Bellingham-based photographer Patrick Beggan knows a thing or two about the art of observation. Born in California, Beggan moved all over the country growing up. As his family’s relocations dotted the East Coast, Beggan learned how to make friends more quickly by quietly watching people interact.

“When you move around a lot as a kid, you start to feel like a perpetual outsider,” he explained. “Every time you move you have to reintegrate into a social network.” By the time he got settled in, Beggan found that his family would be on the road again.

He credits a life on the move for his dream of relocating to the West Coast. Once he was of age, he and his friends visited Washington a number of times, exploring the Olympic Peninsula and Seattle. He was eventually introduced to Bellingham seven years ago while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

“To be a witness is really interesting to me,” explained Patrick. “I like to watch things happen, which probably comes from being an outsider because you’re not participating.” Photo credit: Patrick Beggan.
“To be a witness is really interesting to me,” explained Patrick. “I like to watch things happen, which probably comes from being an outsider because you’re not participating.” Photo credit: Patrick Beggan.

“I met this guy and hiked with him for two months, and he was from Bellingham,” Beggan said. His newfound friend said he could help Beggan get a job in town, so he decided to give it a shot. Aside from a few summertime trips, Beggan has made Bellingham his home ever since.

Beggan’s mother introduced him to 35mm photography when he was young and he picked up his first digital camera in his mid-teens. His love of the outdoors instantly gave him countless opportunities to take pictures. Beggan shares many of his beautiful landscapes, ongoing projects such as Bellingham at Night, and useful photography tutorials on his blog.

The role of perpetual outsider likely gave Beggan a knack for the art form. Moving often meant that he needed keen observational skills in order to adapt and fit in. Today he uses his camera to build those connections to others.

His Bellingham at Work project is a great example of how Beggan is using his camera to help people connect. From coffee roasters to auto mechanics, the series highlights local individuals at work. Beggan uses his keen eye to tell a story about each person through a photograph.

Patrick uses his blog to help give his photos context. He describes this shot of Maniac Roasting's Alexarc Mastema perfectly: "His finger is unto God. He lifts the Blessed Lever and releases unto all of us the dark base of our society – caffeine." Photo credit: Patrick Beggan.
Beggan uses his blog to help give his photos context. He describes this shot of Maniac Roasting’s Alexarc Mastema perfectly: “His finger is unto God. He lifts the Blessed Lever and releases unto all of us the dark base of our society – caffeine.” Photo credit: Patrick Beggan.

“To be a witness is really interesting to me,” explained Beggan. “I like to watch things happen, which probably comes from being an outsider because you’re not participating.” But although he loves to observe people, he has found that the medium of street photography isn’t his strength. Watching people in their natural habitat, so to speak, is what allows him to give his photos context that is easy to relate to as a viewer.

“I love getting to know people through portraiture,” Beggan said. “When I have someone’s permission to take their photo and I’m working with them, I can get to know them.”

Beggan learned his own work ethic from his grandfather who moved to the US in the 1950s. Hard work was reinforced from a young age. He’s been working since he was 16 years old.

Baggan captured Aaron Jacob Smith-- Head Brewer at Boundary Bay Brewery. Patrick wants to know what it looks like to work in every industry he can manage to peek into. Photo credit: Patrick Beggan.
Baggan captured Aaron Jacob Smith, Head Brewer at Boundary Bay Brewery. Beggan wants to know what it looks like to work in every industry he can manage to peek into. Photo credit: Patrick Beggan.

While observing people at work helps Beggan get to know them, he also understands that work is not a full reflection of who someone is. As he wrote in one of his Bellingham at Work blog posts: “Their work is important to them, but it is not who they are. They’re just good people, existing inside a culture of work.”

Landscape photography will always be a pastime for Beggan, whether he sells the photos or they’re just for him. But he’s finding that focusing on people brings his photography to the intersection of art and business – a balance he must strike if he wants to make a living through his creative work.

“I want to do this full-time, in whatever context I can do it in,” explained Beggan. “So I need to focus on something that I can leverage to make money.” Portraits are an excellent way to help people from all backgrounds tell their story and Beggan finds that his portfolio illustrates the value of paying someone to produce high-quality photographs.

Beggan shows Bellingham visual artist Katie Johnson in the comfort of her studio, part of his Bellingham at Work project. Photo credit: Patrick Beggan.
Beggan shows Bellingham visual artist Katie Johnson in the comfort of her studio, part of his Bellingham at Work project. Photo credit: Patrick Beggan.

People often get nervous at the thought of having a camera pointed in their direction, but Beggan has lots of experience in making people comfortable. “I like to take photos of people doing something,” he shared. “That way they can’t pay attention to the fact that they’re being photographed.”

When it’s complete, Beggan plans to show his Bellingham at Work series at his studio inside Make.Shift in Downtown Bellingham. In the meantime you can keep up with his work by liking him on Facebook, following him on Instagram, or hiring him for your own photography needs at http://www.versaphotography.com.

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