Interview with Casey Bennett

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Q: Hi Casey, welcome to Pellicola. Tell us something about your life and yourself.

Hello I’m Casey Bennett. I’m a portrait/landscape and an emerging documentary photographer living in a small community in central British Columbia, Canada. Here I work as a graphic designer and sometimes teach the odd photography and design workshop. I also have 2 middle names and people find that odd.

Q: Tell us how you discovered photography. Do you remember when and why did you start taking pictures?

Photography has always been a part of my life — my dad was an avid amateur nature and landscape photographer. He always had his Pentax ME Super 35mm on hand and I remember going through his negatives and slides, holding them up to the light and figuring out what they were. For myself, I got into photography late, when I was 26 or 27 — I was working a soul crushing job at one of the nearby Mines and was getting depressed with that. I’d always been interested in photography and after using a friends camera at a social gathering, I got bit by the bug. I bought a Nikon F90 35mm from a local photographer and proceeded to burn through rolls and rolls of film, mostly that Kodak BW film that was processed in C41. I started to work a lot of overtime at the mine and quickly upgraded to a Nikon D80. Some friends of mine put on concerts in the basement of a cafe here in Williams Lake and I began showing up to take photos of the bands playing — I had a MySpace at the time and started uploading my shots there and building a following. Shortly after that, I moved to Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island to further expand my photographic style and try my hand in all different sorts of gigs.

Q: How would you define your photographic style?

I’m a quiet observer — very introverted. I think a lot of what I try to capture in my work is a sense of nostalgia or a particular memory I had as a kid, growing up in rural towns and being raised on farms and ranches. There’s also exploring the themes of belonging and identity, especially in these smaller communities that are heavily dependant on the industrial economy and men and women tend to gravitate to what their parents did as a career.

Q: What feature has to have the landscape to attract your attention?

That’s a really good question and sometimes I don’t even know what I’m looking for until it jumps out at me. I tend to look for landscapes that will evoke a sense of isolation or a subtle quirkiness — a human presence.

Q: In your pictures it is possible to see the human presence, even when no human is portrayed in the shots.

I’m very much fascinated in the relationship and interaction we have with our environment, especially in these rural communities where remnants of the past are still very much visible and decaying as society modernizes around it. I can look at a scene and immediately my mind will go wild with these stories — a smashed in mailbox, a drooping Open sign, a sweater tied into several knots on a chainlink fence — as much as I love portraits and the power behind them, I believe a lot of emotion can be extracted from a simple scene that has an element of human activity without actually showing anyone.

Q: How do you find the place you photograph?

I grew up in this area, so it’s always been home and a place where I started my photography. I spend a lot of my free time going on long drives or walks, looking for places that tell a visual story that I can connect with. I also have a complicated relationship with Williams Lake and photographing it has become therapeutic in a way of reconciling a lot of the feelings I have toward it. Basically, I’m rediscovering who I am in this place and in this time of my life.

Q: Who is the photographer you appreciate the most, and why?

Stacy Kranitz comes to mind - I’v been obsessing over her work for a couple of years now. What I appreciate most about her is her dedication to her subjects lives and immersing herself into their world and that’s something that I admire so much. There’s such a deep level of empathy that derives from her images and I can’t help but think of the special relationship she builds with each and every person she encounters — not just photographs, but just has a conversation with. I would also put Alec Soth on that list as well -- his works about identity and home really strike a chord with me.

Q: Do you have any upcoming projects?

I have some ideas of what I’d like to do next. A book of my series ‘Hub City’ is certainly on the agenda and some zines of my phone pics that I flood my Instagram stories with. My overall intention is to continue delving deeper into the history and culture of the Cariboo-Chilcotin, which is the region of the province that I live in.

Q: Thanks Casey for finding the time for this interview. As last request suggest a film or an album to our readers.

Thank you for having me — I really appreciate this. A film that I strongly suggest people check out is ‘The Rider’ by Chloe Zhao. It’s an intimate portrait of a young bull rider who suffers a career ending injury and begins this existential journey to rediscover himself and what it means to be a man in todays society. I held back tears throughout. An album — I listen to a lot of music that’s all over the map — the Karen O/Danger Mouse collaboration Lux Prima is quite dreamy and lovely. I really miss Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, so anything Karen O does is gold in my opinion.

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All images © Casey Bennett