The first time I saw Carey Bradshaw’s work I was blown away! His photographs are not only beautiful, they have a graphic arts, surreal quality about them.
As a photographer with a graphic arts background, I reached out to Carey in hopes of picking up a few gems of creative knowledge.
Do you get a lot of comments about your name with the Sex and the City character?
“Yes I do. Maybe too much. It’s kind of funny though when I show up for a reservation appointment i.e. Dinner. People are usually expecting to see Sarah Jessica Parker and not a 6’2” black man, with a Jamaican accent walking through the door.”
Tell me about yourself, where you grew up, family, childhood influence?
“I’m the youngest of four children born to Sheila and Sonny Bradshaw (the most awesome parents a kid could ever have). I was born in Kingston, Jamaica where I had some of my best life experiences. As a kid, I was allowed free reign to explore many creative outlets through music, sketching, painting, building tree houses, making toys out of household items and basic computer programming with my Commodore 64. Growing up, I had many childhood influences: my parents being number one. My mother fostered my entrepreneurial spirit and my father nurtured the artist in me.”
How would you describe your work and yourself as an artist?
“Well…my work is really all over the place (smile). Sometimes it’s dark and gritty; sometimes it addresses social and racial issues and sometimes it just tells a story. The main focus however, is to create positive and beautiful imagery of black people. There is so much buffoonery out there that glamorizes the negative portrayal of black people and our culture. I almost feel it’s my duty to be the antagonist against such trends. ***As I type that last sentence I can visualize myself in a super hero outfit with green underwear on the outside, just the way superheroes wore it back in the day, with a big “AM” on my chest: ANTAGONIST MAN***** I think I will make a self portrait exactly like that one day (smile).”
Where do you get your inspiration?
“Sorry for sounding cliché but I get my inspiration from everyday life. Inspiration is all around us. You just have to pay attention to the signs.”
Do you spend more time in pre-production or post production or equal amount of time in both?
“I spend a great deal of time in post production. There is so much magic that can happen there. The polish and feel that exists in my images are heavily influenced by my post production skills. A lot of old school photographers scuff at “too much post production” work, but I welcome it with open arms.”
What are your favorite tools of your trade, such as camera, lights, software?
“My all time favorite is Photoshop but I also enjoy using Lightroom and CaptureOne. My camera of choice is the Nikon D750 with a Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 lens, Nikon 80-200mm 2.8 lens and a Nikon 85mm 1.8 lens. I use a lot of speedlights as well as two Alien bees.”
Your bio states you are self taught. Is that in both photography and graphics?
“I am self taught in photography but I learned graphic design in school. In actuality, the purpose of me going back to school was to get a degree in photography but the school discontinued the photography program. I was very disheartened by this but the admissions counselor advised me to take the graphic design course, which included two photography classes. So that’s what I did. I’m happy i did though because it exposed me to so many areas within the multi media ecosystem.”
Generally most people think of portrait photographers with a focus on just the face of a person. But in many of your portraits I see you incorporate the body, face, pose and background elements to complete the final image. Do you agree?
“I totally agree. Since I wasn’t formally trained in photography, I didn’t have any rules and guidelines to adhere to. I just created what I found visually pleasing. However, I felt the urge to learn the official protocols when creating portraiture and other genres of photography, which was one of the main reasons I decided to pursue structured learning in the form of the photography degree program. When that didn’t work out, I said screw it and pledged to myself to just do what I wanted to do with my photography.”
Do you create portraits based on how you see people or is it how they see themselves?
“Usually it’s how I see them. If I were to create portraits based on how they see themselves, then they would all be biting their finger nails with a nervous look on their face. My clients are usually super nervous when they show up for a shoot. Even the most confident people turn to scared, insecure shells of themselves. It’s up to me to make them feel comfortable and pull the greatness out of them. Then capture it.”
What new projects are you currently working on?
“I’ve been working on a project for a couple years now that documents the rise and fall and rise again of black exceptionalism. It will artistically depict the timeline of when we were kings and Queens, to when were were slaves and the present day.”
How do you select make-up artist for a session? Do you usually guide them on details for the look or is it a collaborative effort?
“I work with a select team of makeup artists and hair stylists that i’m happy to call family. It’s all about vibe and energy with me and I have to feel that synergy and bond with those i’m working with. I know nothing about hair or makeup other than doing my daughters hair once awhile, so I usually share my vision with the team and let them do what they do. So yes, it’s definitely a collaborative effort.”
Some of your models wear fabulous and unique clothing. Do you work with a specific clothing designer ?
“I have received tremendous support from a store in Brooklyn called Tafari Tribe. They have very uniquely wonderful jewelry and clothing. I also work with a Designer call Ichigo Black and she creates all of those colonial period piece dresses.”
I would love to watch you work sometimes. Would you be comfortable having someone shadow you on a project?
“Sure, not a problem at all. However, I might put you to work during the session (smile).”
Tell me about your YouTube Series?
“I created a story based photography piece called “I shoot people”. It was my way of introducing the world to what I can do with my photography and photoshop skills. The story is a typical geek to chic story but with a twist at the end. The interesting thing was that the model was shot in studio and superimposed on backgrounds I shot while on vacation in Canada. None of the images were shot on location as depicted in the final image. I was supposed to follow it up with a few more of it’s kind but have been busy with day to day business tasks since. Coming soon though ……
How do you spend your free time? What do you do for fun?
“I’m a bit of a geek so I spend a lot of time doing geeky things. I’m obsessed with gadgets and gizmos, flying my new Drone (so much fun!) I work on lots of D.I.Y projects for my home and for photography purposes and I enjoy making silly comedy skits with my daughter.”
Can you share the story behind a few of your personal favorite photos?
“The one i’m most proud of is my Black Nefertiti image. I had this idea for a very long time to create a representation of Nefertiti as a black woman with a crown made of dreadlocks. I sat on it for a while because I was looking for the right face that would be able to portray the beauty and strength that I envisioned. I then met the model, Ms. Brigid Turner via Instagram and instantly knew I wanted her to play the part. My next obstacle was to figure out how to make a crown of dreadlocks. I spoke to my hair stylist and she assured me that she could get it done. I spoke to my makeup artist, Lisa Jones and expressed to her that I wanted to depart a little bit from the typical rendition of Egyptian makeup, making it a more contemporary beauty look. I got the team together and it was actually one of the quickest conceptual shoots I’ve done. Everything came off without a hitch. Over the next week, I did my thing in Photoshop and the rest, as they say, is history.”
“My second favorite is my “Creation of Woman” image I had a photoshoot with Deneika Fletcher, a personal trainer from Toronto who just flew in fresh off winning one of her competitions. I had suggested to her that she should let me paint her bronze. I thought it would accentuate her physique quite well. This was the first time I used metallic paint with an airbrush….. and oh what a disaster it was. I couldn’t get the right consistency to spray on evenly and I was back and forth mixing and trying, mixing and trying. This poor woman was standing in my bathroom, freezing cold without any clothes while I fumbled trying to get it to work. FINALLY I scrapped the airbrush and just used a paint brush and things went by fairly quickly. The shoot was a success and now it was time for post production – I retouched the image of her laying on the floor but something was missing. I then decided to add dust particles floating above her. It created some visual interest but something was still missing. So I decided to photograph my ashy hands sprinkling dust on her. That did the job and made it one of my favorite images yet.”
Carey thanks so much for doing this interview. I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.
Check out Carey Bradshaw Photography -http://www.careybradshaw.com