Alumni Profile: Garry Bowden
Garry Bowden sees more than just physical features when observing the faces passing around him; instead, he views the eyes as windows to the soul. After graduating from Georgia State University in 2006 with a degree in Film, Bowden moved to San Francisco from his Atlanta home to try his hand at street photography.
During his time at Georgia State, Bowden was a member of the Honors Program and took advantage of the many opportunities offered by the staff and student groups. Attributing much of his current success to his time at Georgia State, Bowden is continually expanding his goals for the project and hopes to serve as an inspiration for other aspiring artists.
Through this project, Souls of San Francisco, Bowden walks the streets of San Francisco capturing photographs of intriguing faces, often engaging in terse but meaningful conversations with his subjects. In an interview with the Huffington Post Bowden shared, “This project gives me an excuse to stop and meet all the interesting people in this city. There’s nowhere in the world like the Bay Area, so I’m grateful I get to learn about its culture straight from the people who create it.”
Our Recent Interview with Garry:
What lead you to the concept of Souls of San Francisco?
I was inspired after visiting my friend Brandon, also an Atlanta native, in New York when he was starting Humans of New York. There were probably 3,000 people who liked it on Facebook at the time, now there are over 500,000. I saw the scalability of that vision and the potential impact and influence so I wanted to try my own version. My primary focus at the time was filmmaking, which I still love and am excited to do, but I admired the freedom and spontaneity of a street photography project.
There seems to be a spiritual undertone involved with the project. Can you elaborate on that?
Sure. I’m definitely a spiritual person. I’ve always been extremely sensitive and felt connected to a source of energy or feeling that isn’t tangible. As I began the project I allowed myself to be guided by my intuition and that lead me to synchronicity that gave me guidance on how to live my life, who to stop and talk to etc. It’s like playing a giant adventure RPG that’s geared specifically for you and your personal evolution and happiness.
Souls for San Francisco has gained an impressive amount of web exposure. What are your goals for the future of the project?
Thank you! So many plans for the project! We just finished the first volume and we’ve got plans to make a lot more. The project gets more interesting the more pictures there are. Planning on one all at night, one with only couples, one with only children, one with only men, one with only women, several separated by neighborhood, interactive ones where you can design your own book with the archive of pictures from the project. We’re also developing an iPhone/iPad app for it.
Those are just some ideas, what I’m really excited about is more collaboration. Up until now I’ve taken all the pictures for the project but I’d love for other people to participate and share their perspective of San Francisco. Share whatever cool ideas they have for the project. I think that collaboration is where the beauty lies in anything. As human beings we’re built to connect.
How do you feel that your time at Georgia State University, specifically with the Honors College, contributed to your current success? Were there any professors or peers who helped inspire you?
]Georgia State University was very important in my development. Before going here I had been at a couple of schools and hadn’t found the right fit. When I got to Georgia State I was finally able to find the right environment to really apply myself. April Lawhorn in particular was so thoughtful, encouraging, and helpful. Always pushing me to do my best and take full advantage of the opportunities that were right in front of me at Georgia State. I also had a great philosophy teacher; I think his name was Kenny, who really opened my mind to new ways of thinking and being.
In light of the current economic climate, what advice would you extend to Honors College Students majoring in the arts who have been discouraged from pursuing their passions professionally?
Keep your faith in yourself and in your vision and pursue it with your whole heart. The old model of being a cog in a wheel somewhere is dying. Ask for help when you need it. Take time to really listen to everyone you come into contact with. They hold the clues to your journey. Don’t be discouraged by a no. No is a good thing, it doesn’t mean “give up”. It means “there is a better way”. Living this way creates an energy that is unstoppable. One thing I’ve learned is the world is much less rational and much more friendly that we’ve been lead to believe. We’re all here to actualize our dreams because living your dream is the way you’re going to contribute most to society as a whole. This is the golden age, your happiness is yours for the taking!