Clary Estes

Clary Estes is a photojournalist from Kentucky, USA. Her work does not merely document a story straight on; rather, it analyses and re-analyses the story over the course of months and years to show the dynamic and complex nature of the stories we live. Clary graduated with a Masters Degree in New Media Photojournalism from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in 2013 she moved to Japan as an Ishibashi Zaidan Photography Research Fellow with Nagoya University for two years. She is now living and working in rural Moldova with the Peace Corps. As a storyteller, Estes’ interests lie in long-term documentary projects focused on underserved, obscure communities. Her work My Diaspora is an attempt to understand her life split in two, the life she lives now and the memories that still feel so real to her.

How did you get into photography and how would you describe your work?

My interest in photography began when I was young, but didn't really take form until I went to college. I remember the first time I picked up a camera was around the age of 12 when my family and I were at a horse race and my mother gave me a camera to stave off boredom. Something clicked that day and I always had the idea of becoming a photographer in the back of my mind. Once I got to college I picked up photography again to cope with the many physics classes I was taking and used it as a creative outlet to address the stress of school. Long story short, I made the slow switch from physics to photography. As I work now I definitely have noticed a few recurring themes. I tend to work with people who are never asked their story, but have an incredibly interesting story to tell. This has me going to VERY rural places all over the world. I also end up working with many elderly people and as a result I have photographed death quite a bit. I even had a friend jokingly say that I was "quite the death photographer" recently and I can't say he is wrong. This can be extremely hard at times. Watching friends die is never easy.

You mention that your work My Diaspora has been a coping mechanism for your first time living abroad. Where were you moving to and what were the difficulties that you were facing?

My Diaspora came about at the beginning and end of my time in Japan. I lived in Japan for 2-years on a fellowship that allowed me to independently work on projects. I started working on My Diaspora because I noticed that my mind always seems to be stuck half-way in another country. I would have moments where the memory of my life and experiences before coming to Japan were just as strong as the new experiences I was having. This is a phenomenon that has continued throughout my life. I typically move a great deal from place to place; every two years I seem to be somewhere new, thus, I am constantly balancing understanding what I had just gone through with new experiences coming in. It can be very discombobulating at times.

There can be something playful but also uncanny about your technique in the images. Can you talk us through how and why you decided on the layering and what it signifies?

The layering of images is my attempt to convey memories that feel very alive within my body. I would pose for a photo in Japan and then take images that I had made while still at home in Kentucky and overlay them onto my body. This is at least how I started the project. The photos in Japan were always in black and white, while the images from Kentucky were always in color. I was trying to show the voracity of my memories by damping down any image made in Japan - like the memory was more real than the life I was living. However, once I picked the project back up at the end of my stay in Japan I started putting overlaid Japan images and myself in the color images I had made in Kentucky, effectively flipping the narrative. For consistency I kept images from Japan in black and white. Now the memories and experiences in Japan felt more real than those in Kentucky. I started feeling more at home in Japan than in my home town.

You're often on the road and traveling — what does photography provide you with when you're far away from familiarity?

I travel because I am a photographer so the reason for living in all these different places is to work on a new project. I use photography to explore the places I am in and to understand them better. Photography is my excuse to constantly be a student.

I imagine the work looks very different in print than on screen due to its 3D feel. Have you exhibited the work, or are you planning on showing it soon?

I have exhibited this project a bit here and there. I typically work in documentary photography and this project is obviously a bit more fine art so I am working with a different audience for it. This is one of the reasons I have only shown it a bit here and there, navigating the two worlds can be a bit overwhelming.

Is there a particular image that is a favourite? Can you talk us through why?

I like the lead image where I am curled up in a ball on the bed with my hand fading out of the overlaid image of my head. It is not the most popular image, but I like it. It is a bit confusing and unclear and maybe even a little uncomfortable, all things that I enjoy as a photographer.

What do you hope viewers take from the work?

I am not sure really. This project was so personal that I have a hard time seeing it objectively. I even have the feeling that the project is not really that good at times. I suppose I hope to try and show a vulnerable side of my self to viewers and maybe they will see a bit of themselves in the project as well.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a project called Those Who Remain about former deportees from Moldova. It is a huge project and has been very tumultuous lately but it is extremely important and I feel very strongly that it needs to be told. For my info, you can go here.
Clary Estes on Facebook

Danny Day

Danny Day is a fine art photographer and recent photography graduate from the Cleveland College of Art and Design. Through his background in healthcare and through his own experiences, he uses photography to explore and express the complexity and difficulties of mental illness. In his project You & I he revisits his childhood school in an investigation into memory.

Can you remember the first moment that attracted you to photography?

I wouldn't personally say I was 'attracted' to photography, rather, I fell into by accident. In my early 20's I experienced a lot of chest pain, thankfully nothing serious, but of course to me it was, and I've only just recently concluded that it was actually due to anxiety. During that time, I found that taking long walks would help, and on one particular occasion, I took my parents digital camera with me, and my journey with photography began from there. I discovered that it kept my mind occupied, and the outside world transformed from something that just 'existed', to something that I wanted to document, observe and examine. Gradually, my chest pains alleviated, and so too did my anxiety.

How did the fascination with re-visiting your junior school come about?

The truth is, I've held a fascination with my memories from junior school for a long time, even since my late teens. I would say, less of a fascination, more of a fixation. I used to tell myself such a fixation was unhealthy, because how can you move forward in life, when you're stuck in the past? None of those memories would ever let me go, and in a sense I became somewhat obsessed by them. They weren't hurtful or upsetting memories, but rather a collection of moments in time when my childish mind posed questions that, interestingly enough, a child cannot even understand themselves. Those memories, and those questions, have stuck with me throughout my whole life, and it's only now, after being able to revisit the school, have I finally gotten close to being able to provide myself, and my inner child if you will, something of an answer.

Danny Day

Danny Day

You mention that your background in health care (as an Emergency Medical Dispatcher) and your own experiences with depression, addiction and anxiety have led you to create visual works exploring mental illness. What is it that photography provides for you that other mediums or forms of expression can’t?

Photography, I've discovered, is the only medium that provides me with the opportunity to both question and learn about myself. In fact, it sometimes tortures me. Its most powerful images remain burnt into my visual memory, almost becoming a scar that lingers. I have no control over this, instead, I'm left with more questions, than answers. Its stillness and silence demands study, provoking my imagination into filling in the gaps. What can I hear? What can I smell? What do I feel, and furthermore, why? Why am I even looking at this picture? What am I searching for? Why am I searching? What do I hope to discover and learn about myself? The questions never end, and that's why I love photography, or even at times, hate photography for this continuing questioning of self, rather than being able to find comfort.

Danny Day

Danny Day

What did it feel like to be back in that space? How accurate did your memories feel once back in the school?

To be back in that space was somewhat overwhelming. For all those years I'd held onto all of these memories, and suddenly I was left with a stark realisation, quite simply, that I have grown up. My memories were intact, but my experience of some of those memories, were the experiences of a child, and there I was now, an adult. Suddenly, those hallways didn't seem as big and daunting as I remembered, that tree didn't seem as quite as powerful and overbearing as I recalled, those things were still there, but my experience of them, 20 years later, was different. Walking around the school was strange, I felt like a giant, and rather than being back in those memories again, I felt myself watching myself as a child, as if watching the ghosts of my past as they played.

What is the importance of putting yourself in the frame within this project?

Placing myself within the frame became integral to this project. I felt the use of the hand worked well here. My hand, clearly that of an adult, reaching out to touch these spaces and objects once more, in an attempt to reconnect, rediscover, and learn. Accept 20 years later, the lessons are no longer that of Maths or Science, but of the 'self'. One of my favourite images from this series is the one in the bathroom. Everything clearly designed for children, the small urinals, the mirror placed at the height of a child, reflecting my feet. As a child, I always used to play with my hands and feet, being remembered of that, and seeing my own adult feet in this Junior School was a unique feeling. But again, important for the project, to visually represent this idea of 'growth' and 'growing up' - essentially, trying to suggest that ironically, in order to 'grow up' or 'accept' the idea of 'growing up' - I have to return to junior school.

Danny Day

Danny Day

Danny Day

Danny Day

How has You & I changed the way that you think about memory, if at all?

This project has provided me with visual proof, that memories change over time. The memories we have as a child, are just memories, and can only be examined and studied as such. Revisiting a place may provide answers, but those memories can never be re-experienced in the same way. In context of my project here, the issue was simply physical - I wasn't a boy anymore, I was an adult. I'll never be able to re-experience those huge hallways or those towering windows again.

What are you working on now?

I always aim for my work to be very personal and as emotive as possible. My You and I project concentrated on previous experiences of the world. I'm now looking at my current experiences of the present rather than the past. I'm discovering I tend to fly between extremes, I either hate the world, or I love the world! My research is heavily visual, and can be seen through my Instagram account. Recently, my interest has been examining anger, frustration and anxiety. I'm very interested in the combination of image and text, in the context of anger and frustration. I'm experimenting with free writing, writing the first thing that comes to mind when I look at a particular image. Again, serving as a way to question where such anger, frustration, and anxiety comes from, ultimately serving as a form of visual and written therapy.
@danny_day_photography on Instagram.
Danny Day Photography on Facebook.