WONDERING – series of ambiguous stories

Sebastian Spader is 26 years old American who use Hasselblad 500c/m or a Pentax 67ii to shoot group of images that present a series of ambiguous stories known as WONDERING.


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Hello, my name is Sebastian Spader. I’ve been taking photos for about 8 years (I’m 26) and although it’s a fundamental part of me now, I’ve never quite been able to figure out why I get the compulsion to do it. I just do.


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I grew up in Los Angeles, which to me has always been most interesting when viewed from a slightly removed perspective. I’m biased – it’s my home – but I truly believe it’s the most bizarre city in the world. LA is like it’s own organism and at any moment it could break off from the earth, go tumbling into space, and live eternally feeding off of it’s own fat.


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For better or worse, it inspires me greatly. Maybe that’s why I’ve become so enthralled photographing people in particular – to break that disconnect for just a little while by getting to know someone.


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Although the physical act of taking pictures is my favorite part of the process, I don’t philosophize much about it, nor really think about it too often. When it comes down to brass tacks, I shoot for myself because I love it. Taking the time to notice someone or something that nobody else noticed is special… And that’s ultimately how WONDERING came to be. I spent years shooting pictures with no intention whatsoever, looking at my developed photos once or twice before shoving them in a closet. It wasn’t until almost the entire collection had been shot before I actually realized that it was a project at all.


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There never was a grandiose concept and there still isn’t. WONDERING is simply a group of images that present a series of ambiguous stories. The images have no intention, they only exist, one next to another. And although the photos of WONDERING comprise a 79 image book of the same name, they are also part of a never ending series that will only present its next installment when that installment presents itself to me.


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Since I began shooting the photos that eventually became WONDERING, the one aspect of my photography that has changed drastically is how my focus has shifted far more towards people. Almost exclusively so at this point. The most common question I get asked is, “How do you get so close to your subjects?” It’s an odd question for me to answer because it’s simply where I feel comfortable.


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I’ve always felt on edge shooting from a distance and it makes me nervous being ‘invisible’. There’s a certain world created when someone lets me into their personal space and is aware of me as much as I am aware of them. It’s comforting.


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I’ve always shot on film ever since I started. It has become a critical part of my photography, not only because I adore how it looks, but also because I can’t be worried about getting the shot when I’m taking photographs of someone.


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I have to trust I got it and I like not being able to double check. Although I don’t shoot 35mm much anymore, when I do I shoot on a Canon F1. I switched to medium format about 4 years ago and nowadays I either shoot with a Hasselblad 500c/m with a 120mm Macro lens or a Pentax 67ii with a 105mm lens and a 14mm extension tube to reduce minimum focusing distance.


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All the equipment aside though, the best part about shooting on the street is not ever knowing when you’ll shoot the best photo you’ve ever taken.


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One of the best photos I’ve ever taken is a portrait of an elderly woman looking up at the sky with her eyes telling me a story that couldn’t be expressed in words.


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I was walking down the street with my camera and she came up to me, asking me if I would take a photo of her.


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