If you were to search for a photographer who defines that gorgeous yet provocative middle ground between innuendo and conceptualized reality, Carter Quick would without a doubt be your best bet. He has built a career on creating images imbued with the kind of indistinct beauty that makes all of his subjects look about 50% more vivacious, nailing that exuberant party-like aesthetic where so many photographers stumble.
Unsurprisingly, this has bagged him no small number of portraits not to mention a mess of collaborative projects and his explorative new series of cinematic shorts.
The confined chaos within Quick’s images and short videos hits you instantly, as though the vibrant disorder within each shot is actively trying to push its way through the edges of the photograph. His most recent video Lips, was conceived by his unique photographic perspective that usually captures traces of violence, pop culture, pornography, fashion, youth, and the surreal, and transplanting it into what is an engaging and suggestive experience.
His photographs and short films feel anything but still, with Quick changing the materials, colors and composition for each photograph and scene, creating a spontaneity, freedom and playfulness. Scenes of men buried underneath peeled oranges, a hyperactive roller skater high-kicking and flipping her hair, and suggestive play between a long-legged woman and stunningly attractive man all fall into Quick’s overtly sexualized and highly evocative portfolio of work. The sheer excess of bare skin, masked faces, pops of vibrant color, and expressive positioning of his subjects, works incredibly well especially when light and shadow dance around these objects and human subjects to provide a wonderful electricity to his work. It’s Quick’s ability to capture this out-of-context moment and freeze the pandaemonium, that excites each of his photographs and short films.

First give us the Carter Quick spiel. Who are you? What do you do?

My name is Carter Quick. I am a visual artist living in Los Angeles.

How did you become interested in and get started in photography? 

It all started when my father gave me my first camera. I was 11 years old and I remember finding a dead bird in our back yard. I took the bird and dug a grave by my father’s rose bushes and held a funeral. I found the prints recently when going though storage and laughed when remembering my father calling me his morbid child.

I later turned our garage into a mock studio with an old blanket as a backdrop and set up all of my lighting with whatever lamps were in the house and did self portraits.

Where does this underlying sexuality come from in your photographs and films? Has your photography and work always been predominately thematic and/or consisting of sexual innuendo?

Yes, sexuality has always filtered into my aesthetic.

Growing up, my parents were conservative in their views of what was allowed to screened in our home. I grew up being told that I wasn’t old enough to see sex. So in a way it was this forbidden dangerous fruit. My brother is the film buff of the family and I remember it all started when he would sneak films from the Criterion Collection into his room and we would take notes on an assortment spanning from I Am Curious, Salo, and The Holy Mountain.

In a weird way, the theme of sexuality is my inner child and my adult self shaking hands.

You’ve recently embarked on more film-driven work like “Lips” and “Shades”. What is your writing/production process like, and how has your experience with photography prepared you for writing the intense directions and flow of a more cinematic performance?

My friend handed me a journal one day and suggested I start storyboarding these ideas of mine. In the past I have shot from a fully realized idea. During the shooting process I sort of move the people around much like a prop table or a chair, until I get the final stage set. I do, however, love collaborative input from the subjects. That’s what really makes for an intimate yet exploitative scene.Shooting photography left me antsy. I wanted that extra step where maybe the smiling model starts melting and turns into a bottle of vinegar and then a scary clown drinks the bottle. Movement. That’s what I am getting at. I create stories with my stills so to me it just seemed like the next logical step to make them move around.
How important is music to your most recent film pieces? Do you find that the music has just as much importance to a piece as the visual aspect?

Music is the most crucial part of my process. Every ideas starts from a song I hear. I always have a soundtrack playing when I walk. The first five years I lived in Los Angles I didn’t drive so walking to up most of my days and nights. On those walks I was hooked to my iPod. When I was younger, it was making a mixed tape and walking around my neighborhood for hours. So not a lot has changed. I feel like music and a visual component are united. I simply can’t take one over the other.

Can you speak to the creative culture in LA right now?  What’s the climate like for an artist trying to create?

I believe Los Angeles has shaped me into the artist I am today. I can’t speak for other artists but fr me this city has and always will be the home where I flourish and create. I see a lt of beautiful, wonderful artists emerging right now and I have beenvery fortunate to meet these people. My people. And we are all inspired by each others weirdness and wildness. Having that many driven people around you allows this immense understanding that we are all in this together and that’s kind of a neat thing.

Tell us a little about your current projects without giving too much away.

I am very excited for a new collaboration starting next month. It will be the first time in a while that I will be in front of the camera instead of behind it. All I can say is it will be a rebirth for me. It will be a new chapter in my work. Maybe it will be my neon blue period.

What films do you watch? What do you watch for practical and inspiring work-related reasons, and what do you watch for fun?

I am in a Kenneth Anger craze at the moment. I am going through his catalogue and freaking out a little. Same with Jame Bidgood’s Pink Narcissus. The Light in that movies gives off this ethereal dream like quality that blows my mind. Alejandro Jodorowsky and Rainer Werner Fassbinder are always on the top of my list of “go to” directors for inspiration.

John Waters is the light to my darkness.

What do you value in a photograph?

Something unsettling. Something glamorous.

What’s it like during a shoot with you? Is there music playing? How do you get your subjects to exude what you want while shooting?

My favorite part of the process is the shoot itself. I think of it more like a wild semi-out of control party. I always shoot everything in the dark and I found this to be a very helpful tool, especially when working with someone who might be a little conscious. In the dark people gain a freedom which allows them to behave off of an animalistic tendency that they normally would not tap into if the lights were on. The darker the room, the weirder it gets.

For more from Cater Quick check out his website here: http://www.carterquick.com/