A note from Carrie Kellenberger: Here’s something interesting. I’ve been living in Taiwan since 2006. Since then, I’ve heard the name Garret M. Clarke whispered from the lips of many. I’ve read about him online, and whenever I’ve joined in a discussion about truly great photographers in Taiwan, Clarke’s name inevitably comes up. The kicker here is that I’ve never stumbled across his blog or found him on any popular social networking sites. I mean, for me, that is practically unheard of! My super-sleuth skills are obviously not as good as I thought they were.
Back in September, when I was putting together Steven Vigar’s photography interview, Steven mentioned he was in town winding up his summer tour with the Super Milkmen. He casually slipped Clarke’s name into our conversation just as we signed off. Joy! It was not only a chance to finally meet Steven in person, but it was also a chance to put a face to this man of mystery. How could I not attend?
I could give you a long introduction to why I love Garret’s work, but I won’t. His imagery speaks for itself. Talented? Yes. Ambitious? Incredibly! Tapped into some universal life force that has him constantly churning out creative work after creative work? Without a doubt. Garret is probably one of the most diverse photographers I’ve ever met. He’s tried EVERYTHING. So, after you’ve finished with the interview, do yourself a favor and head over to Garret’s site. I promise, you’ll find inspiration, passion, and a desire to start creating something beautiful. I know I did.
MSW: Thanks for being here today Garret. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself? When did you move to Taiwan and why? What are you doing here?
GC: I grew up in a small mountain town in southern California about an hour outside of LA. My winters were spent snowboarding and summers past with my family driving around the western US, up and down the coast of Baja California, and numerous trips to Europe. I went to university in Northern California and Spain. In order to satisfy both sides of my brain I studied international economics and Spanish. I studied a year in Madrid, and after graduation I spent a year teaching and getting by in that beautiful city.
Madrid has a large Chinese population and they are a bit of mystery. My limited interaction with a Chinese store clerk sparked my interest in China. As I was saving money to go to China I was informed about an international MBA program at Cheng Da. It offered a full scholarship and the opportunity to live in Taiwan. I jumped on it, and have spent the past two years working on that degree. I recently graduated from university and am now putting all of my energy into photography.
MSW: When did you first become interested in photography?
GC: My family has traveled a lot, and my father was always taking wonderful pictures. I think that sparked the interest; although it was not until high school and the allure of the dark room that I really became obsessed.
MSW: What genre are you most interested in?
GC: Well I just wikipediad, (that’s a verb, right?) photography genres in order to make sure I was correct, and there is a genre for photowalking. I like that genre, but I also enjoy the genre of candid peoples portraits. I would say the biggest genre I am interested in though is travel photography, although that is a bit vague because it can include all other genres. This is a hard question to answer.
GC: Different shoots have different inspirations, like the Armory series. I think it was the high of taking so many pictures and really getting a whole community involved in the process. The fun of interacting with so many people was really a big inspiration. I spend hours and hours looking at photographs on “the internet”, and so often I am blown away by what I see. This also serves as a great source of inspiration. Finally, the constant support of my folks, especially my pops and how much he believes in me, provides a great deal of inspiration.
MSW: How would you say that your photography has changed and grown since moving to Taiwan?
GC: I have become a lot less random and much more project orientated. I have done work for magazines where you have to take certain shots and not just walk around and shoot whatever you want. From this I have learned the benefits that placing boundaries can have. It is really challenging and enjoyable to work with a set of rules. I feel like I am now much more interested in thinking of a project, completing it, and moving onto a new one.
MSW: Tell us a little about the Armory series. How did you come up with the idea for it? What are your thoughts on everything as it has progressed?
GC: Me and Vigar are always talking about what we are going to do, what we want to shoot. He was always talking about a mass shoot of all the people that make up this crazy Tainan community. The place is really full of amazing people and characters, and we wanted to be able to bring it together into something tangible. The Armory is an institution in the Tainan so we thought it would be a great place to take the pictures.
It was a bit of a beast, and without the expertise and drive of Steve it would never have been completed. Now that it’s all done, I am more than pleased with the results. I love the pictures, and I am really happy to help in bringing so many people together for something. It was a great experience!
GC: Honestly, I don’t know. I hope so, but at the same time, there are many other places I would like to shoot.
MSW: What’s next for Garret M. Clarke?
GC: Well, we are drumming up our next project; I am really excited about it. It also involves a community of people in Tainan, but a little bit different! So I think that the month of December will be spent working on that. I am also looking to redo my website, it has been ages since I have updated it and I am thinking of switching over to wordpress. You’re the web genius, do you think that is a good idea?
GC: Steven Vigar is an incredible photographer! I also really like Chema Madoz, Stephen Shore, Joey Lawrence, Man Ray, Eugenio Recuenco, Brent Stirton…this list could get long fast so I will stop there. My favorite online resource is a blog by an amazing photographer called Aline Smithson, it is called lens scratch. The woman posts nearly every day something that is interesting, and has a list of photographers links that are great to look at, check it out!!
MSW: What’s one tip you would give to new photographers?
I can tell you what Aline Smithson told me that really made a big impression. Work on projects and becoming more project orientated will change the way you make pictures, and it will help you grow. That’s what she told me, and I think it was a great bit of advice!
Thanks very much Garret. I really enjoyed chatting with you. I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors!