Conánn Fitz­patrick Alvarez-Casa­do

Why is your web­site full of pho­tographs?

I got my first cam­era before I was old enough to real­ly take advan­tage of it. The Prac­ti­ca Nova just sat on a shelf gath­er­ing dust. Lat­er in my teens and with some great encour­age­ment from school teach­ers I start­ed to pick up the gen­er­al con­cepts of expo­sure and fram­ing. As a kid who loved to draw, pho­tog­ra­phy was a way of record­ing inter­est­ing things around me so that I could uti­lize them as ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al lat­er. This activ­i­ty was heav­i­ly rein­forced when I start­ed work­ing in ani­ma­tion, where pho­to­graph­ic ref­er­ence and research became a pow­er­ful tool in learn­ing a new art form.

As my work began to bring me to new parts of the world my cam­era enabled me to explore and record the world around me. As I now go through the box­es and box­es of pho­tographs of inter­est­ing knick­knacks, tex­tures, reflec­tions, mate­ri­als and occa­sion­al peo­ple and places, the images seem strange and out of place. They are from anoth­er time, which will nev­er return. Com­mer­cial artists no longer require vast libraries of visu­al ref­er­ence gath­ered over years, the devel­op­ment of which was cen­tral to their abil­i­ty to cre­ate orig­i­nal work in a time­ly and accu­rate fash­ion. The inter­net is unique­ly bet­ter, faster and cheap­er for find­ing what you need when you need it.

This change in my artis­tic rela­tion­ship with research and ref­er­ence gath­er­ing changed my rela­tion­ship with pho­tog­ra­phy and for a few years I stopped car­ry­ing a cam­era with me every­day. I would still stop and see things but the need to take the pho­to­graph was gone for any rea­son oth­er than mem­o­ry. The cam­era on my phone being most­ly good enough to give a sense of time and place.

As life devel­oped and I moved from ani­ma­tion to com­mer­cial art & design and then into acad­e­mia I did­n’t notice that I had almost com­plete­ly stopped draw­ing and paint­ing oth­er than for demon­stra­tion pur­pos­es. My desk changed from angled to flat; blank pages to print­ed pages and oppor­tu­ni­ties for doo­dles to advance to fin­ished pieces dimin­ished. My sketch­books became note­books as doo­dles mor­phed into lists and my head out the win­dow think­ing was replaced with head down think­ing.

The design­ers desire to solve prob­lems is incred­i­bly well fed in a uni­ver­si­ty envi­ron­ment which by its nature is an engine of prob­lem cre­ation. Sit­ting with stu­dents, work­ing through their cre­ations and help­ing them to avoid bold­ly going where so many have bold­ly go before them, is huge­ly reward­ing yet also exhaust­ing. Days drift by in meet­ings and the lists, notes and projects they gen­er­ate, which more often than not lead to more meet­ings, lists, notes and projects, while ideas, like mag­ic but­ter­flies sparkle and burst into flames unused and for­got­ten, leave small holes in my sense of self.

Pho­tog­ra­phy is a remark­able artis­tic tool. Pho­tog­ra­phy is naked in its deliv­ery of sub­ject in ways draw­ing or paint­ing are not. Unlike draw­ing or paint­ing, where some mas­tery alone can impress and cre­ate sat­is­fac­tion, a pho­to­graph of a man sting on a bench is just that. Draw­ing and paint­ing have a big how and a small why where­as pho­tog­ra­phy has a small how and a very big why and that why can make you crazy.

Why can make me crazy like a fool. Where there is no why, there are great rea­sons to buy new gear, new cam­eras, lens­es, stuff. The absence of why fuels obses­sion and research of stuff that revolves around how, but when why shows up it fuels obses­sion in research of why lead­ing to greater under­stand­ing of why, which in turn some­how gives me a bet­ter under­stand­ing of self. This why is the why that trav­eled with me to new places and helped me under­stand where I have been and is the why I take pho­tographs today, to help me under­stand where and why I will going next. Though I cur­rent­ly have no idea how we will get there.