Photographer Bob Carey on Growing up in Phoenix and His Latest Work, "The Tutu Project"
From the second-story patio of Phoenix College's art building in downtown Phoenix, photographer Bob Carey can point to the hospital where he was born, the neighborhood where he grew up, and the three or four houses he lived in after high school and university.
Bob Carey High Desert Road 20" x 24" C-Print
The Phoenix native moved to New York in the early 2000s, but he remembers his first big show at RoxSand, a restaurant at the Biltmore, long before he started taking calls from The Today Show, Carson Daily, and Yahoo! News (to name a few) about his latest series, The Tutu Project.
Since his project was featured on national news last Thursday, he says his Facebook page has exploded, emails have poured into his inbox, and his phone (literally) won't stop ringing.
On Thursday, Carey gave a lecture to an art class at Phoenix College. He had an hour or so to talk before shooting off to dinner with a friend at AZ88, and then back to a friend's house to pack his suitcase (again) and catch an early morning flight.
To be honest, he says, it's all totally overwhelming.
Carey made a name for himself in commercial photography and with his emotive, isolated self-portraiture. Photography was a passion he discovered during a dark time, he says, and continued to use as a means of therapy and self expression. His outlet became increasingly important when his wife Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003.
The series is fresh to his newfound national audience, but his stiff, pink-tulle tutu has a long, local history.
In 2002, theBallet Arizonaasked a group of artists to make a photograph that expressed what ballet meant to them. It was a funny experience, he says, because he'd never been to the ballet.
Bob Carey The First Ballerina for the Ballet Arizona
The photograph was simple and striking. Carey was hunched, half naked, completely shaven, and covered in silver mica paint. He wore only the signature ballerina's accessory. The image was used in pamphlets, on mugs, posters, and fundraising campaigns.
His "Ballerina" series (which New Times covered in 2010) grew out of that photograph and out of his experience with self portraiture. Armed with a van full of lighting equipment, a few cameras, a clunky shutter remote control (and sometimes his assistant Jackie Mercandetti or his wife), he ventured to the places he knew best. He stood amongst enormous corn stalks in a field in Queen Creek, and laid motionless in an empty parking lot on ASU's Tempe Campus.
The series expanded and included portraits from coast to coast, on vessels, in trees, on neighborhood basketball courts, and in the middle of endless rolling hills.
Bob Carey Parking Lot , 20" x 24" C-Print
Carey's canvas and world is enormous and beautifully intimidating. And he is almost always alone.