20-year-old fine art photographer PtoIemy a.k.a. Morey Spellman from California sets out this summer to interview conceptual artists he met on Flickr. His upcoming book "The Fine Art of Photography" will feature their work and share their stories alongside the diary of his own adventure touring through the US and Canada to interview and collaborate with other photographers.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a 20 year old fine art photographer from California and a student at UC Santa Barbara. I currently divide my time between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, pursuing a degree in art history and professional writing.
How long have you been taking photos?
I started taking pictures about two years ago. When I was younger, I was introduced to photography through my grandfather who is an accomplished amateur photographer. When I got my first DSLR in 2012, photography really became appealing. I thought it would be fun to have one of my close friends model for me. Since the pictures from that first shoot went pretty well, I started taking pictures of local bands and doing small portrait sessions. Shortly thereafter I discovered conceptual and fine art photography through Flickr and my passion took off.
What inspires you to create your photos and what types of photos do you specialize in?
I specialize in fine art “conceptual” photography, as it allows me to push myself mentally, emotionally and physically.
A lot of my photographs are inspired by music and the written word. Recently, I’ve been inspired by the themes found in classical painting and architecture. Often the location will drive other aspects of that particular image forward. Of course I also take inspiration from other people’s photographs; it’s just that the core meaning or idea behind most of my images is inspired by other art forms.
What kind of equipment do you use?
I currently use a Canon 7D with a 50mm 1.4 lens. I’m hoping to upgrade to a full frame camera at some point later this year.
Do you have a favorite photo of yours?
I really enjoy what photos such as “Stone and Echo” and “Fetus” represent in terms of my stylistic approach. I aspire to maintain complete naturalism, while still allowing images to have surrealistic tendencies. I want the viewer to question what they are looking at in terms of realism. I try to use as little Photoshop as possible, and instead try to push the limitations of what a camera can capture, as opposed to what the human eye can naturally see.
What’s the craziest/most interesting experience you’ve had because of photography?
So far, the craziest was when I hiked alone through the forests of Italy. I somehow managed to stumble upon an underground cave the size of a large church. That experience left me quite awestruck and a bit shaken up. In terms of most interesting, I spent a week or so in the Austrian Alps last summer along with fifteen other Flickr photographers. As I was the only US citizen, it really made for a surreal experience. I’m extremely grateful that I was able to have attended something so unique.
What impact do you want to have with your photography?
I’d like my photography to act as a catalyst for others to pursue what makes them happy. I’ve always held the belief that you should spend your time wisely and make something positive. I also think it’s important to strive towards a goal. Even if you don’t succeed the first time, failure can help you to grow and reflect on your life in greater detail.
What would be the ideal job for you? What context would you like to work in?
My goal is to become a full time photographer. To sell prints, host workshops, and generally do creative commercial work for a living.
How did you get started using Flickr and how has your experience on Flickr changed your photography?
My friend Eliana introduced me to Flickr in 2012, when I was first starting to acquaint myself with fine art photography. I only had a vague idea what the site was used for until that point and I certainly didn’t know anything about the people or larger community.
Without Flickr I probably wouldn’t even have understood that photography can truly be used to tell a story; that I can have something that I can point to and say “this is my art”. Flickr helped show me that I can express myself in a way that I had never even considered before.
Do you have close friends you met from Flickr? What kinds of adventures have you had with them?
I’ve met a lot of wonderful friends through Flickr. They’re practically like my second family. I really find it worthwhile each time I have the opportunity to meetup with someone. It’s amazing that Flickr has enabled such inspiring people to come together for the sake of a shared common interest. In terms of adventures, visiting an abandoned hospital, climbing up mist covered forests at dawn, and standing below several 500 foot waterfalls are just some of them.
What was your inspiration for writing a book about fine art photographers?
I wanted to document the emergence of fine art photography in the digital age. With technological improvements in camera and post processing only becoming prominent in the last five or six years, I believed that a book showcasing modern fine art photographers in this way hadn’t been done before. I also enjoy art history and I felt like writing a book which highlighted fine art photographers would be enjoyable from a historical standpoint.
Is there a reason you want to do it now? Is this a particularly interesting time for fine art and conceptual photography?
In my daily life, once I get an idea, I usually start something sooner rather than later. I apply the same idea to my photography. As it is, I’ve been planning the book since this time last year. It’s only been in the last five months or so that I actually have had the resources to start making my vision a reality.
Can you tell us more about your journey this summer?
Over the summer of 2014, I will be touring the US and part of Canada in order to interview, collaborate and learn from photographers I’m hoping to include in my book. I wanted to make sure I interviewed as many people in person as possible, so that I really get a sense of who they are and what they represent, so that means travel! Part of the book will be my own work taken during the trip, along with tales from the road. My trip is almost completely self-funded, as I worked during the school year to save up.
Who are you expecting to meet with? What’s the nature of the journey? How long will it take?
I’m expecting to meet up with around one hundred photographers. During the first leg of my journey, I’ll be traveling east by plane, and taking buses, trains, and hitching rides to visit photographers on the east coast and the Midwest. The second leg will be a west coast road trip. I’m driving from California up through Canada and back down to Arizona and Utah. My trip will take approximately 4 months.
How can we keep track of your trip and follow along?
I’m planning to include a brief description of my current whereabouts with each image. The photographs will show some of the people and places I’ll be visiting along my journey. I’ll also be taking some candid snapshots to highlight my adventures which will be uploaded exclusively to Facebook and Tumblr.
Why do you think so many of the photographers you are profiling used Flickr or got their start here?
I think it’s because Flickr allows these photographers social reach in an organic and user friendly way. Flickr caters to people who are generally more interested in the creative and artistic avenues of photography, as opposed to a community that is overwhelmingly commercial or business oriented. As digital fine art and conceptual photography grew, Flickr became the best outlet for these artists to showcase their work, and receive recognition from a community with an appreciation for creativity and innovation.
Which Flickr members have influenced you the most? Who would your recommend we follow and why?
The work of Alex Stoddard was the reason I started taking photographs with an intended message. That said, I always enjoy discovering new artists on Flickr who show desire and potential. It’s always interesting following a new journey and how the artist’s experiences emerge through photos. I would encourage everyone to take a little time and explore Flickr to find photographers whose journey you find appealing.
Anything else you want to share with us?
I’d love to get in touch with as many photographers as I can while I’m traveling. If you’d like to shoot, hang out or possibly be interviewed, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Morey, thank you for sharing your story.