Benjamin Carver is a freelance filmmaker/photographer based in Washington DC. His work has been featured in numerous print and online publications. His clients include The World Bank, Yale University, Tulane University, The University of Afghanistan, The Studio Theatre, Macy’s, and many more.
How did your interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?
My interest began out of a desire to make films, which has been my passion since I was young. Although the images were still, picking up a camera gave me my first access to that world.
My style has many influences. I was once quiet and nervous in social situations, and the camera helped me access and integrate into the wider world. As I developed skill, a spiritual component developed with it that has influence my shooting perspective.
My style has also developed by shooting as much as I can. The first several years I shot landscapes and street scenes mostly, but eventually pursued opportunities to be compensated for my skills. I’ve shot just about everything that a photographer can be hired to do, and that experience has cumulatively brought me to where I am now. You can call it a cocoon or cross-training, but broad experiences prepare you to be something uniquely your own.
How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?
One of my favorite things is to walk a new place, find a spot, and survey it until it reveals itself in a way that can’t be accessed without visual meditation. It’s always a thrill how the eye of perception will expand the longer you stand in one place, look, and wait. Over time this process has allowed me to recognize details, expand awareness, and also see the world compositionally. It’s an exciting feeling because you tap into a world of perceptions that are hidden to people, mostly because they move too fast to notice. Some would call this zen.
I often recommend to new photographers that they tap into this compositional awareness as they walk the routes they have taken a hundred times before, to see their city or surroundings in a way that make them new again.
How do you choose your subjects?
For street/nature photography, it’s a compositional or emotional process. I go with my gut. For my more experimental work, the subject has to fit the theme I’m working with.
Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?
For street photography, which is what I’ve featured on Southern Glossary, all my answers are cliché. However, my more experimental work on gay identity is influenced by Dave LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles, whom I adore.
Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of?
Not really. I’m a full-time filmmaker/photographer in Washington DC. While the art scene here is thriving, I haven’t found my place in it, considering my chosen mediums. I’m a bit of a black sheep in this creative environment, but I won’t get into that. However, I have collaborated with many fine artists here—mostly actors, dancers, performance artists, and painters.
Where do you go to draw inspiration?
Inspiration comes to me constantly. I don’t think I’ve ever had to seek it out. That being said, Tumblr is the crack cocaine equivalent of inspiration.
Are there any aspects of the Southern aesthetic that you embrace or ones you consciously avoid?
I grew up poor in rural South Louisiana, so there are a number of aspects I avoid, mostly related to ignorance and design, but with time and distance I’ve come to appreciate those qualities that maximize happiness among people. Five of the ten happiest cities in America are in south Louisiana, and there’s a reason for that.
Do you feel creatively satisfied?
I’m definitely creatively busy. As I type this, I’m at a desk at the World Bank, about to finish a documentary about climate change in Central Asia. One of the great things about being a creative freelancer is that my projects, be they photographic or film, run the gamut of experiences. That can be satisfying, but ultimately I think people need to constantly work toward projects that they are passionate about, regardless of the creative work they do to pay the bills. Constantly chasing the muse is a satisfying way to spend your time.
Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.
On April 30th I have a gallery show featuring my work from New Orleans at the White Room in Washington, D.C. I will also publish a book in conjunction with this show. I spent three months walking the streets of New Orleans in an attempt to create a visual map of the city. I did this mostly out of curiosity. I wanted to visually understand the city, ten years after Hurricane Katrina. It is a deeply personal project tied to my personal history with the city and the region. This collection represents the beginning of a project, and I will continue the work over time.
This collection of nearly 600 images presents the city from the perspective of a modern-day flâneur. My artistic approach was psycho-geographic, emphasizing playfulness and aimless drifting, moving through the city less as a tourist with a guidebook than a zen vagabond with a camera. You can see the entire collection at bencarverneworleans.tumblr.com.