As other artists stray further from a direct style of photography, David J. Carol’s relationship to the medium’s roots grows stronger as the years pass. The photographer and editor-in-chief of Peanut Press publishing house just released NO PLAN B, a photography book chronicling 23 years of the artist’s black and white works shot exclusively on film.
The aspects that drew Carol to this style has a lot to do with his personal history. Fresh out of photography school, he worked a commercial job, shooting all of his assignments in vivid color. “After a few years of this dream job, I started to notice I wasn’t shooting anything for myself. I could only see ‘commercially,’” Carol tells The Creators Project. “This was not good for me. I had to figure out a way to get back to shooting for myself, which meant taking pictures that mattered to me personally, not just pictures to make money.” Black and white photography turned out to be the remedy.
The pages of NO PLAN B contain 32 photographs taken between 1993 and 2016 in locations ranging from the Arctic Ocean to post-Soviet Russia, from the Mojave Desert to the streets of Istanbul, according to a statement accompanying the book. His images often depict solemnly still but emotionally charged scenarios, reminiscent of a less-weird Diane Arbus, a characteristic evident in his photo of a single, giant plush monkey smiling ghoulishly in front of a suburban American home.
When human subjects do make an appearance, their faces are often obscured in some fashion, whether covered by a fur hood or shot from behind, a stylistic choice that render his subjects as monumental statements that contribute to the overall poeticism of the photo they inhabit.
Though disparate in subject matter and locale, the photos are unified in intangible ways. “The photographs are a sort of narrative of my life. For me, all my work is about how I see the world, how I understand the world, and ultimately how I interpret it all with my camera.”
Though he spent years behind the lens, interpreting the world, Carol believes little has changed beyond his subject matter. “I think my sense of irony, humor, and curiosity is pretty much constant and similar through my career. But there has certainly been a change in my subjects,” the photographer explains. “For one, I have had kid(s) since 1997 and they are in many of my photographs, though the photographs are not necessarily about them per se. Another important change has been my ability to travel to ‘new’ and more ‘unusual’ places, which just wasn’t an option when first starting out.”
“I’ve always thought that my photographs all looked the same and it used to kind of bug me,” Carol reveals. “But about 15 years ago, I was having dinner with Anne Wilkes Tucker, an esteemed curator from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and she told me it’s not that they all look the same, it’s that I have a style and I should enjoy and embrace it. So, there you have it; nothing has changed over the years and yet nothing is really the same.”