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Campus Conversations: Bryan Nakata – “Through the Lens”

Bryan Nakata

Year: Sophomore

Major: Communications (Intended)

Hobbies: Photography, Football, making videos, traveling around the city

Favorite Season: Winter

One fun fact: I love movies and I was lucky enough to work at a movie theater for three years. A perk of the job was being able to bring home extra movie posters, so I keep a collection of them at home and have some on display.

The Story

When Bryan Nakata just came to the University of Washington, he was looking for a job where he could continue to work with media. He found his answer in the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center at UW, where he got to photograph a lot of events and people for different student groups. This job then led to him getting his current position as the Digital Media Producer for UW Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA). When asked about how he got involved with photography and films, his story is one that inspired me.

Bryan developed an interest in photography and film as a freshman in his freshman year of high school. During the interview, he mentioned that “My passion for film didn’t really kick in until I realized how it can help people.” While in high school, he worked on a documentary of a 35-game win streak from the football team in the 1950s. It was the longest in the country at the time, but no one knew about it anymore. The history had been lost to the high school and the town of Pullman. Starting sophomore year, Bryan proposed and worked on a documentary of the story right away with his mentor, Mr. Doug Winchell. Over the course of two years he interviewed 23 people who were involved with the streak; some were players, cheerleaders, students and even the head coach for part of it. People from all over sent pictures, and by the end, around 750 photos were collected. The film premiered the first week of his senior year in the town’s movie theater to a little over 300 people. People laughed in parts and cried in others. Overall, Bryan’s film let people’s stories be documented and heard again. In the end, they all got copies to show their children and grandchildren. The reunion between the four classes in high school when that the streak occurred was special and they got to reminisce about the good ol’ days. For Bryan, “it was a really meaningful day and one of the best days of my life.” His passion stemmed from being able to give people a voice again. He also included that “You would be amazed at the stories – or history – people have that could otherwise be lost if they’re not asked about it.” Through his film project, Bryan was able to bring people who hadn’t seen each other in years together in the same theater, watching the story of part of their lives. As a conclusion to his interview, he stated that “To be able to give people that moment, to me that’s just beautiful.”

Quick Questions & Answers:

What do you enjoy about photographing for UW students?

It was incredible to meet and work with the wide variety of students there who were all working for different causes. Through both jobs, I’ve met a lot of great friends along the way which has also led to more freelance jobs. I’m also pretty active on Instagram, so a lot of other students interested in photography have found me on there.

Which do you enjoy more: taking the photos or editing them afterwards?

I would most always say taking the photos. A camera can catch some beautiful things but it still doesn’t compare to the natural eye. Seeing Seattle from Kerry Park for example is something that looks great on camera, but is a whole different experience in person. Not to mention the memories you make out when you’re out there. I also have a part-time position with the Seattle Seahawks and got to go on “12 tour” with them across Washington in the summer as their videographer. Being a part of those kinds of events are unreal.

If any – which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking and how you photograph?

I mostly find inspiration from local photographers, seeing how they capture Seattle and the surrounding Pacific Northwest. Sometimes they’re famous and sometimes not. John Porter was one of the first photographers I met over Instagram and he told me a lot of the places to check out. Andrew Ling is another student from the University of Washington whose work impresses me regularly. Lot of different artists help me look at the world differently and push creative boundaries.

What motivates you to continue doing what you do?

One of my last videos was about a female engineer who creates 3D printed assistive devices for people who have lost movement in their hands. The video I’m working on now is about a painter who didn’t get into art school when he was younger and it took him years to come back to it, and now he’s working on amazing projects. Stories of resilience, breaking boundaries and helping others. There’s always people out there doing things that deserve recognition and attention. Or their stories can really help other people. They need to be heard. My videos or photographs can give them that and that’s what keeps me going.

Describe a funny/weird moment from when you’ve been shooting.

When I was working on the football streak project, I had spent the whole two years looking for a legendary game ball that was sent to Pullman High School from the University of Oklahoma. They had the longest winning streak in college, and they sent it to Pullman as recognition of their streak. It was signed by all the players and the head coach. We had looked for it since the beginning and one week before the premiere of the film I got a call that they had found it. I was able to shove it in to the film last minute. If that’s not ironic I don’t know what is.

If you could go anywhere right now and take a photo, where would it be & why?

There’s a lot of world to see and people to meet. It’s hard to narrow it down to one place, but I think I’d want to go somewhere very foreign to me like Iceland or Africa. Those are places where I think I could really grow.



All photos © 2016 Bryan Nakata

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