Carson Sanders

The Southern Glossary Instagram account is curated by a new artist or photographer each week. Every curator will put their own spin on the account, showing off work, their process, and their surroundings. Here's a Q&A with last week's curator, photographer and co-founder of Aint-Bad magazine, Carson Sanders.

Location: Savannah, GA

Website: carsonsanders.com & aintbadmagazine.com  

Instagram: @carsonsanders

You co-founded Aint-Bad magazine, and one of your goals is "to stimulate the collection of and appreciation for photography by way of an accessible and affordable publication." What's your take on the relationship between digital consumption of images, curated printed media, and the actual collection of photographs or prints?

I feel that a true collector and aficionado of photography has respect for photography in all formats. From a digital portfolio to a printed magazine/monograph to an editioned artist print. Each format plays a crucial role in the success of the medium. The problem these days is that there are so many talented artists that are not receiving the recognition they deserve. Aint-Bad strives to give these photographers a platform, both physically and digitally, to showcase their talents. The gaps come from people having an appreciation for contemporary photography but not being able to afford to support it. I wish I could buy prints from so many photographers! But right now I have to pick and choose whenever I have a little extra cash. People tend to forget that it;s not cheap to produce books, magazines, and prints. Photographers need financial support to keep making work.

Last fall you published an issue on the theme "The American South." What did you discover in putting that issue together? What does Southern photography have to offer the world at large?

The American South was an amazing issue to build and publish. It is my favorite issue of Aint-Bad to date. We knew there was talent in the south, and we wanted to show the world. Taylor Curry, co-founder, and myself are firm believers that you don’t have to move to New York or Calilfornia to be a successful photographer. I think we allowed people to be re-introduced to a contemporary American South. Things may still happen a little slower down here, but the work is better than anywhere else if you ask me.

What is your definition of "emerging" for a photographer? How do you feel photographers should be measuring their success in the current climate, especially younger ones?

Emerging photographers is a touchy word these days. Some artists are offended by that label. I would argue that I always want to be considered emerging in that I am constantly creating new work and evolving and emerging as an artist. Aint-Bad has strived to feature the work of “emerging” artists since it’s creation. But we have featured everyone from 18 year-olds who just started college, to 65 year-olds who went to school before digital cameras existed. I feel that an emerging artist is someone who is two to five years out of their BFA or MFA program and has received initial success in the photography world. Once you have had a solo show at a major museum or establishment and or have had a few monographs printed at the expense of a publisher, you probably aren’t emerging anymore.

When did your interest in photography begin?

My interest in photography began when I was about 13-14 years old. I discovered Lomography and bought a few plastic cameras. Fell in love with the medium and color film and its been a great ride ever since. I have arrived at my current style through completing the photography program at the Savannah College of Art and Design and being constantly submerged in contemporary photography through the web, zines, and monographs.

How do you feel about the relationship between an artist and their surroundings?

I personally feel that the location of an artist plays a crucial role in the work that they create. Being a documentary photographer, my city is my subject. I would not be able to make the work that I’ve created over the last few years if I was not so in love with the city of Savannah.

How do you feel about your subjects?

My subjects vary from complete strangers to friends that I have been building relationships with for years. I find that a camera is a great way to break the ice when meeting a stranger or approaching someone on the street. Most people enjoy having their portrait made even if they don’t want to admit it. When shooting in the streets of Savannah I am always trying to push myself to walk up to men and women I have never met and ask if I may take their picture. Shooting with a polaroid helps this process because I can instantly make a picture for them to keep, and then one for myself.

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

I have had the honor of working and studying with some amazing photographers. I could make a list that goes on forever but the top few that come to mind are Rebecca Nolan, Emiliano Granado, James Jackman, Taylor Curry, Whitten Sabbatini, and Jeff Rich.

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?

There was no group like that in Savannah, so I started one with a few friends in 2011. Today we call it Aint-Bad magazine, and it has grown into a full publishing company with a strong web presence. In Savannah there aren’t too many opportunities for fine art photographers. The subject matter is here, but the money isn’t.

Where do you go to draw inspiration?

I get inspiration every day from various websites and seeing what’s coming up on Aint-Bad. I also enjoy walking through Savannah and seeing characters of all types and interacting with people on the street. Savannah has some of the most beautiful light I have ever seen and that alone inspires me to get out and shoot.

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

My goal is to always document southern America in a positive light. I do not seek out stereotypes, but I won’t put my camera down if I see one. I shoot regardless and always make sure to respect the subjects I am photographing.

Are you creatively satisfied?

That’s a tough question. The answer is yes and no at the same time. I feel that satisfaction comes in waves. Working on Aint-Bad is so rewarding but it often keeps me from making my own work which leaves me feeling frustrated. But then once I take the time to get out and shoot, I feel better. I have managed to find a balance of personal work and work for AB. I can’t really complain.

Tell me about your latest project or exhibition.

Well I recently wrapped up a body of work that I decided to call Somewhere Southern. It has received some good feedback and I hope to have an exhibition with the work later this summer. I am also about to start a project that will attempt to capture how wet and humid Savannah summers can be.

Are you a working artist or photographer interested in volunteering to curate our Instagram account? Read all the details here. Follow us at instagram.com/southernglossary.