Born in 1987 and a native of Tampa, Florida, Chad Moore was raised primarily by his mom, Amanda, who always surrounded him with various forms of creative expression including drawing, painting, etc. “She had quite a talent for painting,” Moore recalls, “And she was the one who always been supported my creative endeavors, even when they didn’t look so good on paper.”
Chad Moore’s work has been exhibited internationally with a recent solo exhibition at Marc Berville Studio in Paris as well as a group show at the Foam Museum in Amsterdam. He has had two books published in the past two years: Thirteen by Glassine Box and Anyone In Love With You (Already Knows) by Dienacht.
Here is the fascinating story of how he became a full time photographer devoted to capturing and revealing the essence of his generation.
Q: How would you describe your photography?
A: I would say that it verges on documentary, but in actuality, I am interacting with the subjects — young people in downtown New York City; artists, musicians, the next generation. It’s not just fly on the wall work; I’m a participant. It’s so deeply personal to me. I do my best to explore and celebrate what some may consider an alternative lifestyle and create a visual dialog around that. Most of my favorite photographers, or photographs for that matter, are from a different time, even if that time was only 10 years ago. I like the idea of someone looking at my pictures 15 years from now and saying “I wish I was in New York City (or wherever I may be) in 2014 doing this.”
Q: When did you first become interested in photography?
A: I started really thinking about photography, or at least recording images in some for or another, in my early teens. I was riding BMX bikes with my friends constantly and it’s kind of just something that comes with that culture. We would go on all of these road trips, first around Florida, then around the USA, then Europe. I would always bring disposable cameras just to have the record of traveling to all of these new places. I was riding professionally by my mid-teens and would always go shoot photos for magazines with my good friend Ryan Bailey. With BMX photography, you use a lot of slave flashes and it takes a long time to set up. I was more interested in documenting the surroundings, the energy of the moment, so Bailey gave me a point & shoot and I started taking pictures of everything.
That was around the time when the Internet was becoming more accessible and I would spend evenings just scouring different sites related to photography and discovering all the greats. Then I’d go to the library or bookstores and look up all of those photographers. Obviously you’re surrounded by photographic images from the day you’re born, but to see an Avedon in the American West book or an image by Guy Bourdain or even something by Nan; that’s a pinnacle moment. That being said, I don’t think you have to look at those books to be inspired by photography. I get a lot inspiration from all sorts of random photos you see everyday, on the street or on Instagram, and more often than not, they were taken by people who don’t even consider themselves to be photographers.
Q: Your images have an energetic, spontaneous quality of capturing life on the fly, most include young people and what could be called the youth culture, and many are quite sexy. Do you agree, and how do you think your early experience shooting BMX biking images has influenced your style or general approach to taking pictures?
A: The youth culture surrounding BMX has definitely influenced my work. BMX is a bit of counterculture and the people I photograph now are part of the same type of movement—music, art and skateboarding. It all ties together; it’s an alternative way of living compared to the 9-5 path that, at least in America, you’re encouraged to follow. I also think it has to do with when I started making photos. I was a teenager, so my interests have remained in photographing young people.
Q: In what genres, if any, would you place are your photos?
A: I guess I’ve never really thought about or considered in what genres my photos would be categorized, but I suppose it’s fine art and portraiture.
Q: I agree with your assessment that the photographs in this portfolio fall into the fine art and portraiture genres, and many of them have a strong sense of intimacy and emotional intensity. What is it that draws you to portraiture, taking pictures of people, and revealing the sensual, visceral experience of your generation?
A: People are just so fascinating to me. The most exciting thing to me is photographing someone. I feel like you can really look deep into someone when taking his or her picture. For me it’s so personal. As far as my generation goes, It’s kind of like I said earlier; it’s interesting for to think about people looking back in 20 years, or even 10 years, and seeing what it was like in NYC, or Paris, or wherever I’m taking these pictures.
Q: The young woman’s eyes shining out in this photo out of the darkness are seductive and draw you in. It is a very sensual and suggestive image. Can you tell us how and when you captured this image and what you were thinking when you pressed the shutter release?
A: This is a photo of my friend Tilda’s eyes. She’s one of my best friends, and one of my favorite people to photograph. It was taken at a dirty dive bar called Johnson’s on New York’s Lower East Side that we sometimes hang out at when our friend works. The inside of the bar is really old and run down. Tilda was waiting for the restroom, and there was this sliver of light coming from a cracked bathroom door. It was hitting her eyes perfectly, and I think I may have only made one exposure. I kind of forgot about it, thinking that it may have been too dark. The actual result was a nice surprise.
Q: There’s an image of a woman in the shower adorned with red paint. It is certainly a powerful graphic statement and the fact that her hands are held up to her face, emphasizing her piercing eyes, and the general sharpness of the image, contribute to its strong visual impact. Aside from the obvious, what’s actually going on here and why did you decide to present the model in this way?
A: This is a photo of my friend Myf. She’s another one of my favorite people to photograph. She has this crazy energy that you can’t help but feed off when you’re around her. She’s constantly going around in these amazing clothes that she makes herself, that are dyed a thousand different colors, while wearing tons of neon face paint. I’ve been working on a studio project recently and wanted to shoot her nude, completely covered in this neon paint. We shot for a few hours while she rolled around covered in this neon acrylic paint, completely covering every inch of the seamless paper. When we were done, she got in my shower to rinse all of this paint off, and that’s when I took this picture. I’m sure I’ll use one from the studio shoot series eventually, but this really stuck out to me.
Q: The image of two people kissing was obviously shot with flash, and this has had the effect of emphasizing the blond hair. The way the lips join in the kiss is also beautiful, sensual, and striking. Who are these people, where did you take their picture, and what do you personally like about this image?
A: This photo is of my friends Emily and Devon kissing. I think we had just thrown a party and they were in this room alone making out in front of this map. I just snapped a few pictures. I really like it because the kiss is really innocent, and the picture is also so androgynous; it could be two girls, or two guys, or a guy and girl. I think another focal point that gives it context is the map of New York behind them.
Q: This is a really antic image and lots of fun. It has a “snapshot aesthetic” quality that is very effective, and when you look at it you can’t help smiling. Did you set up this shot in advance or did you capture it spontaneously. If the latter how did you manage to freeze it at the “decisive moment?”
A: This is a photo of my friend Pete Voelker. I had been commissioned to shoot something in Montauk. The client got me a nice hotel and I decided to bring Pete and our friend Matt McGrath along to keep me company. After the shoot we hung out around this little town all night and stayed up to watch the sunrise. That morning it was way too overcast to see any sunrise. The fog was so thick I had never seen anything like it. At this point we were climbing trees around the hotel, taking pictures, then we decided to go swimming. The hotel pool wasn’t open yet. Pete dove in first, fully clothed, and I just snapped this photo; we were kicked out soon afterwards.
Q: How do you see your photography evolving over, say, the next three years?
A: Over the next three years I have lots of ideas. I will obviously continue taking the kind of pictures I do now, but evolution is inescapable. I have some plans to do a few different road trips, in America, and abroad. I’m also planning a trip to make photographs in Iceland. I’ve been working on a studio project as well. I think a lot of these projects will come together in a big book published my friend Marc Berville in Paris in about two years.
Q: Do you plan to explore any other genres such as urban street photography, landscapes, or fine art abstractions?
A: Part of the Iceland trip will be to document different weather patterns and the Northern Lights by shooting with an in-camera pre- exposure technique I came up with. This will be my first series that isn’t all portrait based, although there may be a few people in the pictures.
Thank you for your time, Chad!
– Leica Internet Team
Connect with Chad on his website, blog and Instagram.