Esan Swan is a storyteller and photographer based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have never met someone so invested in celebrating a city. Conversation is about connection, so after having Esan tell my story on his blog last month, it was a pleasure to return the favor. Scope out Neat Nashville, and sign up to receive a newsletter every Thursday. He is the vessel through which everyone should have his or her story told.
Gimme a little background about Neat Nashville.
I started it in February of 2015, ran with the idea and it sort of just took off. It’s a platform that represents my relationship to the city.
What did you want to be as a little kid?
What was your general area of interest?
It’s always been humans. I love sharing people’s stories and seeing what resonates with the community.
Why did you decide to create your own platform?
I realized that sitting in an office wasn’t my thing. The Tennessean wasn’t the right atmosphere for me. I wanted to write about what I wanted to write about.
Has Neat Nashville transformed over time?
Over the last two years, I’ve focused on everyone from teachers to city council members to chefs. The mission has always been about embracing people for who they are. It’s a unifying project that brings people together. I am interested in how someone’s story can impact another’s day.
Same here. How do you curate the lineup?
I find my subjects from conversations throughout daily life. Instagram is a great discovery platform because users post images of things they like. It offers great insight into what kind of individual they are. If someone seems cool, then I assume others will find him or her interesting as well. Neat Nashville is about representing Nashville as a whole, which includes diversity. I want to celebrate different cultures and people who don’t look the same in a city that I love.
What do you get out of it?
(Laughs) It’s fun! I am working towards making the site more sustainable but truthfully, Neat Nashville is my passion. I love sitting down with people, sharing their stories, writing, culture, art and life.
Are you self-taught as far as photography goes?
I am! I got a camera the winter before I started Neat Nashville and started messing around with it. I’ve always had an interest in photography, and this platform spurred that passion even more.
What is it like to balance the artistry of both crafts?
It’s hard because there’s so much to both elements. However, seeing my work on the page is very rewarding. Having a conversation and then taking someone’s photo seemed very natural from the get-go.
What drives you to capture history in real time?
Hmm…I’ve never been interviewed before, so you’re getting me to really think about why I do what I do. It’s people, conversations and stories that truly make up a city. Nashville is evolving at a rapid rate, and seeing that change firsthand, and how people react to it, is fascinating.
What does it feel like to interview someone?
It’s fascinating. When I sit down to have a conversation with someone, I always think about how it relates to my own life. Inevitably, we might not go through the same experiences, but we oftentimes do share the same emotions. We’ve all experienced joy, passion, love, hurt and defeat. To see myself in others and know them for a moment is amazing. My favorite part is to connect on that level.