This article contains media that the editors have flagged as NSFW.
At the end of the day, a photographer's work takes just seconds to capture your attention. Usually, it is very obvious why you like a photographer's work, and other times, it is a bit of a mystery to you. This was the case when I first experienced photographer Cary Fagan's work recently. The fact is, based on what I like, what I shoot, and what I tend to gravitate to, I shouldn't like his work. But, I do.
First, I came to find out we have a lot in common, Fagan and I, in ways one may not expect. Cary Fagan was born in Phoenix, AZ, and, like me, immediately didn't give a crap about school. In fact, he spent a great deal of time "Getting in trouble", as he puts it, but had the benefit of growing up with a father who was a photographer, also like me. He ignored his father's profession, for the most part (again, like me), during his younger days, but eventually began paying attention to photography actually somewhat recently. Here again, my story is similar.
But that is where our similarities end. And, if I should be so bold in saying, why I am so moved by Fagan's work despite it being night-and-day different from my own.
For one, Fagan is a film photographer, something I remember helping dad with as a kid, but have yet to embrace in my photography career thus far. Fagan believes in film, loves film, and is an adamant evangelist on the benefits of film. "I choose film because you can do so many things without Photoshop. You can have texture in your image, and not in Photoshop. When you get your shots done, and it has grain, and dust, or whatever, it tells a story. Digital is really convenient, people will go to it because its instant. But film lasts longer. Film is richer, and last so much longer on a viewer." states Fagan, a sentiment which is echoed by the legions of film aficionados in the industry.
You work your ass off on whatever you wanna do, it will pay off.
-- Cary Fagan
Fagan's inspiration to work is as profound as it is simple. He says "For now, what I've been focusing on is trying to really work as a fine art and editorial photographer. I've had tons of people order prints and hang them up, and stare at it [and they think] "Why did you even take this picture? This is so interesting." and he furthers this with a glimpse into his future plans, "You work your ass off on whatever you wanna do, it will pay off. I feel that the work I am doing is going to pay off in the next year or so. Someone big is gonna see it, and they will pick me up. Right now, I don't want to do it for the money. I don't want to do it for the money right now. If I didn't have any confidence, I'd stop. But I feel like in my heart that it is going to pick up and explode."
In many ways, however, Fagan has already exploded. Starting in Houston, he has made quite the name for himself and recently took a trip to NYC for Fashion Week. Not to mention, few photographers can polarize the industry quite like his work can, as some people simply don't "get" Fagan's work, which is unfortunate. He draws inspiration from the likes of Tamara Liechtenstein, Dennis Auburn, Matt Tammaro, Andrew Mwangi and Davis Ayer, to name a few.
Gear wise, he rocks the classic Nikon F3 and 55 2.8 for most of this work, although he carries his trusty Yashica T3 and Konica Hexar AF around with him frequently. Though this set up is familiar and comfortable to him, he did state "Medium format is in my plans for end of year, or maybe next year." when we spoke before his trip to NYC.
The first shot I saw of Fagan's I cannot seem to locate online anymore, and only have a vague memory of what it was. The oddest part was that it looked like a snapshot to me at first, then within two seconds it didn't. Not at all, in fact. I realized my own preconceptions were way wrong, and I immediately clicked in search of more. Thankfully, I found plenty on his website, and then his social media.
If you know me at all, then you've heard me say, in no uncertain terms, that "Just because a photo is raw, or grainy, it doesn't mean it is worth a darn" quite frequently. I stand behind that statement, but am happy to report that Fagan's photography transcends the overly hipster idea of "I can't be bothered" when it comes to creating artwork. I sense strong sincerity in his work, a theme that continued on our phone call a couple of weeks ago.
Someone can acquire the gear he uses, inexpensively I might add, and attempt to push buttons and see what happens. But capturing specifically was Fagan captures is truly his thing, and I can tell his work from a thumbnail immediately. To me, that is when an artist has genuinely captured my attention.
I was preparing this article with a bevy of involved descriptions of why Fagan's work connects with me so well, and why it works. But honestly, I don't know that any further words will help convey it. As such, I've decided to showcase his work here on Fstoppers and allow the polarized opinions to spew forth; and I know they will.
Images used with permission.