Foster Huntington: Photographer, Syncrologist

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Nov 9, 2011 | By Foster Huntington


Most notions rarely manifest beyond the firing of a few synapses in the brain. But for Foster Huntington, notions of adventure, exploration, and escape slowly spread like a virus until he found himself standing at JFK, clutching a one-way ticket to Reno, Nevada, where he would pick up a VW Syncro Vanwagon, his home for the foreseeable future.

We've been fans of Foster since we started following A Restless Transplant, his personal blog which even in its infancy put on display his prodigious photographical talents, sound prose and nose for a good adventure. What initially began as a creative outlet during his Colby College days slowly morphed into a men's-lifestyle blog as he hustled his way into design jobs at L.L. Bean Signature and Ralph Lauren, and photography assignments for movers and shakers like Michael Williams of ACL fame and the writer David Coggins.

Despite enjoying all of the trappings that attend living in New York City in your early 20s and a cushy design job at Ralph Lauren, Foster yearned for exploration and a McQueen-esque escape. Late night conversations with friends coupled with photo blog inception added fuel to a fire that was ignited when he received word that one of his side projects, The Burning House, was going to be picked up by a major publisher. !! Like A.R.T., The Burning House is characterized by beautiful photography that is punctuated by judicious verbiage, but unlike its brother site, its pages are filled by guest contributors. At it's core is the question: "if your house was burning, what would you take with you?" - a question of anthropological gravity that in a few short months has generated thousands of responses from all corners of the globe.

Equipped with an advance from !t Books and a check from an assignment for The Anthropologist, Foster sold most of his earthly possessions and traded his spartan Manhattan apartment for a life on the road. After picking up a van in Reno, Foster headed east, then west, then everywhere in between, all in search of a good adventure. !! I recently caught up with Foster where despite intermittent phone service (a given in van life), we talked NYC, van porn and fourteeners. Given he's been on the road for a few months now, I asked Foster to reflect on his travels and share ten of his favorite pictures so far, which he was kind enough to oblige in spite of a pending deadline for his book which is set to drop this summer. In addition to checking out the pictures below, I highly recommend you follow his journey on A.R.T and via Twitter, check out the updates to The Burning House, and keep an eye out for his book inspired by The Burning House.

Sunset in Southern Sequoia National Forrest. After spending a few days in the desert of Joshua Tree, I headed northwest on my way to meet up with a friend in Big Sur. As the sun set, I spotted a hill a half mile off the road in the middle of the Kern River Valley. I stopped for the night in an abandoned parking lot and took this photo on a walk. Mid October. !! I'm working on a book based on my website, The Burning House, and have been photographing the things people would take along the way. In Colorado, I met and photographed a man who lives off the grid at 11,000 feet. In the winter, he cross-country skis 5 miles to nearest town. When I asked him what he would take, he thought about it for a second and said, "The Princess Bride, my favorite movie, and a pair of skis, so that i could get out." !! My VW Van, a 1987 Vanagon Syncro, has locking front and rear differentials, 28-inch BF Goodrich Mud Terrains, full-length skid plates and a super low climbing gear. On this day in the Gunnison Wilderness, my brother and I took the Syncro to a place known as known as Devil's Punch Bowl. In the 60's, a short tail relative of mine was driving this road in a GMC Jimmy, popped out of gear, and slid into the river 70 feet bellow. All nine people in the car died. This same guy married his daughter's college roommate. !! Before calling it quits and leaving the Gunnison Wilderness Area after two weeks of vagabonding and hiking, my brother and I bushwhacked up a hillside a thousand feet or so to a saddle. As a thunderstorm marched in from the east, we sat overlooking the Syncro. We took the start of rain as our cue, hiked down and left the park. Late August. !! After driving through eastern Oregon and southern Idaho, my brother and I called it a night and parked up a dirt road overlooking farmland near Bruneau Dunes. We weren't supposed to be there, and as the sun rose, I started up the van and drove a few miles down the road and took this photo, all with my brother still in the fold-out bed in the back. Mid August. East Towards The Desert. !! My college roommate moved to Humbolt County (CA) after graduating. As soon as he got there, he started telling me about this area called the "Lost Coast." He's a geologist and wouldn't shut up about how the area's geology can't support major roads so its never been developed. In late September, I finally made it there. It's worth the hype. The Lost Coast. !! I have seen a few cool cabins during my exploration of large amounts of national forests and rural areas, but this one takes the cake. It's at 9,000 feet on a small lake in the Sierras. I could live there. Early September. !! US-50 cuts through the middle of the least populated part of the lower 48 - central Nevada. I spent 5 days driving through the region in early September. Nevada is 90% BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) so you can camp anywhere. US-50 is the prettiest highway I have been on thus far. Meandered West. !! For six weeks, I drove up and down the California coast surfing from Humboldt to San Diego. My favorite break is a place just north of Arcata called Camel Rock in Moonstone State Park. When the swell is right (northwest), the wave wraps around the point and breaks right for a hundred yards. I have had twenty second rides there. !! Nate Damn started walking across the country in February in Maryland and finished on October 15 in San Francisco. I met him in Nevada in September. He's an inspiration of mine. He's working on a book now, and we are planning on meeting up in the spring and cruising around for a few weeks. Nate Walks America. !!