When you meet Trevor Fife, you begin to understand how the filmmaker gets the shots he does — his work is warm and alive, full of grainy and gritty sunbursts, weighty with time-lapse shots of rolling clouds descending over valleys, bright beautiful days from sun-up to sundown, and earnest long-shot video portraits of his subjects. Trevor himself has an easiness about him, and a humble sincerity that filters into his honest slice-of-life portraits of people and communities.
“I try to have pretty small footprint,” he says of his approach to shooting a subject. “You are asking something of them. It helps to be warm in your gestures and thoughtful in your glances and to be polite.”
Trevor is a longtime Stumptown collaborator — he first started making Stumptown source videos in 2006, traveling with Duane to Guatemala, El Salvador, Rwanda and Ethiopia, visiting several farms, and shooting a combination of clean video footage and grainy Super 8 and 16mm film. “A lot of [the use of film] is to bring texture to the project. There’s an inherent rawness to a lot of these places. You’re out in coffee growing areas. There’s an organic quality to everything out there.”
An early project shooting his 80-year-old grandmother on a three week tour of the Mediterranean opened him up to the possibilities of film. “It was a way of connecting to her a little bit more and doing extensive interviews with her. That project definitely informed my overall sensibility and sense of style and approach to a lot of things.”
He cites his first Stumptown film project at Guatemala Finca El Injerto as the most significant, allowing him to further develop his style and helping him realize what type of professional work he wanted to be doing. “It was a lightbulb moment in my life,” he says. “It articulated to me that I wanted to be photographing other people in foreign places. What I appreciated was that intimacy that took place within that context — you got to meet people in a different way than if you were a traveler. It felt really earnest to me. I thought that if I could make a living doing this in some shape or another, that would be very satisfying.”
He’s the man behind the Stumptown video (which we are all so very proud of), the swampy True Blood opening title, and the BMW Unscripted Series, among other great work. His upcoming projects include a collaborative video art project in the Los Angeles airport — he’ll be creating ambient short documentary pieces depicted on multi-panel displays in an LAX Terminal, representing Barcelona, Istanbul and Seoul.
“Each place is its own unique experience,” he says. “It’s really about giving the viewer a sense of what it sounds like and feels like and leave the stories open-ended.”