Houston based multi-disciplinary artist Cary Fagan first grabbed our attention with his poetic analog photography that is non-descript in time and location but manages to capture that particular essence of time. There is nothing hidden in his work, all masks off but alludes an intriguing mystery to want to walk into the frame while pushing away the digital world.

Last year, Fagan was part of Dazed’s 100 and he also garnered attention for his collaborations with A$AP Rocky and Solange. For an artist who has welcomed time to disconnect as exemplified in his work, we caught up to see how he experienced confinement and coming out to the new real world that has been forever changed and forging a new future with his powerful voice as a tool and encouraging others to be heard.

 

First of all, we are just coming out of lockdown, how was your experience?

Personally, I think I was doing better during this time of lockdown than I was before. I am thriving more because I have a strong direction of what my purpose is now. I have goals, I have future goals, I see a lot of things and I feel very intuitive. 

Since COVID, I’ve developed new routines. I have a library, and every morning I wake up and there are books that I’ve been reading. I spend a lot of time with myself before I do anything. This time has really helped me to understand time management. Since lockdown, I haven’t even picked up a camera in two or three months and I started doing other things. I’ve been writing and I’m working on two books with poetry and words, reflecting on current times, memories, thoughts, and ideas. I started playing music, I play the Theremin and synthesizer.

The Theremin is crazy, how did you get into it?

I actually heard it on Fire by Kid Cudi and Kanye on Kids See Ghosts. Kanye does his first, and then you hear it, sounding like a ghost in a ghost town. I found it so haunting and asked what is this instrument? Someone told me what it was, and I was like “shit, I have to buy it, I need to learn.”

I never heard that sound before. I like delay and distortion. I believe that there is no correct way to learn, its more about how comfortable you are in front of the instrument. I can’t teach other people how I play. There is no right or wrong, it just depends on what sounds you want. There are notes and hand positions to learn, but that comes with practice.

 

You said that you didn’t pick up a camera during lockdown. I always found your photography to be poetic. Did you find that writing poetry was a continuation of it?

Of course, I used to write before, but I didn’t understand the words that I put on the paper. Through the years, through experiences and self-reflection, understanding who I am and becoming more open, the words I write on paper now mean a lot more. They correlate with my photography or current feelings. If you write about vulnerability and honesty you say things you never thought you would say.

How do you get to the point where you can hear your inner or isolated voice and then with the lockdown lifted, go into the outside world especially with the current protests?

Now what’s happening is the voice inside me has said “Wake up! You are a leader! That’s who you are supposed to be, that is your purpose.”

Since everything is opening up, what I need to do as a leader is feed myself knowledge and wisdom. I need to prepare myself before I even go outside. I don’t think I’m ready to be out there in the front lines or protesting yet. That’s just speaking from an honest soul. This morning I just finished the book The Truth About Leadership. This book is refining my leadership skills. I’ve always been a leader, but I never grasped those skills that a leader has. First, you need to listen, and then use your voice. I have a strong voice and that’s something I need to use more. A leader must also show failure on the stage to show that they are only human, equal. As a leader its not all about your vision, but helping others to see theirs’s as well.

 

You mentioned listening, who do you think we don’t listen enough to?

First ourselves, during this time of uncertainty we need to be present. A week and a half ago, I got lost as to who I was. With all the media coverage and mishap going on from COVID to shootings, it affected me. I got lost in it from just scrolling, seeing the pictures, and reading everything. I got to the point where I forgot about everything outside and forgot to look at myself in the mirror. I caved in, didn’t know what I wanted and kind of had a breakdown. To find myself, my dad gave me the best piece of advice “Look at yourself in the mirror before you do anything because the way you look is how you project to others.”

Often when we get lost, we forget to look at who we are, so I can understand being stuck or feeling stuck. I started making clay sculptures and I made a piece about the feeling of being stuck. It actually came from a dream I had the past few weeks where I always saw a building with a car through it. I don’t know how it got there, but I had an accident and always looked behind me and saw this building with a car and didn’t know how it got there. After taking it all in, that dream correlated with how I was feeling in the real world.

One of the problems with fashion where the industry is complicit, is people looking into the mirror and not liking what they see because of the standard placed on them. Even if the industry is now talking about body positivity, how can someone get to that place where they can look at themselves in the mirror?

I put myself out there and said if anyone needs to vent during these times, that my line is open, send me a message and I am going to reply, doesn’t matter how you are feeling. Someone reached out to me last night and they poured their heart out to me. They told me a bunch of stuff and they had been crying a lot at night and felt alone. I told him to continue crying, release it, allow himself to cry, allow himself to feel. Your world isn’t over, time will heal. Then I told him to write affirmations, write good things about yourself, then record them while you read them, then close your eyes while you listen to them. Then look at yourself in the mirror. He told me he was going to do it, check in with me and let me know how he is doing.

 

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What’s the next step to being ready?

There’s a lot going on. I don’t want to sit here talking about what I’m doing, but its an evolution of who I am. I’m about to put in production my first chair, I’ve designed it since I’ve been in quarantine and it will be ready to sell next year. That’s been a blessing since I’ve always wanted to do design. I’m also thinking of starting a non-profit and looking at what aspects it will have, something for the people with a school, giving an opportunity to someone who is coming up. But music and writing is the thing that is really opening my eyes and my mind. At the beginning, I was asking what am I doing? And now I’m asking if I am ready.

 

I was asking myself, are we actually essential.

Damn, right. I didn’t even ask myself for the longest time as I didn’t know how I was going to support myself. Luckily, I found a new passion right now with puzzles, that’s my calling. Giving puzzles out and selling puzzles. It’s more than just doing a puzzle, it’s an experience and about disconnecting and spending time with yourself.

 

It’s very meditative.

It’s time to stay healthy and really do the simple things. What if technology was gone, and everything gone, and we only had the simple things. History repeats itself.

Meanwhile, so much as happened in the past two weeks. I can only see the Houston protests from a far.

The good thing is Houston is working together. Of course, there are confrontations, but I don’t sense that feeling of fear or being super aware yet, maybe I won’t feel that. I still feel comfortable in my daily routine. I was just driving around and it felt normal. We did a protest the other day with 60,000 people out in downtown, even then it felt orderly. We haven’t had late-night looting or super violence. I had a friend get hit by a cop with a baton. That stuff is going to happen when you are out there on the front lines, but it hasn’t felt that it has escalated.

 

Do you think the media is exaggerating in order to get more police force out there?

I think there is twisting. I think they are showing a lot of the violent stuff to keep people in, to scare them because there are cops out there kneeling with protesters and there are cops out there agreeing and listening to the people. I feel like the media is setting up the stage for there to be worse. That is also why at the moment, I am staying indoors because I need to take the time to be ready before anything could get worse. I am encouraging my friends to stay home for a week or two, really ride this out because we also have to think that everyone protesting right now could have COVID. In about two weeks, we will start to find out if people got sick or not. Do what you can from home because there is a lot of shit going. We are literally at war with ourselves.

 

So much of this is also being played out on social media. Personally, it’s really hard for me to even look at the posts from fashion because this is an industry that made so many rich in cotton from slaves, exploited urban culture for profit, this exploitation is found in every industry, but especially fashion.

First of all, there is a responsibility in themselves that they need to figure out. I see a lot of things online, asking them to speak up and say something, but at the same time, you can’t depend on these labels and brands to say something also.

 

Why should a brand that is trying to sell something at the end of the day say anything? We are just consumers. Do you they just see the dollars signs on us? Old Jordan quote “Republicans buy sneakers too.”

That’s tricky.

I told myself to surrender my platform to be a voice for everyone on everything going on because it’s no longer about me, it’s about the bigger picture. My best advice is for people to continue to use their platform to make people aware of what is going on. That’s the first step, that’s the best step. Tell your story and find the right organizations. With my puzzles, I am donating proceeds to black-owned businesses.

Unfortunately, things won’t change quickly, but we are seeing that the world is unified and we are all using our voices every day. And “they” don’t like that, so we need to continue.

Do we need to organize ourselves and organize ourselves politically?

Yes. We must organize. For me, I am taking out life insurance on myself. In any case, if I am in a situation where I am killed, that money will go to my family and they will use that money for good. That is one way to organize. Another way to organize is to understand laws, government, understand everything political before it gets worse.

 

Puzzles and other timeless works from Cary Fagan: https://timelessgoods.store/