Through The Lens

Steve Carty

December 24, 2011, by Dan Grant

Carty. Photographer. Cartographer.

In an industry that constantly offers new frontiers to be explored, Steve Carty is the guy drawing the map. The guy is restless. The guy is relentless. Even when you chat with him he's pacing, like he can't wait to get to the next thing.

I can't think of another Canadian photographer so committed to charting new areas, many of which I can't possibly get to in this short space. But as you will read below, he's mapped plenty of other routes for you to get to know him.


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    model: Krysta Mouncer (Next) in Magpie Darling, by Steve Carty
    makeup & hair: Dee Daly (Judy Inc)

    You've been a photographer for nearly 20 years. How did you choose this as a career?
    I think this career chose me. I started making pictures when I was 14, shot my first professional model when I was 17. I started testing when I was 19, just before photography school. I went to Ryerson for a short stint before starting my studio when I was 21. I knew I was born to make pictures when I was 17. Before that it was just fun.

    Most of Modelresource's audience would know you best for your fashion work, but you've shot a lot of remarkable people from several walks of life. Who are a few of the most memorable?
    My most memorable shoots are always my most recent. I shot Michael Sheen a few months ago. He is playing Hamlet in the UK, and it was for all the promo and publicity for that theatre production. That was a great session, resulting in some amazing press and attention for me. Last year I shot Colin Firth, just before he won the Oscar. Getting to hang out with such amazing people and shoot portraits one-on-one is the reason I make pictures. I love shooting the faces of today's generation; the actors, the directors, the models.

    Other notable sessions: Pharrell Williams, Kanye West and Thom Yorke from Radiohead.

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    Radiohead's Thom Yorke by Steve Carty

    Tell me about your book Positives. What inspired it? Are you planning a follow-up?
    Positives was a birth of sorts. It had been nearly 20 years since I started shooting and I felt it was time for a retrospective of my work from the beginning. It forced me to look at sessions from days gone by and choose only the ones that I wanted to be remembered for. That book was a limited run and I have just a few copies left of the hard cover and the soft cover. It's downloadable from my website.

    I have three more books in the works, including one called "Carty on Black" which is a collective of the shoots I have done to black backgrounds over the last 20 years. Also a book called "Your City Right Now" which is a collection of images I've made of the Toronto skyline all shot with my iPhone. The last one is a book of nudes that is not yet completed and of course I'm always looking for confident subjects to model.

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    Positives, by Steve Carty

    A lot of photographers seem to develop one style and work it until they master it, while others try to show a more diverse portfolio. In today's marketplace, do you feel one approach is better than the other?
    I got known for fashion first before I brought portraits into my arsenal. I think a strong visual signature is what needs to be developed first, before anything else. A strong visual style can be applied to any subject matter. Most big name photographers get known for shooting one thing. Or one style. Platon's portraits, and Martin Schoeller's close-ups are just two examples. I think if you want to shoot fashion, show fashion. If you want to shoot portraits, show a portrait style that's strong and speaks what you are trying to say.

    You're obsessive (said in the nicest way) about social media; plugged into blogging, Facebook, Twitter, you have a podcast, RSS feeds and I'm sure a lot more. How do you quantify the effort you put into your online strategies?
    Nowadays marketing is not just linear. It's more non-linear. Social shares and social networking are a great way for art directors to discover what you are doing. It's impossible to make a mark in today's market without mastering the social side of your business. Going out and being social, and being social on sites that clients frequent are all very critical to having a well rounded marketing strategy. I'm plugged in, to say the least. One look at my website and social feeds will let you know that I update daily and am constantly sharing work, everywhere.

    How I quantify it is simple: my strategies seem to work, so I am sticking with them.

    How important is it for a photographer to have an engaging and easily navigable website?
    How important is it for a photographer to have a camera?

    When I type "photographer" into you're always at or near the top. Any secrets you care to share?
    If you search photographer, editorial portraits, urban fashion photographer... I'm always first or in the Top 5. If I'm not, I'm doing something wrong. I'm a web ninja. I've been all up on this stuff since the very, very beginning. I could tell you how I do it, but still you wouldn't get the same search results. It's a very complex secret.

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    Julia Monson (Next), by Steve Carty
    makeup & hair: Dee Daly (Judy Inc)

    You recently explored Cinemagraph. Can you tell me about the experience and whether it's something you see as lasting?
    I'm always trying to push the medium. Whether its film or digital, still or video. The Cinemagraph merges the mediums of the still and moving picture. I'm up on it. And it's here to stay. With the web being so dominant in today's culture, the cinemagraph is a new thing that will get rinsed.

    I know a few working photographers that got their start taking your workshops. Tell me a bit about what you teach.
    I got so many calls about new photographers needing help from me I decided to start a workshop program. I'm a bit of a natural teacher so after mentoring a few of today's big names I decided giving it structure was necessary. I teach basics, lighting, shooting portraits, nudes, transitioning to pro and also do one-on-one training and one hour consultations.

    The workshops have been going for about six years and I've had hundreds of newbies through. Javier Lovera (, Jalani Morgan (, Cory VanderPloeg have all gone through one year apprenticeships and are all working photographers. Together the four of us along with our agency director, Jacquelyn West, and Community Director, Jason Eano, are known as Hermann & Audrey (

    Jalani has also started teaching the Remix Project, which focuses on teaching arts to at risk youth.

    You have something special going on at Hermann & Audrey. Can you tell me what H&A is, and why it works for you?
    Hermann & Audrey was founded to form a collaborative approach to producing progressively creative image work. Paying keen attention to the rapidly changing landscape in art and technology, we produce iconic editorial and commercial photography for brands, agencies and celebrities. We also develop inventive motion and projection projects, as well as contemporary arts-based events and exhibits. The industry is changing. We offer a new model with total trusted access to our creatives, highest quality service and warm, friendly rates. We have proudly produced commercial work for great clients including Molson Coors Canada, Adidas, MAC Cosmetics, H&M, Nike, Universal Music, and leading advertising agencies. It's a new model for a new type of photo agency. Our work can be seen at

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    Jeannine (Ford), by Steve Carty
    styling: Kirsten Reader (Judy Inc); makeup & hair: Daniel V. (Ford)

    Getting back to fashion and in particular modelling what common mistake do you find models making that just annoys the hell out of you?
    The biggest mistake new models make is having a preconceived notion of what it's like to be on set, and what's like to actually model. Also that every photographer is different. I never need to see your favourite poses. I find the thing that models rarely can do is just stand there, standing in front of a camera, without any pretence. Just being comfortable in their own skin. That is always my starting point for shoots with new models.

    I see how many frames I need to shoot before a model will just look at me, look at the camera, as if it isn't there. As if I'm not there. The ability to look through the camera at the viewer that will eventually see your picture is one of the hardest things that I ask of a model. I'm not trying to be cliché or boring, I just always have a starting point for every shoot. I honestly try not to get too annoyed, too quickly with models. We are all just people. I deal so much with non-models, it's quite refreshing to shoot a fresh new face or established girl. I just try to work with everyone I shoot to bring them with me through the process of creating my stylized reality.

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    Serafima (Elmer Olsen), by Steve Carty

    Can you think of a time you worked with a model that impressed you in an entirely unexpected way? (if so, please share)
    In an unexpected way? I just like honesty. And I love a model that has dived deep into fashion magazines, understands fashion, isn't afraid of being shocking, or making faces or doing difficult things with their bodies.

    I recently shot Serafima from Elmer Olsen and I literally was blown away. I can't share the entire story because it's up for submission. Also for video, Julia Monson from Next floors me. I've shot four videos of her that have generated over 50,000 views. She is my video muse of the moment. When girls understand me instantly, understand what I need them to deliver and give it up right away, that impresses me.

    Also when models do research on who they are shooting with, so they know style and approach on the shoot day, that's a huge plus (also having a great shoe collection, nice hands and nails).

    We've just covered a whole lot of areas you're involved in. How do you find the time?
    I do my eight hours from 9-5 and then I do a shift late, from 10pm - 2am. I also have apprentices, interns and an amazing agent, Jacquelyn West and an aggressively hip agency that seems to be all the buzz.


    Blogs We Follow

    Cailin Hill (The Model Burnbook)

    Models x Models (Models x Models)

    Liis Windischmann's (14+ LouLou blog)

    Laura Kell (A Model Life)

    Madison Schill (Chic Greek Geek)

    Kathleen Burbridge (Kathleen in Wonderland)

    Ania Boniecka (A n i a . B)

    Shawn Dezan (motivated//ambition)