Calvin Scott is a New York City based photographer with a background as an ink-based surrealist artist. After attending The Savannah College of Art & Design, he has since trained under photographers Platon, Mark Seliger, and Annie Leibovitz. Calvin has embraced photography as a means of coping with the symptoms of his Bipolar Disorder, channeling manic and depressive episodes through stark compositions. Influenced by modernist traditions of photography, as well as mid-twentieth century portrait and fashion photography, Calvin’s work focuses on minimalist yet dramatic lighting and geometry, and the role that photography as a complex medium plays in exploring his and the human condition.
– How and when did you become interested in photography?
I remember I was very, very young. Very, very young with dreadful eyesight. And I remember seeing the clear image on the tiny screen of my mother’s digital camera for the first time, and the amazement and confusion that followed. Shortly thereafter, I owned my first pair of glasses and eventually my first pocket camera – I still keep it in my pocket every day. And the world is far less blurry, and I continue to photograph because the world continues to offer me reasons to photograph.
– Is there any artist/photographer who inspired your art?
I adore and am greatly inspired by the photography of James Moore and Mario Giacomelli. I revere artist and animator Don Hertzfeldt as a truly rare and brilliant creative whose work has saved my life on multiple occasions. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s many musings on photography live on my shelves and on my desk and by my bedside. I’ve also been very lucky to work alongside many gifted photographers! I’m grateful to have interned for Platon, Mark Seliger, and Annie Leibovitz. And I’ve made wonderfully talented and supportive friends in the community that inspire me daily.
– Why do you work in black and white rather than colour?
I am recently diagnosed Bipolar. After nearly a decade of being asked this question, I finally have an answer: I photograph in black and white, I photograph at all, because it gives me peace. It gives me a way to channel mania and depression, this always alternating noise and silence, into organized compositions. It’s a physical and mental relief to photograph. In my mind, I have dark black periods, and I have bright white periods. My photographs are a reflection of my desire for equilibrium.
– How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph/series of photographs?
I am always looking for geometry, always seeking a stark and sculptural composition. And my work is fueled by high contrast, which I imagine is a product of my eyesight for which I need high contrast to see clearly. It can be a very anxious practice sometimes, photography! And sometimes, very slow! I’m either running around by the seat my pants and looking for the right composition and the right time to press the button, or I am slowly and meticulously building the composition with the people I am photographing. It’s a dance, and there is a lot of trust involved.
– Where is your photography going? What projects would you like to accomplish?
I’ve recently been toying with the idea of exploring more fine-art-based avenues. I’d love to share my work in galleries. I’ve been working on a project about my late mother and what she left behind. I’m very in love with the notion of a collective consciousness, that our experiences and memories can and are shared. I’ve seen family members and strangers alike be moved to tears by some of the photographs of my mother’s items. It never fails to warm my heart. I do hope to exhibit the project, either while in progress or when I’ve finished (if I ever do).