Written by John Nowak
In 2011, Nathan Purchase was battling depression. He was unhappy with his criminal justice major at Michigan State University — he had hoped to become a fire investigator — and needed some direction and inspiration to light his own fire. One day he found himself lying on his back looking up at the trees against a gray sky. The leaves had fallen, and in the bare branches he saw geometric patterns, perfect symmetry, and natural wonder. He wanted to recreate this image and eye-opening experience he had with the natural world. The very next day, without ever having picked up a camera, he changed his major to photography.
He was the least experienced photographer in his class and had a hard time turning some of his more traditional professors on to his unique take on the art. Purchase, who now operates under the name Psychedelic Eyes Photography, uses a variety of multiple exposures and long exposure to create what he calls “photographic paintings.” None of the reflective, symmetric patterns or multiple images are edited after the shot is taken. It’s all done in-camera.
“In college I took a number of painting classes and drew a lot of inspiration from them. I wanted to transfer that sensory experience and artistic expression into photography from a visual standpoint. My photos aren’t paintings, but my goal is for them to have the imagery of a painting.”
In 2013, Purchase won a photo contest through Relix Magazine with a multiple exposure picture he took of Mike Rempel from Lotus. This was the first time one of his photos had been published. It was a moment of pride and verification that his artwork and talent had a lot in store for him.
Fast forward to 2017 and Purchase has accomplished some big goals, such as graduating from Michigan State and professionally shooting Electric Forest, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, My Morning Jacket and loads of other bands both local and national. One of his most telling attributes is his love and passion for local music.
“I really enjoy shooting local bands because they carry a lot of energy and you can tell that they are putting their heart and soul into every performance. On the local level there is a sense of urgency to make it to that next level which gives bands some extra passion and energy. Three of my favorite bands to photograph are Desmond Jones, Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish, and Melophobix.”
Purchase can be found any night of the week shooting shows in Michigan, where he lives. His photography is a staple in the online presence and marketing for the many bands that hire him. Some nights he will make it to three or four different shows — a testament to his work ethic and grit.
After years of working at a gas station and fighting the temptations to pursue other interests or careers, Purchase has solidified himself as a professional photographer in the music scene. He now takes pictures for a car dealership, tour-manages the band Desmond Jones (Grand Rapids, MI) and continues to shoot for bands, private events, weddings, etc. He is a perfect example of hard work and dedication paying off in the long run.
While photography is a useful tool to capture moments, Purchase believes the most important thing is to be truly present in that moment.
“It’s important to focus on your own happiness, and that’s what shooting does for me. I enjoy finding myself present in the moment of a concert or in nature and capturing that experience.”