If you’ve ever longed to hop a freight train, cried at the sight of an old rocking chair, or had an inexplicable urge to pet a tiger, then you’ve probably encountered the work of photographer, Scott Hovind. Taking his first picture of a truck sailing through the air when he was 18, he was fascinated by the illusion of clarity in the photograph that the truck was standing still and the whole world was speeding by. Ironically, that illusion could have been a metaphor for his life up to that point. “My family could be a Jerry Springer episode,” he jokes. Photographic amazement aside, it was more than ten years before he picked up a camera again. At eighteen, he had decided it was time to grow up. Making a living with a camera was the last thing on his mind. A typical teenage boy, he was more interested in driving trucks, joining the military and girls, not necessarily in that order. Not so typically, he was also interested in avoiding binge drinking, ending up in prison or dead and finding a place where he felt at home.
Joining the Army National Guard at 18, Hovind’s step brother, a Guardsman himself, gave him some sage advice to get through basic training: “Don’t ever let them know your name. The drill instructors will take the first few names they learn and those will be the only names they use for the whole cycle. So don’t ever stand in the front but never hide in the back either. Don’t ask a lot of stupid questions unless you absolutely can’t figure it out for yourself. Don’t be the fastest, don’t be the slowest, don’t be the strongest, don’t be the weakest, don’t raise your hand to answer questions. If nobody else knows the answer, then neither do you and, last, but not least, for God’s sake, never volunteer for anything.” Hovind followed these rules to perfection and, as a reward for his basic training success, he and his fellow soldiers were to take a three day test of their skills, followed by 20 mile hike back to the barracks, carrying a 50 lb backpack and an M-16. Hovind watched other guys drop out and get driven back to the barracks one by one, but he refused to drop out even after twisting his ankle multiple times and feeling a “pop,” determined not to give up and ride back to the barracks. He needed to prove to himself that he had the heart to finish this task. The very last task, of course, would prove more difficult. Hovind knew that he would not be allowed to graduate if he was injured, but would need to repeat the grueling eight weeks of basic training a second time. That wasn’t, he told himself, an option. To pass the final PT test, he ran two miles in 13 minutes with what he would later find out was a broken foot. He not only graduated, he marched in the ceremony and was asked by one of his drill instructors to be an usher at the ceremony. The instructor didn’t even know his name – rule number one – mission accomplished.
Once Hovind finished his basic training, he held a series of physically demanding jobs, most of which he enjoyed and which utilized the skills he’d learned, continued his service in the Guard, met friends on the weekends, met a girl, married the girl and had a son. He laughs when he recalls the big event or series of events. “I was getting ready to leave work one morning when Kristi (his wife) called saying that she was in labor. I raced home and got a speeding ticket. And it was false labor. One week later, I was leaving work and Kristi called saying she was in labor. So I raced home and got yet another speeding ticket. False labor again. Now it’s a race to see if she can give birth before I lose my driver’s license.” The birth itself was a major event that started on April Fools’ Day and ended at 12:15 on April 2. His son, Kenny, is a teenager now and learning to play the guitar. “He’ll ask me to sing with him and thinks it’s cool when I sing Metallica ballads.” Kenny was in the photograph featured in Hovind’s ImageKind gallery and he was also in one of the shots that he recently sold.
Currently, Hovind is single and “not looking,” working full time as a yard switcher and pursuing his passion for photography every other spare minute. He regularly skips sleep to work on the promotion end of his business – his least favorite and the most time consuming part of his photography business. But the only difference, he believes, between a good artist and a great artist is “attitude.” “A great artist is confident in his work and is always willing to teach, share and allow others to enjoy their art. They don’t create art seeing dollar signs or expecting to get rich.”
He believes that not only his sense of humor, but his creative streak, comes from his dad or his “Pops,” as he affectionately calls the man whose most recent creations include wooden bowls from wood he grows on his own property. He tries to visit his “Pops” at least once a year. Among their traditions are visits to Walter the giant bass who “lives in his pond and likes to eat frogs and dog food, but not fish because fish are friends,” and about 25 apple trees around the property. “We always make a round to all of them every year because they are all so different. Some are as sour as lemons. No sweetness at all. Some are all sweet. No tartness at all. Some are pears in disguise.” His pleasure in this variety, the appeal of the natural world and love of tradition is also reflected in many of his works, all of which were taken in Michigan. “A camera in my hand makes me tune everything out, and it’s just me and my camera and nature or whatever else I might be shooting at the moment. Nothing else exists. Not the people around me, not the bills at home. It’s a sense of adventure, an exploratory mood. Every shot is a scavenger hunt.”
While photography is his passion, it’s also his sanity break. “I have yet to get overwhelmed by the creative process of taking a good photograph. I’m frustrated easily by people not by photography. I get frustrated with cooking, baking, singing, and computers but never with photography or storytelling. With writing, once I get past the first sentence, the rest comes pouring out. With photography, I don’t know. I’m just at peace I guess, nothing to get frustrated with.”
He describes himself as determined and helpful and admits he has high expectations, not only of himself but of others, disliking bullies and “when people make excuses and don’t keep their promises.” He has promised himself to continue learning – about photography, American history and historical places – anything interesting and all in the pursuit of the next great shot that might “make the whole world stand still.”
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- Burton, Michigan, United States