You’ve probably seen him around campus, and he probably had his camera on him. As a passionate photographer and The Catalyst’s Chief Photo Editor, Daniel Sarché ’20 is always ready to take a snapshot. He is also an active member of the Film and Media department, as well as the Theatre department. This week, The Catalyst sat down with a talkative Sarché to discuss photography and his views of Colorado College’s campus.
The Catalyst: When did you realize you were interested in photography?
Daniel Sarché: That’s actually a really good question because my history with it is long — long, long actually. My grandma is a really great photographer. When I was a little kid, I would sometimes borrow her camera and take pictures of stuff, but it was just because I liked taking pictures of things. The reason why I actually got a DSLR in the first place [a few years ago] was because my grandmother […] bought my brother a camera, and I was like, “If he’s got one, I want one, too! Are you kidding me?” Which is stupid. So I did some research, and I ended up getting exactly the same model of camera as he did. But then, where [my brother] was like, “I’m going to shoot video with it and do all this stuff,” I was like, “I’m going to take pictures.” And I just started taking pictures of everything […] and I have continued to expand in a whole massive variety of directions because I do fine art photography and events and headshots and senior portraits; I’ve tried to do every kind of photography that I can think of, and it’s just kept on growing. So it’s all kind of been a series of happy accidents since I was a little kid.
TC: Why is it important to consider photography an artistic medium?
DS: Photography itself has a really long history of people not seeing it as an art and other people trying to fight for its place in the art world. And nowadays that becomes especially tricky to balance because of iPhone cameras and the incredible power of Photoshop and Premiere […] people have for a very long time said that photography is only an art if everything is created in camera and there’s no manipulation of any kind. But the fact is, even Ansel Adams — he’s a landscape photographer [known for] these amazing photos of the American Southwest — but even his work is edited. His [work was] manipulated in the darkroom, but nothing that you will ever see printed by a photographer like that is straight out of the camera; photography and painting and drawing and sculpture all require similar amounts of effort. But the difference nowadays is that the effort for a photographer, unless they’re a film photographer, is all digital. Some people look down on that because they see it as being easier, but it’s not. Everything takes time; everything takes work. There’s a learning curve to photoshop; there’s a learning curve just to the camera. It took me five years to figure out my first camera. So I think that what qualifies photography as an art is that you have to learn every tool. And then you find that there are things that you prefer to look at, there are things you prefer to focus on, and there are techniques that you have that no one else has […] I think of art as something that anyone can access and should feel welcome to […] And I think all it takes is being willing to put in the work, and that the work is to do something creative and free and with a point that is either for you as a person or for whoever is looking at your work, and that qualifies you as an artist.
TC: What is the strangest thing that has happened to you while you’ve been trying to take a photo?
DS: In Colorado Springs alone, so many people just walk up to you and want to talk to you […] I could tell you four or five different stories just off the top of my head, but I’ll tell you the most recent one because I wish I had followed up about it. I was over by this coin-op laundromat.; it’s got this urban, little bit rusticated aesthetic, and it’s small and looks very clean. But apparently there’s a very weird history to it that I had no idea about. This is about three weeks ago, I was setting up my tripod […] but while I was standing there, this guy walked up to me from across the street and he started telling me this like 20-minute long story about how the owners of the coin-op laundromat, the previous owners, had been really helpful to homeless people. They gave them a place to stay [and] a bathroom and like the basic human necessities. And then apparently the new owner has become much more closed off and a lot more inflexible and seems like the kind of person who would call homeless people “derelicts” and “vagrants” and is less likely to look at them as people and more as a problem. But this guy talked to me for like 20 minutes about that and kept telling me, “This is a story that you should be writing, I want you to write this story, I want you to call us and interview,” all this stuff. I was like, “Yeah I work for a newspaper at school,” but I lied to him about what school I went to because he kinda freaked me out. I think I told him UCCS. He was giving me a freaky vibe but was also being friendly, but I didn’t want to give him too much information. So I told him, like, “I’ll see what I can do. We’ll see what happens.” But he was really fighting hard for me to make sure that a story ran, and I wish I had actually followed that up because it could have been really interesting. But the fact is, every time I take my camera out — I have a really big camera and I usually carry some pretty big lenses with me, and I look like a photographer. And then I go and I make myself a little bit of a spectacle — it always catches someone’s attention.
TC: How do you maintain an upbeat attitude even when you’re dealing with the weight of the Block Plan?
DS: It’s tough. Last year especially, I had a very hard time […] First block, I had a full-on panic attack the first day of class because my class was way more than I anticipated, and it kind of set the tone for the rest of the year. I was also feeling really far away from all my friends and feeling really isolated. The only way that I stayed relatively okay was by throwing myself into all the work that I was doing, so I worked my fingers to the bone taking pictures for the newspaper. I didn’t really hang out with people and I fell into a very dark place for most of last year, and then I realized that I didn’t belong there. That was worse than just about anything else. So I started to try and reach out; my family is incredibly supportive. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a really wonderful family that talks to each other and is willing to let me talk to them when I’m in need. I have come to learn that the best thing — I don’t know if this is true for anyone else — but definitely the best thing for me in general is knowing that there are people out there who care about me. Last year I felt like I didn’t have anyone that I could turn to. Even though I was constantly turning to people, I felt really isolated. So what I’ve been working really hard on lately is just finding people that I can be myself around and who I love and like and who want me to be with them. So pursuing avenues of actual like wholesome connection — all of the things that I have to say about what I like about the world are incredibly cheesy. I find the easiest way for me to feel good about things is to force myself to be as optimistic as possible, which is obviously so hard. Especially when you’re like constantly working your butt off in all your classes and all your extracurriculars, staying optimistic and staying grateful and appreciative for things — it’s a chore. But I got really lucky to end up in an apartment full of wonderful people who asked me to be a part of it. I try to tell them that I’m grateful for them and that I want them around, and people like to hear that and they tell you the same right back. I’m just trying to share what’s good when things go bad. I think that’s really really important.
TC: What has been your favorite part about Colorado College over the past 2 1/2 years?
DS: There’s a lot of good stuff. Access to the mountains is amazing. The Block Plan is pretty alright, most of the time. I don’t know. I think that my favorite thing about it is that no one goes to CC because they don’t care. No one is at this school because they are unqualified. No one is at this school because someone gave them a free lunch, and you find that out in the coolest ways. It’s amazing the kinds of things that people are capable of on this campus … I’m in an advanced photo class right now where everyone is working with each other and pushing each other in new and dramatic directions. Literally four of us got up at 4 o’clock in the morning to go and shoot the stars, and we all got in it together and we were just like, “We’re gonna help each other.” And that’s amazing. When there are this many people, while simultaneously being such a small campus, everyone can help each other and challenge each other and show one another: Number one, it’s okay to fail; number two, it’s OK to succeed; number three, here’s how I’ve failed and how I’ve learned from those failures and how I’m trying to succeed. We all have so many amazing opportunities to learn from each other, and I love that. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by the people that I am.
TC: If you could change one thing about CC, what would it be?
DS: Honestly, it’s kind of a small thing, but I think everyone deals with it: Take your laundry out of the frickin dryer. Oh my god. I don’t want to be a hypocrite; I have left my laundry in the washing machine before on accident, but like, set alarms and actually just go and move [your laundry] because everyone always does their laundry on the same day. People usually do it at the same time. Everyone’s like, “Saturday at 9 a.m., that’s the best time to do laundry!” and then the laundry machines in every building become so congested because people are going to brunch and then they’re like going to concerts or whatever and just leave their laundry […] No one else should be responsible for your laundry. So I think that people should set alarms at the very least.
TC: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
DS: Oh gosh. I don’t even know where I see myself in two years. I guess, ideally — 10 years from now, wow. Like I’ve changed a lot in two years — anyway, my big goals are pretty open-ended. There’s a lot of things that I’m really interested in and a lot of things that I want to learn and places that I want to end up. But the big one is Los Angeles. My brother is already out there doing what he loves, and if he can do it, I feel like I can too. Also I love L.A.; it’s sunny, it’s colorful, it smells interesting. I think Los Angeles is like one of my top three places in the entire world. And then working on films somehow. Even if I’m building sets and helping like push dollies and cranes and operating the equipment that’s holding the cameras, I’ll be happy. I’ve always liked behind-the-scenes work. Or being like a fashion photographer? If that ended up being what I did, amazing, great, good for 10-years-from-now Daniel. If not, also great. I am so intimidated by the people who know exactly where they are going to be 10 years from now. They have an energy that cannot be contained and an overwhelming drive that is amazing, but that does not fit my approach to the world.
TC: If you could invite any celebrity to a party, who would they be and what would you talk about?
DS: I would invite — and my brother is going to make fun of me about this but that’s OK — I would invite John Darnielle, the lead singer and original [sole] member of the band, The Mountain Goats, which is my new and very likely all-time favorite band. Because he is as real of a human being as you can possibly get. This guy has an incredibly interesting story: he was addicted to meth at 17, recovered, had an abusive stepfather, became this overwhelmingly prolific singer-songwriter plus novelist plus just all-around cool dude […] just hearing him speak — I don’t even know if we would be friends, but I know that I want to talk to him about anything. I kind of want him to be my surrogate dad for a while because this guy is seriously so cool. There’s always that issue that people have with famous people about idolizing them, this guy makes it very hard to idolize him but very easy to respect him. He puts out a vibe of being this pure, good soul, but then he also is very open about the bad things that he’s done and had happened to him. And that’s as real as you can get, that’s as genuine and open as I believe everyone should be. I have enormous amounts of respect for the guy. He’s, ugh, so cool.
TC: Do you think more people should engage with photography? Why?
DS: I really, really do. And part of it is because I’m really annoyed at how good the iPhone cameras are nowadays because people look at an iPhone image that’s got the portrait mode turned on and they’re like, “Oh yeah, a professional took that.” I think more people should engage with photography because, for me personally, being behind the camera very regularly has fundamentally changed how I look at things. I don’t mean that in like, “Oh I have a new appreciation for people’s attitudes” or anything. I literally look at the world differently than I did before I got my first camera. I just remember this one story from when my family and I were in L.A. visiting my brother over last spring break; we were visiting, and my mom and my brother and I were driving, and my mom pointed out this wall with these really gorgeous vines all up and down it and was like, “Hey Daniel, you should take a picture of those vines.” But I had also noticed this tree in the background standing up over the vines that made for really dope composition. It reminded me of Yggdrasil from Norse mythology, like the tree of life, and like, “This is going to be a cool picture.” I showed my brother and my mom and they were like, “I didn’t know that tree was there.” It was a big old tree, but they literally didn’t notice it. All they saw were the vines. I realized that I look for like shapes and lines and colors in places that even a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have looked for. I think that picking up a camera and forcing yourself to look at the world through a much smaller frame makes you look at a lot more because you don’t want to miss anything.