In the first post in our new “Creators” series of profiles and interviews, Global Graphica producer Van Corsa speaks with Major Deegan, a.k.a., “Seymour Templar,” a.k.a., New York City-based Belgian photographer Daniel Puissant …
How would describe yourself?
I’m an artist and I utilize any kind of medium to express what needs to be expressed. It’s beyond my control. It just happens without my knowing. When you create something, you are aware it was a creative act, but I don’t set out to contrive the creative act itself.
Some people think of you strictly as a street photographer, but there’s a lot more to what you do that just taking a picture, yeah?
I communicate. That’s the core of what I do. I’m not good with words, so I fall into using other means to communicate. At the moment, the means is pictorial and based on reality, so to speak.I would not call what I do “street photography,” per se, but I would call it portraiture. Because what I do is more about representing an interaction with things that are dear to me. It can be a person on the street or my friends or my cats in the backyard.
So what is “street photography”?
If I were making a documentary on street thugs and documenting their life and situations, then it would be purely street photography. Then it would be in its own context. But I don’t focus on stuff on the street itself. When I travel, it’s really hard to do street photos in cities I don’t know. I have to love someplace, have an existing relationship with the place, to be able to capture these things, people on the street and so on.
Explain how this happens?
It’s the moment when the subject recognizes me and pulls me in. I don’t set out to discover these things. They discover me. I’m just “good enough” and consistent enough with my camera that I can receive these moments. They are like presents. I’m attracted to people who stick out. People who are affirming their existence in interesting ways.
How did you start?
I started realizing how important it was to me to simply become better at taking pictures and really, really devoted myself to using photography as my own language, a distinct style that is recognizable. I was interested in the existence of photography as a language only very recently, in the last three years or so.
I always see you with a big camera everywhere, even while sitting down to an after-hours dinner in a Chinatown restaurant at 2:00 am. It’s like the camera is permanently attached to your hand. I imagine you sleep with it next you. Do you ever just take a break and put the camera away for a while? Sometimes when I’m exhausted mentally, I leave my camera at home. Mostly it was feedback I would receive on Flickr by other photographers. When I started getting approached by magazines and getting positive feedback, I became conscious of this talent and that I should take care of it, be true to it. It kind of took on a life of its own.I was just “paparrazzied” on the street last week. I noticed this guy taking pictures of me. Since he was doing what I kind of do, I recognized what he was doing and I approached him and said “I know what you do.” And he said, “I know, I know who you are — you’re Major Deegan!” It’s happened pretty frequently.
A lot of people must know you from the Hello Kitty picture, the one where the cops are arresting the person in the Hello Kitty costume in Times Square.
Yeah, I’m kind of famous for that picture. It’s been published everywhere, by everyone.