Caylon Hackwith’s Squarespace website

Caylon Hackwith doesn’t have just one job title. He’s a photographer, an art director, a photo editor, a cinematographer. He straddles fine art and commercial fields. Hackwith’s background in the gallery realm, coupled with his current standing as a tastemaker for some of the world’s leading fashion houses, hotels, and brands, gives him a unique perspective on the future of photography as an art and as an industry.

Known for his smart, neat-as-a-button compositions, Hackwith describes his approach as both photographic and sculptural. When it the time came for him to get a new website, he applied that same critical, artistic eye to designing a platform as spotless and luxurious as his photographs. Here, we talk to Hackwith about his projects, his Squarespace site, and his predictions for the coming years

What’s the most exciting shoot you’ve done recently?
“I shot a campaign for a clothing brand which was all done in studio. I’ve been shooting more on location recently, so it was nice to get back to the studio where I can control everything: the lighting, colors, textures. I tend to treat a lot of my images as still lifes, so even when I use a model, she tends to become more sculptural.”

Caylon Hackwith’s Squarespace website

How do your roles as a photo editor and an art director influence your photography? Do you ever draw inspiration from the work that crosses your desk?
“Definitely. I used to work in galleries in the art world, and I still draw a lot of inspiration from contemporary art, especially from media that aren’t strictly photography. Thomas Demand is an artist I love. He combines sculpture and photography beautifully. Fischli and Weiss use humor as a conceptual tool. I’m also inspired by practical arts like furniture design, ceramics, and architecture. Those art forms seem to consider touch and human interaction so much more successfully than visual art.”

What does it look like when you collaborate with brands?
“I tend to pursue work with brands that are interested in a conversation about making content that we are both excited about. I try to learn as much as I can about the brand and the inspiration they took for the recent collection (or whatever it may be) and figure out how that fits into my aesthetic.

Caylon Hackwith’s Squarespace website

You work a lot in the studio, but you’ve also photographed in some beautiful and unusual locations. What has been the most challenging spot so far?
“Water always introduces a challenge to photography. I was in Hawaii with a fragrance brand, and we were shooting content in helicopters and on boats. Constantly looking through a viewfinder is a great way to guarantee motion sickness. That was the first struggle. The second was shooting on and off of the boats in sea caves along the coastline. We lost a few bottles of perfume to the sea and got some scrapes on the coral, but we made some beautiful images. Those extreme landscapes are always hardest on the equipment but easiest for making stunning, dramatic photos.”

What do you see for the future of photography, especially as a cinematographer? How will video continue to shape the photo industry?
“I’ve always loved the challenge of video. The work that goes into making a video is tenfold that of still photography, but so is the effect. The immersion and emotional manipulation video can invoke are so much greater than a still photograph, and brands realize that. In almost every conversation I have with a brand about a new project, the idea of making a video element is brought up.”

What advice would you give to creative people who want to do what you did and work in many different genres (photography, film, art direction) at the same time?
“I am sometimes envious of those people who can just focus on one very specific skill and own that. I always seem to have a few very different projects going at once, and I need that variety. For me, telling as many people I can about new ideas or projects I want to work on makes them more real and keeps me accountable to follow through on them.”

Why did you choose Squarespace when you were building your portfolio site?
“The most important thing for me in building a site was that I could easily update it when I wanted, and I know virtually nothing about coding. Squarespace allows me to drop things in or completely redesign a page fairly easily.”

Caylon Hackwith’s Squarespace website

You describe your aesthetic as “crisp” and “clean.” What template did you choose?
“I use the Lange template on Squarespace. I was drawn to that template because it allows for big images and a lot of space around the images, which adds to the site’s simplicity.”

What did the process of actually building your site look like?
“I did a lot of research before I even started plugging anything in. I looked at other portfolio sites, brands’ websites, and designers’ and artists’ sites to get some idea of a ‘user experience’ I wanted. Then it was just a lot of trial and error, constantly moving things around, and a lot of online tutorials. Every month or so, I make some small adjustments to my site to make it fit my new work and to freshen it up.”

How does your Squarespace website compare with your old site?
“My Squarespace website is such a step up from my last site. It was important to me that my site is easy to get lost in– so that people can stumble upon other projects— but also is easy to navigate. I’m always making tweaks, but I am happy with the way my architectural work fits next to my fashion work, and how my personal work fits in with commissioned work while all feeling cohesive.”

How important do you think it is for photographers to have a beautiful website? What separates great photographers with excellent websites from great photographers with mediocre websites?
“Everyone and their mom needs a website now, and it goes without saying that it needs to be well-designed for people to take you seriously, especially if you’re working in a visual field. With all of the ways photos are shared, stolen, reposted, etc. now, your personal website as a photographer can be the only space online that you can completely customize, so it should be the best representation of your work online.”

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