Zachary McCauley

Location: Ruston, Louisiana  Website:  Instagram: @zacharymccauley

How did you first get involved in photography?

I first found my way into photography through filmmaking. I came to undergrad wanting to make movies but the program didn’t have the means at the time so I foolishly thought photography would be close enough. Eight years later, and here we are. I study films a lot. I look at the style of directors and directors of photography more than I do still photographers. I’ve let myself be influenced by the works of Akira Kurosawa, Paul Thomas Anderson, and the overall feel of their movies. I like to think that a lot of that comes through in my work.

How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?

Artists don’t work in a vacuum. I’ve learned over time that the gravity of place always informs an artist’s work. It may not always be a conscious thing. I never considered myself a Southern artist until recently. I’ve read that southerners inherited a certain sadness and sense of loss that comes with a culture losing a past war. 

For me, the constant search for identity and the clawing to hold onto those bits and pieces since the war ended is embedded in all of us like a withered seed. I think the South sets itself apart from the rest of the nation by choice and pride and the burden is put on us as southerners to define what that means on an individual basis. I respond to that every day and through my work as I attempt to really know who I am within my own family, my culture, my country, and as a human being

How do you choose your subjects?

It really depends on the situation, but usually it’s a mix of gut feeling and careful consideration. It’s the space between that I look for when making work.

Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?

My wife, and fellow photographer, Hannah Cooper McCauley is my biggest influence in all aspects. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work and study under Frank Hamrick, Doug Clark, and Sarah Cusimano Miles. They’ve all been supportive and challenging in their own ways over the years and been able to push me in completely different ways.

Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of? What opportunities are there for artists like yourself in your area?

I’ve been a member of the Society for Photographic Education, and the South Central region in particular, for the past three years and that’s been the biggest source of external support and opportunity I’ve ever experienced. In this part of Louisiana there is the North Central Louisiana Arts Council and the Bossier Arts Council which extends opportunities to regional artists constantly. My wife Hannah and I have been fortunate enough to be able to align ourselves with the Masur Museum of Art in Monroe and the chance to work with those guys and see the exhibitions coming through there has been amazing on so many levels. And of course down in New Orleans there is the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the New Orleans Photo Alliance, both of which are massive sources of inspiration and facilitation. 

Where do you go to draw inspiration?

My studio, Alabama, Mississippi, my movie collection, tumblr, Instagram, video games, the drivers seat of my car for hours on end, Aint-Bad Magazine. Just being alive. The list is just too big. There’s just no way.

Are there any aspects of the Southern aesthetic that you embrace or ones you consciously avoid?

I think there is a really fine line that can get crossed easily in Southern art. Due to preconceived notions of the South as a place of magic and romance and the heart’s desire to cater to magic and romance, sometimes work can get caught serving itself to those themes without really considering them. 

I try extremely hard to find the space between fiction and reality. I imagine that I’m trying to write poetry without using flowery language, just what’s known to me and what I see to be true and honest. So in some ways I’m falling victim to the same pitfall I described, but I think that’s part of what it means to be a Southern artist. It’s always hypocritical in that I think a lot of us want to tell the truth of a place and culture but we also buy a little bit into that poetry.

Do you feel creatively satisfied?

NEVER. I think people like us, the ones who are constantly making work and searching can never be satisfied. That’s what makes us do what we do and search like we do. I think the day I feel satisfied is the day I quit making art.

Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.

I’m still working and making photographs of my family with Sons and Daughters. I’ve also begun working and researching towards my graduate thesis where I’m making three-dimensional models from collections of two-dimensional photographs. The ability to personally reconstruct elements from the physical world and nature with my camera and computer is mind-blowing and I can’t wait to see what I can discover as I continue working and digging into the research.

I have been fortunate enough to be granted a solo exhibition of my work from Sometimes This Can Be Difficult which is on display up at the Meadows Gallery in the Gadsden State Community College library. Of a growing collection currently sitting at roughly 350 photographs, I’ve installed 195. The closing reception is Friday, October 30th. The exact time is still being worked out but as soon as that is finalized it’ll be up on my website and social media accounts!

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