I always enjoy hearing about artists word of mouth first, it excites me. It's almost like, * wow * who is this person that everyone has something to say about? I was sitting at my desk at Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) when I heard my coworker say, "oh that reminds me of Cary Fagan." I knew the name because it had been coming up in my suggested friends/people to follow but who was this person? Honestly I thought Cary was a woman when I first saw the name but no, he is not. I remembering scrolling through his Instagram account and seeing a mix of photos with various muses, architecture, nature, and objects. They were all nice to look at. You could tell Cary was thoughtful in his details, worked really hard and all the time. I thought ~ cool ~ a male photographer who shoots beautiful women a lot ~ another account to follow. I think I may have even judged him? Around that time, Houston Chronicle published an interview with him, which you can read here. I also noticed that my friend had shared his work on his Instagram feed. Then I saw that MUD Magazine had interviewed him. Last but certainly not least, I heard he shot for Yeezy Season 3. He wasn't in one place and I didn't know him.
When I finally did meet him at TOMO Mags, I decided to ask him for an interview. I was curious.
Right after he sent me his responses this past March, I spotted him, to no surprise, at Solange's Scales performance at the Menil Collection. It was interesting seeing him in his element, not at an opening or on my cell phone, trying to capture the most pivotal moments of that outstanding work. After interviewing Cary, I've had the opportunity to get to know him in new light and learn more about his goals. He wants to reach out to black teen artists/photographers and serve more as a mentor to those who need to find their way. Give back in the best way he can. His new project, cf.filmstudios, hopes to accomplish just that. These dreams lie close in his heart.
If there is one thing I learned about him it is that he doesn't let a lot stand in his way. He is willing to teach himself what he needs to know and how to succeed. I remember one day he called my desk at HAA asking for advice on artist opportunities in Houston. This is a man who knows how to work and isn't scared to work. I invite you to read on to learn more about Cary and his process.
Photos by Enmi Yang of cf.filmstudios
What part of Houston were you raised in? How has it influenced you? The suburbs of Sugar Land, the pace of life is slow. It’s not conducive towards my vision. Too many people are “stuck in the same.” Most of the time I was in my room looking for ways to get out there in the world. Chase Benjamin and Bradley Ward are two individuals who have influenced me the most in my growing years. And at the most iconic time of our lives we came together at the Yeezy Season 3 Fashion Show.
What was it like shooting for Yeezy? This is a question that is most often asked, I can’t reveal details but it was a liberating experience. It almost feels like none if it even happened, but it’s been a year since. In the song “Ultra Light Beam” Chance The Rapper states, “I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail.”
You seem like you travel a lot. What is your favorite city to shoot? Perception is everything, but traveling is often spur of the moment. Most of my downtime has been here in Houston. I just keep quiet until jobs arise; try to enjoy the simple things. All of my travels are compressed in a ZIP folder, unreleased.
Do you feel like an emerging photographer? How long have you been shooting film? In what ways do you see yourself progressing? In all honesty, yes. It’s hard to imagine what life would have been like if I quit photography 4 years ago. I’ve had a few people who support me reach out to me privately to express how much of an influence I am in their lives. That’s a lot to hear from someone you don’t know, but it feels good. I don’t know what I'm doing 100% of the time, and when that occurs I look to other mediums to balance my life in a way. Today, I’ve been shooting film for almost a decade. It seems long when you put it that way but it's true. The ways I see myself progressing are more than photography, my life seems different as if i understand it a lot more. Searching for happiness was an obstacle itself but it has helped with boosting my positivity. People are gravitating to me more and more: for advice, for assistance, or for laughs. That's a nice feeling.
Your portraits are intimate but haunting. What impression are you trying to create? Beauty within detail. My portraits are intimate because of the close relationships I share. It’s very important to me to develop a connection between “the muse” and I.
Why do you like to use film? Do you take any photos on your phone? (Haha) ... This is a great question, a question I asked myself sometimes when I mess up a roll or break a camera … something about doing things the hard way … all my life I’d always do things the hard way when it’s the most simplistic action can replace the already complicated. (I don’t know if this make sense). I often reference film to the old fashion way of doing things, like loading a rifle, old technology versus new etcetera. Film involves patience and I’ve developed a sense of patience over the years. it also involves a well thought out process before pressing the button, otherwise you’re wasting money or experimenting on an infinite budget. Film isn’t cheap and shouldn’t be considered a hobby. It’s a risk that people take. I can’t express how many clients I’ve worked with who were nervous about the roll(s) that were just shot on film, panicking, uttering “this is their first time working with a film photographer.”
It’s a rush, an old fashion rush. I take a bunch of candid photos on my phone and I have a private instagram page where I post those images, it's more freedom. The instant gratification is an an all time high, most humans want that.
How do you prepare your projects? Is it from memory? Do you always work for or with clients? By default preparation starts at 4am. It’s not always based on the memory, but they play a huge role in my creative process. I like working with people who have a direction or determination to accomplish something that holds obstacles.
Tell me about your book and series Naked. The word Naked is synonymous with the human body being without clothes. However, the word can also have the meaning of feeling vulnerable or even seeing something with the naked eye. This series came about simply by laying out an outfit I always wore while in Los Angeles (the cover of my book). In that photo, I explain to people that this image is a self portrait of me.
How valuable is social media? Has it changed you as an artist/photographer? Two years ago an individual by the name of Austin Crawford reached out to me on Twitter seeking advice. Today, he has published an interview on Youtube after meeting me in New York. Social media brought us together. When you obtain a mass amount of knowledge you’re suppose to share it with someone else to pass it on to the next and so on, like a domino effect. Social media is changing rapidly, and it’s becoming an even bigger platform to promote creative individuals. In Houston, I am witnessing a new wave of creative people and it’s fascinating to see the cultural progress in this city.
Who motivates you the most? The close friends I have around me. The love of my life. Happiness. Positivity. Enmi and Leo.
What else do you want to show the world? More than a visual experience. Take that how you will, art is "ever evolving."