By Ally Oberrotman
It was 2012 and we were drunk. Tipsy, perhaps, but drunk gets the message across better. It was almost summer and we were gloriously young; gloriously unencumbered, gloriously green, gloriously romantic. Few of those have remained, but I’ll let you guess which.
We met one gauzy night and spoke briefly. Nothing after, nothing before. It was fateful and nominal and as most things go when you’re 21, it didn't hold much significance. We were strangers in the night whose paths crossed once and there was no more. And there was no less.
The air moves differently when there is someone I want to know.
It all began again in a grocery store this week. I called, he answered. I listened to the ruffle of bags and shuffle of bodies until he spoke. He was authentically kind to his cashier. I put it in my notes.
There are things you can ask a stranger that you cannot ask the people you know. There’s an openness that accompanies anonymity. So he spoke; I listened. I learned from a prolifically-talented being why the Morton Salt girl is so important.
He is Sean Angel Moyano – architect, voyageur, creator, photographer in the sense that he takes fine photos, but that's not what he wants to be called. His favorite color is salmon, favorite book Delirious New York. Sit, read, learn.
A: How was your trip?
S: It was good. But the word good in itself is not good enough. The trip was the exact thing I needed.
I began in Oslo, then Copenhagen, and then left Scandinavia and went to the Netherlands, with Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Then I left and made my way to Venice. Finished in Paris.
I went into the trip with a pre-conceived notion that Paris was the most romantic city on the planet. But Venice, there is no city like Venice. Venice is the epitome of romance.
A Venetian affair.
This trip I needed to do on my own, for my own. I think having someone – whether it’s someone I love or someone I have to love – I don’t think I could have done or seen the things that I’ve experienced. The moments, I don’t think I would have had them if I were with someone.
What ended up being your favorite city?
Was it because of the architecture component?
Well, no. But maybe, I suppose. I’m biased. But Copenhagen works. Everything about it works. Organized. The people are more than generous if you need help with anything. They’re a people who welcome others. It’s not like New York.
How is it being back?
I don’t think I have ever been so inspired or enthused in my entire life. People told me I was releasing a lot of good energy, or so they called it. But I think because the trip did more than inspire me, I feel in a way it sculpted me for what I need to do personally with my life.
What might that be?
The best thing I can say it is I know where I am, and I know where I need to be.
How is Seattle treating you in terms of inspiration?
Well as soon as I landed the first person I saw was wearing Crocs, so...
How do you give yourself a break?
I used to smoke cigarettes. When I’m dead, don’t put me in a museum.
What do you want your legacy to be?
It’s a heavy word, you know? Legacy. There’s gravity to that word.
I think, for me, it’s being able to do something for someone. By means of what I do best. By means of design. To do something for someone whether they know it or not. If they don’t even know who I am, I’m okay with the logic of that.
So in short, my legacy would be an unknown legacy. Kind of how I had to search for those moments in my life.
Were you born in New York?
Born and raised.
Do you think being in New York influenced your decision to be an architect?
I hate skyscrapers.
I don’t need my buildings yelling at me.
In that case, what is your favorite building?
That’s a rude question. That’s like asking Hugh what his favorite bunny is.
I’m sure he has one.
Are you going to put that in?
You’ll find out.
My favorite building is actually a parking garage.
Alright, I’ll bite. Why a parking garage?
11.11 Lincoln Road.
Researching that building, that’s when it hit me that not everything is what it’s supposed to be. That’s when it hit me that not everything is how people perceive it to be. It was like a slap in the face. That’s when I started to ask myself “why?” a lot. I think why is one of the most important things that a person can ask themselves.
What is your cultural background?
And you landed in New York?
My mother asked my grandfather where they should go, leaving Argentina. And he looked at my mother and said, “Vancouver.” He was a boat captain and had seen so much of the world and Vancouver was the only city that he ever visited and left with a postcard.
So they left Argentina, went to Vancouver, lived there for 5 years. Had my oldest brother, and then they moved to New York.
Did New York make you grow up fast?
What inspires you the most?
In particular? I’d have to say people. Architecture is for people. I think it’s a culmination of people, architecture, art and photographs.
What do you want to accomplish?
One day I wrote on a piece of paper in the tense that I was retiring, that I was about 70 years old, I guess. However old you’re supposed to be.
In this paper I’m looking back on all the things that I’ve accomplished. And I know that I want to make something for someone that will sculpt them the way I was sculpted throughout my life.
I don’t wanna just tell you I wanna make a library – yeah I’d love to create a library, a new whatever. But what is that if I’m not doing anything for anyone. What I don’t want is to do it for an ego.
Who is your favorite artist?
He’s the only person who’s never done a thing to me but still made me cry.
What I see in a lot of your photos is loneliness, and I’m wondering if you know you capture it well.
For some reason people – the primary conversations – the first kind of conversations I have with people involve my photographs. And I hate that. My photographs are the last thing I want to talk about.
Why are they the last thing you want to talk about?
The conversations get littered with compliments. Trouble with compliments, I have to precede it with these two words that don’t suffice for the reaction that these people give to me. And so I have to humbly say thank you, sometimes I give an awkward smile.
Most people go out to make photographs, to go take them. To me it’s that I just have this camera on me. And I know that these moments are going to come my way on whatever route I decide to take. And when I find that moment, I click one button, and that’s it. There’s nothing left to it. It’s frozen, it’s in my pocket.
That was my moment and I found that. No one else did. And for you to tell me that you feel a sense of loneliness in my photographs – I think is the starting point of me being some sort of photographer. And I don’t want to be called a photographer. That’s the last thing I want to be called.
But you should know that you’re not the first person to tell me that there’s an underlying tone of loneliness in my photographs. I know I am a lonely person. I spend the majority of my time alone. And I’m okay with that. I just never thought that it would bleed onto my photographs.
Do your travels change how you see things?
Yes. Travel does change the way I see things.
Does it change the way you think of love or loneliness?
Traveling is far more than going from point A to B. Traveling is a threshold that brings one person to the doorstep of love. It’s a portal to introduce someone to a place, a person, a type of food, a type of music and, evidently, a type of lifestyle. None of that can be done without travel.
Is there anything you wish I would have asked you?
I wish you would have asked me what it’s like to fall in love.
But I’m surprised you didn’t ask me about the Morton Salt girl.
Tell me about the Morton Salt girl, please.
I began identifying with the Morton Salt girl a while ago. Because, first of all, that company is one of the oldest American companies and they’re known for branding themselves. This is a company that was born more than 100 years ago. And it was the slogan that impacted me the most.
What is the slogan?
When it rains, it pours.
Is it raining now?
The best experiences are when it’s pouring. If something bad is happening, you better believe it can get worse. And probably will get worse. And if it didn’t rain, would we ever appreciate the sun? You need the rain.
You need that pouring.