Interview #69: Corey Vaughan


CUS: How did you get into photography?

Corey Vaughan: It was sort of an accident. I started college painting and drawing, and I sort of floated over to the photo department, and realized it matched my personality a little bit better.


CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?

CV: I received my BFA in Studio Arts from Biola University, located in LA county.


CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/location have an affect on your photography?

CV: I grew up (and currently live) in the suburbs, which has a huge affect on my photography. Many of my images locate young suburbanites in strange places, exploring metropolises, and communing with nature. If nothing else, the photos are all taken by me (me, a young suburbanite). I think my critiques and nostalgias of where I come from are accurate and honest representations of my experience.


CUS: Tell us about your photographic process.


CV: Practically, most of my work is made moment to moment, surrounding events or travels or explorations. Sometimes I’ll set up portraits and still life shots when the light looks nice. Metaphorically, photography is all about self-awareness for me. I use the editing process to better understand who I was and what I have become. I think the most powerful personal art brings you closer to your true self.


CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

CV: Nothing! Actually, maybe cereal. I can’t remember.


CUS: What makes a good image?

CV: Peace and understanding.


CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?

CV: Sometimes suburbia, unfortunately.


CUS: Who are the people in your photographs?

CV: Mostly friends and loved ones. Some of my favorite images are of strangers, but those are few.


CUS: Tell us about the locations in your photographs.

CV: My work is split between the blight and nostalgia of my suburban home and my travels to new places. My home is comprised of Los Angeles cities - La Mirada, Whittier, Fullerton, Long Beach. The images from distant places (campsites spread throughout California, tours of Italy and Alaska, and the windy and dangerous Rogue River) hold much meaning to me, and have grown into some great projects.


CUS: Would you say that you strive to capture honesty in your photographs?

CV: Yes!


CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography, photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…) How do you differentiate “art” photography and “non-art” photography?

CV: I suppose everyone can be a photographer these days, but the real question is this: are your photos good? Photographers are everywhere, but there is still such a small percentage of them who are actually paid. I think the internet provides a lot of opportunity, which is of course a blessing and a curse. Opportunity is great, but sometimes too much opportunity can be paralyzing. I have to set very specific goals in my studio practice, otherwise I’ll either try to do way too much, or feel overwhelmed with the choices and do nothing at all. I think Tumblr is a beautiful thing, though the Tumblr-reblog-mashers are so overwhelming!


CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in “the flesh” to be fully appreciated and experienced?

CV: Being shown in a gallery is a very niche, specific success. I know plenty of talented photographers who have had very few opportunities to be seen “in the flesh”. But, I do think it’s still important. Looking at a gallery of images is a much different experience than shuffling through Tumblr - it takes patience and conversation and glasses of wine and white walls. It’s a worthy thing.


CUS: What are your plans for the winter?

CV: Still up in the air, but I assume plans will involve hot chocolate and good cheer.


CUS: Your favorite photographer?

CV: Jody Rogac. Check her out.


CUS: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

CV: I think a very reachable goal is to collaborate more with my artist friends. We always talk about working together, and I think If we had the time and money, we’d probably have several projects under our belts.


CUS: Your dream equipment?

CV: Honestly, I’m pretty content with my Mark III. I’m not a tech nerd, so my list is pretty short. I wouldn’t mind Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic camera for the quick develops, and the Hasselblad Lunar Camera is beautiful.


CUS: What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?

CV: It’s been difficult finding where my photos fit. My images aren’t commercial, and not quite fine art. I think any young lifestyle/editorial-type photographer will have similar problems. I’m still asking myself, “What do I want to do? Where do my images belong?”


CUS: What are some of your favorite books and movies?

CV: I really love good a good story. These are some of my go to books - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Super Sad True Love Story, A Wrinkle In Time, Crime and Punishment, and anything by Flannery O’Connor and anything with Harry Potter. Some great movies - Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, Big Fish, The Lion King, and Back to the Future.


CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose and why?

CV: First, it would be pretty cool to meet grandparents and great-grandparents and so forth and photograph them. Portraiture can be very intimate; how great would it be to learn from the depths of your past? Second, there are a few contemporary singer-songwriters that particularly move me, and I would one day I would love to get to know them by taking their portrait: Laura Veirs, Aoife O’Donovan, and the Nickel Creek trio are three obvious choices for me.


CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?

CV: Make a list of your top 100 photographers and keep going back to them for inspiration and motivation.


CUS: Our last interviewee, Nicola Odemann, asks: Do you think it’s possible to get to know people by looking at their photos?

CV: I think it depends on the viewer. I tend to be slow and diligent when I’m looking at a photo, so for me, I enjoy figuring out the motivations and context of a photographer. Most people live in the Youtube age; it’s probably very difficult for the untrained viewer to wholly understand a photographer just by looking at an image.


CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee

CV: When is your artistic practice influenced by your personal development?

Corey Vaughan, b. 1988 and based just south of Los Angeles, California    |    mrcoreymichael.tumblr

Images provided by Corey Vaughan. All rights reserved.