The Artist Project 2014 recently celebrated it’s 7th year as Toronto’s most celebrated contemporary art fair. From seasoned collectors and first-time art buyers, to gallery dealers and interior designers, visitors explored and discovered works of art from over 250 top contemporary artists from Canada and abroad. Amongst the art on the walls and grand installations throughout, The Art Chats series offered a variety of engaging seminars hosted by leading art and design experts, one being Hermann & Audrey’s Steve Carty. We sat down to discuss what he hoped to get across to those in attendance at the Art Chat.
What was your main goal as a featured artist in The Art Chats series at The Artist Project this year?
I was invited by the director of The Artist Project, she had come to my past Soho house talk. I wanted to really talk about passion and how I inspire people, and how I stay inspired as an artist. I got amazing feedback from people making comments on Facebook and Instagram saying the art was cool—but they still lacked some inspiration, which I hoped to lend to those at The Artist Project this year.
How do you get inspired?
The first way to stay inspired or get inspired is by surrounding yourself with inspirational people. It’s what I do, it’s what I have at Hermann & Audrey, people that I can come and hang out with that are doing really great things. Everybody is hustling and it makes me hustle and stay on top of my game. Each one, teaches one. If you don’t have inspiring people to be around, go find them. Go to artist studios, open houses with artists and photographers, go to galleries where there are people doing cool stuff, and rub up against them. Inspiration is like a virus. You can catch it from someone else and then pass it on. That was really important for me to pass on to those listening.
Past that, be a sounding board for other creative people, whether it’s for your child, your boss, or someone else you know. If someone has an idea, let them bounce that idea off of you, and let them get new ideas because of how your new perspective delivers ideas back to them. Brainstorm. It’s an everyday affair for me. Passion, like inspiration, is super contagious.
How do you capture the complete portrait?
Organized session time evoking deep meaningful moments with people I’ve never really met, in a realistic way. I also shoot really quickly, when people don’t really know that it’s already happening. I shoot while I’m talking. It’s important for the subject to get the sound of my voice, the camera, the rhythm, into their head so they can then get it out of their head. If you’re a subject, you’ll feel like you’re not ready. In the beginning it’s like a boxing match where the subject tries to pose and then begins to relax as I’m trying to take their picture. I try to create this disarming environment that makes it easy for people to be themselves and then I shoot through the whole process of that person working through the process. Once I see my first 10/10, that’s the first photograph my subject sees. Then, there’s a confidence shift. I’m very serious about the process.
What is it that separates portraiture from other areas of photography?
Fashion photography to me is disposable pictures, when you deal with portraits they last forever. You can look at a photograph of yourself wearing what you think is cool today, three years from now. You wont be able to look at it the same way. Fashion is of the minute, what’s coming next. Because of that, yesterday is over already, whereas portrait photography is like a reflection of you right now. Even If I’m shooting fashion or street style, I really try to reflect the person back within the photo, becoming a time capsule, rather than what’s happening at a given moment. It’s more about them, than what they’re wearing. It’s the artfulness of the face itself.
How should artists go about continuing to create new work?
Self directed projects are how unknown photographers go from no one’s-heard-your-name to a household-name. It’s what you do on your own. Create a grand gesture, something big that you set ahead for yourself, like I have with Life Cycles. For me, in order to fulfill this grand gesture, I have to fulfill many small gestures. Anyone that knows me knows I love bicycles and I’m passionate about them. For example, I started snapping with my iPhone and putting it on Instagram, then picked up my professional camera and began taking portraits of people with their bicycles. That was a self-directed project that I did with people. Those portraits were noticed, and gave me probably 100 more followers on Instagram. Then it hit me that it’s about a celebration of people and the people that ride bicycles, so lets celebrate the people that ride them, and paint them in a light that they’ve never been seen in. Life Cycles now is a solo show I’m putting on this year, and the goal is to really celebrate the bicycle and cities that are bicycle friendly, and encourage cities that aren’t so bicycle friendly to become bicycle friendly. It kicks off in June, which is also bicycle month. Last year brought a whole new group of eyes to the work we’re doing here at Hermann & Audrey and this year it’ll be ten times as big with more events and associations. As you can see, personal work is actually generating commercial work, content for exhibits…eyes to me from that work, which then leads to other work.
Do you have any advice for emerging and ambitious artists?
They are our future. Those are the people who have their whole future ahead of them and really don’t have any idea of what their future could be. It’s hard, but what I’ve learned is not to rest, and to keep creating new work.
All portraits by Steve Carty.