Being young is something I hope to never let go of. There is a sense of invincibility that can't be taught or explained. You just have to live it. Sometimes a photograph can take you to a point in time, or evoke feelings beyond what your eyes are seeing. Alex Currie is a photographer and director currently living in Los Angeles, California, who knows how to tell a story with a single frame.
A few years ago Flickr did a feature of 20 artists under the age of 20 appropriately called 20under20. I was very active online at the time, and would visit Flickr often enough to keep up with their weekly themes and blog posts. I don't know how versed some of you are with famous or talented photographers, but I know very little. I did happen to recognized two of the judges. Rosie Hardy, who as a teenager shot a Maroon 5 album cover after the band found her photo online and booked her. And Ivan Shaw, the Director of Photography for Vogue Magazine. When I was looking at the selected artists I was excited when I saw a local photographer from Buffalo, N.Y.
Right away I could see why Currie had been chosen. All of his photos made you stop and stare. Not in the same way breathtaking landscapes do though, in more of a "wow that is powerfully simple" kind of way. It was actually the uncluttered nature of the photos, mixed with just the right element, that made them all work so well.
After signing on as an Fstoppers writer I realized I had to try some things. Taking and posting a photo is easy. Adding a title or a little description, still pretty simple. Even sharing info about how a picture was taken, or edited, is well within my comfort zone. But how about an article based off an interview with a photographer I admired but had never met? Now we have a good challenge.
I asked Currie who or what he could call his influence to get into photography. He cited spending the first half of his teens making stupid films with his friends after school. This would involve somewhat absurd narratives put together by a bunch of friends, and uploaded to YouTube of course. While this can be fun and even rewarding, Currie was quickly discovering there wasn't enough time in the day to film all the different ideas he was having. "I started trying to fit larger narratives into individual pictures and began relentlessly photographing everything around me."
I asked Currie if there were any decisions that helped him get where he is today. Posting photography work online at an early age stuck out as a factor. Because his work stood out, some started quickly gaining exposure. He mentioned it being a little weird to look back at some angsty self portraits done when he was 17. "A picture I took that I would never show to anyone today, has 100,000 views on Flickr. I think part of being young is that I’m still learning and changing exactly what it is I want to say and so as time passes my old photos become like archived versions of myself."
The fact that Mr. Currie is the director and star of a number of his photos really does add to this archive idea. His portfolio becomes a bit of a timeline telling the tale and adventures of Alex Currie. Luckily he is undoubtedly photogenic, while still intriguing and unique looking.
Currie doesn't find the gear matters as much as the vision, logistics, and execution of the shot. He shoots on film, digital, mirrorless, basically whatever helps achieve the individual look he's going for. Currie finds that while "artistic vision trumps technical prowess," in photography the technical side is so vital that you almost cannot have one without the other.
Most of the shots Currie creates involve an assistant usually pulled from the always willing pools of friends and family. Based on the remote looking locations and careful planning involved with such shoots I doubt these were small donations of time either. Currie was sure to give a shout out to anyone who has ever reluctantly pressed the shutter button while he was literally running around half naked on a mountain or something
Part of what helped establish Currie's skills and consistent aesthetic was a commitment to 365 projects. A 365 project is simple a promise, to yourself and often to a group of peers you know in person or online, that you will take and post one photo every day for a year. I've tried this a few times. No wait, I've thought about trying this a few times. Even that was exhausting.
Since Currie has actually completed a full 365 he had some insight for me on what it's like. It can be intense apparently. To the point where at times you will struggle knowing you have to take a photo, but instead wanting to tear the camera to shreds! This mentally exhausting yet inspiring exercise is a great way to grow as a photographer. Currie pointed out "...for those who can make it all 365 days, it promises artistic refinement and a purification of your stylistic eye." There can't be days where you just phone it in. Challenge yourself to shoot something new, or photograph something you may not normally even think to shoot.
Finding success at an early age is something we all root for. You don't see it as much outside the sports and entertainment industries. In putting this story together, I found and article on the USC (the college Currie attended in 2016) site mentioning that recently HBO liked some of Currie's photography enough to reach out to him and purchase some rights from an Icelandic wedding shoot.
Youth is a clear overarching topic in Currie's work. While it may be because he's still young, and doesn't know what it is like to not be young, I think there is something special about the art he creates. There are plenty of young people with cameras, and not many can evoke the stories these photos can. "Youth is traditionally very culturally trendy, and popular. I’m sure that’s contributed to how accessible my images are on a broader scale."
Since joining the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2016, Currie has taken some time to experiment topically and stylistically in both stills and film. He will be releasing a whole new series of images he has been working on this summer. During his time off, Currie has been taking on more and more commercial projects. By his design, much of this has revolved around music.
Do you think youth is a strong, and evident theme in these photos? Does Currie do a good job telling stories in his work? I know I'm a fan, but very interested to hear your thoughts.
Images used with permission of Alex Currie.