Calvin Stark is a photographer who grew up in various small towns in the Midwest. I first met him at a DIY house show my junior year of college in Marquette, Michigan; this was during a time when most of my peers primarily communicated via flip phones and Calvin was known for making music, not photographs.
I think I laughed the first time I saw Calvin holding his first DSLR camera sometime in 2012, but years later I always find myself coming to him for advice on how to shoot. His work has grown immensely throughout the years, and being able to watch his work change with his surroundings and critical self-awareness has been a gratifying experience.
His latest project is titled “Tattarax” and is based on family photographs taken in Manhattan, Kansas during the month of July 2016.
When did you start taking photographs and what inspired you to start?
I’m not in any family photos for a good chunk of the mid to late 90’s because I was taking almost all of them, but I really got into it when I impulse-bought a camera a few years ago. I think I was mostly influenced to take it up because of my friends that were doing it.
What do you primarily shoot with?
A used Canon 5D. I haven’t shot film in a while.
What is the basis of Tattarax?
I wanted to do a project that had a narrative quality and a strong personal connection to me. I spent a month taking pictures in the town where I was born in Kansas, staying with my grandparents, hanging out with my cousins, aunt, uncles, and my dad, my mom, and my brother who were visiting. It was a way of interpreting and understanding a place I only had a primordial memory of. It’s a really sentimental project.
Does your work revolve around any specific themes?
I’m really just interested in seeing what I can get away with, making photos that bypass conventions and feel unfamiliar but have still have a recognizable sense of sublime and beauty. I’m interested in distilling things down to their basic form.
What projects are you working on currently or planning to?
I’m always taking new photos, but other than that I’m looking into new ways to present the work. I’ve started working on video and incorporating that into what I do, and I want to start doing more work that crosses mediums. I do a lot of notebooking to figure out ideas and new projects.
You spent some time recently in Austin, Texas. Tell us about some of your experiences there and how you feel about Texas.
I met a ton of diverse and incredible people doing great creative things in Austin, and living there was a lot of fun. There are a lot of talented people there and I think it’s a place with a lot of opportunities for artists. After visiting NYC I decided I needed to live in New York, but I’ll take any excuse to go back and visit Austin.
What are you currently obsessed or fascinated by?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Nigerian psychedelic and jazz music from the 60’s and 70’s. I keep going back to Annie Leibovitz’s At Work book and that Every Frame a Painting youtube channel. Also this blog: http://gurafiku.tumblr.com
What are you doing outside of art/work?
Cooking and redoing my gecko’s terrarium. I recently built a really crappy table for taking still life photos, if that counts.
What and who are you inspired by?
All my internet friends who are self-publishing books and always traveling.
One book and one film recommendation.
So Sad Today by Melissa Broder and Late Autumn (the 1960 movie)
Favorite instagram account of the moment?
@beijing_silvermine, @breadfaceblog, and @theskatekitchen are all favorites
What’s the best tweet you’ve ever composed?
“my aunt just asked me if Jimi Hendrix is dead”
More work from “Tattarax” will be available online soon. Follow along for updates.