Sandy Carson – Interview
Sandy Carson is a name that I firstly became aware of as a professional Bmx rider then later for his work as a photographer, When I was studying photography, his work regularly appeared in my research folders and I have seen his output change as he has continually produced images that have demonstrated his awareness of photography outside the field of Bmx….
When Sandy contacted us to share his work, it only seemed logical to shoot him a few questions and find out how his approach to photography has changed over the years.
Firstly, could you please introduce yourself, and how you first gained an interest in photography?
My name is Sandy Carson, a photographer based in Austin, Texas. I spent my first 20 years growing up in Scotland and the past 19 has been in the USA, so nearly half my life over the pond now.
I guess my first interest in photography came as a teenager, documenting my friends riding our BMX bikes, skateboarding and making a racket in punk bands.
I first became aware of you as a BMX rider, then soon discovered your photography, BMX must have provided you with a great deal of photographic opportunity, Do you feel you would still be where you are now if it wasn’t for BMX?
Probably not. I do owe a lot to bike riding in general, since it helped me migrate to another continent and pursue it, which in return, really opened my eyes. The years I was sponsored for riding was definitely a turning point in photographic opportunity, as I was constantly travelling the world juggling double duty as a pro bike rider and Bmx editorial photographer. This is where I found my eyes for photographs, you could say.
You recently updated your website and BMX seems to now have taken a back seat amongst your photographic portfolio. Are you still involved in BMX as a rider and photographer?
Yeah, I’m still involved with it a fair bit these days. I still ride pretty ride frequently and shoot when it feels right. I just got tired and burnt out with the industry for a while, after being involved with so long and had to take time out. Getting into other editorial and projects keeps photography fresh and challenging. And that’s where all most of my portfolio is these days. Change is good. I also recently started riding for Fairdale Bikes who make touring bikes owned by Odyssey (a BMX company), so now I’m also shooting a different genre of bike riding, travelling, documenting. Bikes are bikes, regardless the size of the wheel.
Do you feel in anyways that BMX pigeon holed the way you were perceived as a photographer?
I think it did somewhat when I was branching out in other editorial, because my portfolio consisted mainly of bike riding and road trip content. It’s inevitable that you are going to be labeled for what you put out there the most. Just like the ‘Wedding Photographer Guy‘ or the ‘Live music guy’.
I have always followed and been aware of your alternate photographic ventures, and you have prolifically produced a variety of projects. Where do you find your photographic inspiration, and how do you approach the creation of new work
Thanks. I like change, and it’s in my nature as a photographer to create new projects and bodies of work for my own sanity and moving forward. New projects really have to come to me though. Some of my ongoing projects are subconsciously created through years of photographing a similar narrative, and some are more of a documentary or self portrait.
I read a lot of blogs and photo books for inspiration, but mainly travel is really where I find my eyes again. I don’t see the same things when I’m at home so much anymore.
I noticed on your blog that you have been shooting large format, a process that as most people will be aware is both expensive and time consuming, what percentage of your work is now shot large, and how have you found the transition to the process?
I’d say a decent portion of my personal work is shot on large format with the rest on digital, medium format and 35mm. The summer months I don’t shoot large much in Texas because it get hot and sweaty outdoors under that hood! The transition to large was the best upgrade for larger printing and the clarity is unbeatable. I like to slow photography down whenever I can and savor great moments on large pieces of film. Everything is all rushed these days, disposable and and forgotten about all too quick.
Is film still an important aspect of your photography?
Very much so. I just prefer it and I’m still in love with the physicality and aesthetics of film. I think my best work is shot on film and it’s how I learned and most comfortable with. There’s nothing like anticipation to pick up and relive photos at the lab. I’m not hating on digital, it’s great too, I just prefer physical media as opposed to an invisible file floating on a hard drive.
Obviously Austin Texas has become a Mecca for Music and BMX, and as ultimately served you well as a photographer. You have recorded your experiences as an American Implant in the series ‘I’m new Here’. What was it that drew you to America, and how has it affected your process as a photographer?
I was drawn to this country from studying the whole culture of BMX, Skateboarding and Punk Rock, from magazines, videos and records when I was a teen. It looked like paradise. A country where you could be and be accepted for doing something aside from football, instead of having your head kicked in for being different. I was also drawn to the vastness of the landscapes, the geographical and cultural diversity it had to offer. It was, and still is a visual buffet for photography that has no doubt affected my process, especially from growing up somewhere else and having the eyes of an outsider.
One of the projects that recently caught my attention was the project ‘Just Do It’, Could you please tell us a little more about the TNR project and how you eventually came to get involved both physically and photographically?
This project deals with stabilizing population control in feral, free roaming cats, that have been abandoned or lost and living homeless. TNR (Trap Neuter Return) is the humane method of trapping, speying, neutering and vaccinating feral cats then returning them to live out their life. I got into it and became a volunteer after noticing a ton of cats that were reproducing like wildfire at a local crack house. When I took them to the Humane Society to be fixed and realized the extent of the epidemic and the people involved, I knew I had a project in my hands that I could not only volunteer, but also help photographically. I then began shooting the whole process, from the trapping, sterilization, portraits of the animal advocates and sometimes adoptions.
Whilst working on personal projects, you have also continued to work consistently as a commercial photographer, How have you found the balance of working commercially with personal?
It’s a balancing act, I can say that. Photography is my hobby, my passion and also my profession, which can be a blessing or a curse at times. You never really stop working, as you are either out shooting editorial / commercial work, booking shoots, out shooting more for personal projects and editing in between that. The commercial gigs are my bread and butter and the personal ones are the most rewarding. You can’t have one without juggling the other, if you want to be a freelancer. I tend to look at it all as one big picture and I feel really grateful to be doing it at this day and age.
I have witnessed your work consistently appearing throughout the Internet for many years now,
How has the Internet effected your approach to image making and your photographic output?
It has helped it tenfold as a free resource to research new work and inspiration for myself, as well as getting your work out there and receiving critical feedback, good or bad. It’s also a free advert for your work if you want it, and you have control of how much or how little you want to put yourself out there.
I have also noticed your work featured in magazines from publishers such as Hamburger eyes and The Albion, Is printed matter something that you are excited by, and where do you see the future of publishing?
For sure, I’m more of a print guy than a web guy when it comes to publishing. I get way more excited to see my work in print than in web, especially if it’s been shot in film. Seems like a waste of time to shoot film, develop, scan and publish on the web to have someone click and instantly forget it. I’d rather read a magazine or a book than stare at computer screen as I do that enough already with photo editing, besides, laptops will never smell like a book.! A lot of print mags have felt the wrath of online publishing and it’s driven the prices up, or killed them off. Just like vinyl records, there will still be a demand.
If it wasn’t for the internet right now, where would be the best place for us to view your work?
In print or art shows, like it was before the internet.
Have you got any new projects or exhibitions coming up?
I’m itching for a new project buy swamped right now with finishing my band’s new record (IGLOMAT) and working on an all Black and White street photography book that should be out at the end of the year. I have a show show coming up at the University Of Texas Visual Arts Center in November with Emma Whelan, Showing work from ‘I’m new here’ with found slides and films.
I think that’s about all for now… Have you got any last words or advice for aspiring photographers?
Go out there and get after it, stay inspired and stick to what you really believe in. If you do it for long enough, it will pay off.
To see more from Sandy go to – Sandycarson.com
Make sure to also check out Fairdale Bikes, Sandy’s band ‘Iglomat’ and his upcoming show