Cary Conover: “Quick And Incisive”

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He’s a New Yorker. He loves the city and calls his photographs “interpretation on a piece of film”. His vision is poetic and elegant, he finds those perfect “Only in New York” moments on every corner. Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present Cary Conover! You can see his black and white photos at our “Real ART for REAL people” event April 5th, but before you can actually meet the artist, here are a few things he told us about his work:

WHY DO YOU TAKE PHOTOS?

I do it for you [laughter]. As an artist I believe that the least one can do is to have a record of one’s life experience. So photography is always accompanying my life. I don’t think “I’m going to go out there and create something today.“ Rather it’s more like, “I’m going to go out, be appreciative and respond to what I see, if I see anything at all.“ That’s all I want to do – photograph what I see. My goal is to build a documentation of the Turn of the Century New York. I believe in giving back – in this case, giving back to the city. Even though I spent my childhood in Kansas, New York has been the place where I came into being as an adult politically, socially and culturally. It’s where I “became awake.“ I’m very excited that I’m able to contribute to the long tradition of New York photography.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO SHOOT IN BLACK AND WHITE?

I have almost 10 years of black and white pictures of New York City and I want them to be consistent, that’s an artistic decision I made. It goes back to the tradition of street photography I want to contribute to, I want my work to fit seamlessly into that tradition. My inspiration comes from people like Henri Cartier-Bresson. That’s where I get the “always having a camera on you“ approach, and the idea of photography being a reaction to life. He’s still a very powerful force behind my work.

SOME PEOPLE SEE STREET PHOTOGRAPHY AS OBTRUSIVE

We don’t stalk beauty, we see it when we see it. To some people taking photos on the street might seem predatorial. I’m aware of it, even the terminology is aggressive: taking, shooting, grabbing a picture. People who see my photography ask me all the time whether anybody’s ever gotten upset after I’ve taken a picture. It’s very, very rare. But what will happen on occasion is that somebody will come up to me on the street, mostly out of curiosity, and ask, “Did you just take a picture of me?“ My response is usually, “I didn’t take a picture OF you, you were simply IN the picture that I took.” Now that photography is more prevalent and everyone has got digital camera, it’s only going to make people more and more okay with being photographed in public.

CAN PHOTOGRAPHY CHANGE THE WORLD?

I believe there are no rules on how photography ought to be used. Even though I have a journalism background, I don’t think I should try to change the world with my photography. I think it’s just a matter of capturing the world as you experience it. A lot of people use photography as a catalyst for change and I think, to some extent, it is doable – it can make people stop from what they‘re doing, shake them out of their apathy. That’s why I’m glad there are people like James Nachtwey, who has ability to shake people to their core. But I don’t necessarily want to be out there on the cutting edge of social issues. I just prefer to document a community, a neighborhood around me, the city, places, people, etc.

DO YOU THINK DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY IS TAKING AWAY FROM PHOTOGRAPHY AS ART?

I think there’s a little to that, but overall I would not say that it takes away from photography, it can only elevate the craft as a whole. I just think it’s the same as writing something by hand vs typing it on a computer – your message is still going to get out there. And the best will always rise to the top no matter how many people are taking pictures or how the pictures were taken.

YOU’VE BEEN A BIT “MOONSTRUCK“ LATELY

I had to do time lapse for a client at the South Street Seaport recently, and the night that I was down there doing a six-hour sequence I noticed, after the fact, that the moon was rising behind me. So the next night I switched my angle to include the moon in the time lapse and I was able to get it as it was rising. That experience captivated me so much and I just wanted to learn as much as possible about the moon. It’s easy to know when the moon is coming up, but where precisely on the horizon is totally different from night to night. Still, it’s a pretty moving experience to observe the moon and its trajectory as it’s coming up over the horizon. I have seen the documentary about astronauts that went to the moon (“In The Shadow of The Moon“) three times already, I love reading about it and can’t get enough of archival and contemporary NASA footage. So over the past several months I’ve sort of created my own little archive of moon time lapse sequences, all shot with my digital SLR.

WHERE WILL PHOTOGRAPHY TAKE YOU?

I have definitely grown as a photographer since I came to New York. I believe in the idea of practice and being disciplined. You have to keep at it, you can get a little rusty if you don‘t always have the camera with you, that’s why I try to always stay sharp photographically. But at the end of the day, when my life is done, you’re going to be able to shake me, the photos are going to fall scattered and people will do with them what they want. I just hope that it will be possible to put my pictures together into one single, unified vision of the city. You could live 50 lifetimes in New York and photograph every single day and still not come close to getting everything. My biggest hope is that by doing what I do I’m at least able to scratch into the surface a little bit. I have a friend who told me that my method of photographing is a lot like how a surgeon uses a scalpel: very quick, very incisive. And hopefully in the right areas!

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