the story of those closest to us
My project is not intended to share the surprising, don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover backstories of strangers like Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York.” It is not intended to elevate marginalized voices or combat social inequality like Chris Arnade’s “Addition in America.” It is not intended to showcase beauty around the world like Mihaela Noroc’s “The Atlas of Beauty.” Those projects are amazing and necessary, but my vision is somewhat...quieter.
My project has one sole aim: intimacy. Imagine when a publication does a piece on a celebrity or politician—but with the access, context, and perspective of a close friend rather than a random writer whom the subject has known for a day. Each piece features friends of mine whose accomplishments are not necessarily flashy, but no less laudable. Aptly titled “Davy’s Friends,” the project is an in-depth series of features. Each feature is comprised of formal portraits, disposable camera snapshots, and an approximately 1,000-word profile from my perspective. In photographing and writing about friends, rather than strangers, I hope to leverage that foundation of trust to share a uniquely intimate perspective. “Davy’s Friends” intends to be a frank study and celebration of the people closest to me while exploring the theme of intimacy.
I have to confess that my motives in this project are not entirely altruistic. I want to celebrate the amazing people in my life, yes, but I also want to face my fear. I’m really scared of intimacy. The risk of being yourself, of staying open, of being vulnerable—it paralyzes me. Consequently, I often settle for admiration, rather than love, as I highlight the best parts of me and hide the worst. This series is both the study of my fear and the pursuit of its antidote. I hope that in coaxing vulnerability from my subjects, I will be forced to be embrace it myself.
Additionally, I think quiet, unassuming projects like this are critically important for artists, but we often forget to do them. My generation is conditioned to create so we can grow a following, fight cultural norms, or pay off student loans. All those goals are valid, of course, but they can lead to burnout if separated from that early, childlike approach to art—making just to make. I hope to remind my peers of humbler, delight-driven art that exists because it can. It's not created for any larger purpose. This project is art first, agenda second. I want to do it simply because it’s fun and because it's scary.
There are three elements to each feature: portraits, disposable snapshots; and a written profile. With each portrait session, I'd like the whole process to be very "done up," ideally hiring a make up artist, stylist, and/or assistant, perhaps renting a location, and generally treating the subject as if he or she was being profiled for Vanity Fair or The Atlantic.
With each friend, I'd like to follow him or her around for at least a couple days, if not a week, to get a comprehensive view of their life. My weapon of choice here: the disposable camera. I love the disposable. It fits in a pocket, which helps in so many situations. It doesn't attract attention. Most of all, it feels so organic and creates the rough, hazy feel of memories. I've been taking photos on disposables for six or seven years, though I've slowed down a bit lately.
I'm excited about this for a few reasons. First, I think it's a cool idea to treat normal people as if they're celebrities, not only taking nice photos but also writing a profile. Second, it's rare that photographers are also writers, but I think it gives me a unique perspective because of the rapport I've already built from shooting together. Can we talk about your deepest fear? How do you see yourself? What's kept you single? Why do you believe what you believe? I want to hit the core of each person.
I haven't written many profiles, so this is certainly a creative challenge for me. However, my degree is in communication and I have done some writing in the past (accessible on my Medium and my blog).
Below are a few specific people whose work inspires me to do this project. Additionally, I've compiled a rough aspirational mood board for the project. I'd hope for my final creation to be contain an element from each of them.
Ruven is an international celebrity, portrait, and fashion photographer. His work is the primary inspiration for the photos I would like to take. They're amazing. I'm inspired by the overall aesthetic—the tones, framing, positioning, etc. This is my benchmark for portraiture.
Chris Arnade is a writer and photographer covering addiction and poverty in America. His work is regularly featured in The Guardian. I’m not drawn to his aesthetic, but I am inspired by his ability to not only capture jarringly intimate moments, but to also write about them in a compelling way.
From his website, “the subjects in Théo Gosselin’s images are friends rather than models, and the situations are not mythic constructions but glimpses of an underground lifestyle in a post-9/11 and post-AIDS world in which social media has blurred the boundaries between public and private, and between being documented and simply being.” His work inspires me specifically for the disposables photos.
Walter Issacson & Edmund Morris
I love biographies, but my all-time favorites featured Steve Jobs and Theodore Roosevelt. The men are interesting enough on their own, but Issacson's and Morris' respective portrayal of each man absolutely enraptured me as a reader. For my profiles, they serve as my primary inspiration despite the more long-form nature of what they do.
Mood Board - Portraits
Mood Board - Disposables
“Davy’s Friends” is meant to be simple and frank, sturdy and quiet, understated and simple. It's a study and celebration of the people closest to me, but it's also a study of my own fear. It is about intimacy.