Arnold hang at the entrance of the Museum of Contemporary Photography ( MoCP ), 600 S. ...

Gay News

Olly Alexander, Out British singer on band, queer artists 2018-11-07 - British pop band Years and Years is composed of Olly Alexander, Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Turkmen. Their sound is mix of electronic, pop ...


Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.