ROAD CHRONICLES WITH CASEY LEE
Heaps. I'm back to riding the road bike and training for racing, playing some ice hockey here and there, and spending lots of time with the wife binge watching Netflix between going to shows, Stars games, and weekend bike races.
Who were you before you picked up a camera? How’d that moment change the course of your life?
I was a high school senior, debating between a career in 3D animation, and one as an engineer. I still wound up checking the engineering box and going to school and getting my B.S., all the while hanging out at shows and skate parks taking photos on the weekend (and a lot of weeknights, to be honest). Because of me picking up that camera damn near ten years ago, though, I've met countless artists and made heaps of lifelong friends from all over the world. I never thought I'd wind up spending weeks at a time with some guys who became some of my best friends, riding around from city to city, documenting their shows, taking portraits, avoiding sunburn as best I can, and just seeing a whole other side of the country.
How do you see your life today as opposed to what you envisioned for yourself as a kid?
Completely different. As a kid, I thought I was going to be a marine biologist, as a really little kid I thought I was going to follow my dad's footsteps and be a firefighter, but here I am now, kind of living the best of both the corporate and freelance world. I work for a rad company that lets me hop away for a few weeks a year to go hang out with friends in a bus and be a nomad for a bit of time a year. Even just when I started college, I thought I would be 100% bound to my desk, working in some awful cube farm, and might as well ditch all of my camera gear. Even that has been a pretty big variation on what I thought then and where I am now.
We know you get around. What is the most sketch situation you've gotten yourself into during your travels?
Waking up in random walmart parking lots is always a little sketch, you don't know where you are, if it's in a good neighborhood/area, etc. There was also a time where we were going from New Mexico to Oklahoma (I think, definitely on our way to OKC, not sure of our origin) and we had to bust ass to carry all the gear and scrims in after getting caught in some awful traffic from a FedEx truck that had caught on fire, halting all traffic in both directions on the highway. The guys got set up pretty much right on time and it was all good. Not the sketchiest stuff in the world, but I'm getting some more travel to new places in later this year and am stoked to see some new parts of the world (and a whole new hemisphere).
Who is inspiring you right now?
Richard Avedon and Robert Frank. Cliche, but they both are such prolific artists and their work has remained so timeless and relevant. I absolutely love the portrait work of Avedon, they are hands down some of my all time favorite works, particularly his celebrity portraits and his 'In the American West' series. Those portraits all feel so incredibly real, genuine, and honest. Not to mention the absolute beauty within their apparent simplicity. It truly epitomizes as less-is-more approach. At least as much as it can with massive view camera being used.
Frank's work is so culturally important and also incredibly beautiful. Their significance doesn't slap you in the face, but once you look closer, you see what a master of composition and story telling Frank truly was.
Contemporarily, I've been loving work from Ryan Muirhead, Kyle Myles, Parker Fitzgerald, Kevin Horn and so many others. All of their work is so so rad, cool subjects, rad approach.
What is inspiring you right now?
My passions really. Hanging out at bike races, hockey rinks, and stages and trying to challenge myself to see things differently.
Where do you call home? does your location play a role in your creativity?
Dallas, Texas is home for me, and has been my whole life. It took me a long time to realize it, but home has 100% played into my creative process. It can be tough when you have seen so much stay the same for 26 years, but it has also driven me to see this city differently and embrace it for what it is, explore new parts of the city, and even traveling more and embracing the totally different pace of cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, NYC, even when we were in Mesa. I love home, but the variety that comes from travel can grant some new creativity, too.
Anyone you’ve crossed paths with that made a major impact on you as an artist?
I work a lot with other artists, mostly musicians, and the guys in I Killed the Prom Queen have played a huge part in my growth. They've gotten me out on the road on my first (and thus far only) two runs, given me heaps of freedom to just make images that I get stoked on, let me really get into shooting film even in the fast-paced, quick turn around environment that is shows. It's super cool to have fellow artists as clients and a group of guys who can really just let you do your thing and find your own vision for your work.
Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community or are you more of a lone wolf?
Absolutely important to be a part of some kind of community. Doesn't necessarily need to be artists of the same discipline, or even local to one another, but being able to bounce ideas and have sounding boards (as well as being others' sounding board), coming up with projects, getting some solid critique from people you trust is all huge.
What drives you to keep pushing forward?
I really just enjoy making photos for myself, but the biggest thing is pushing.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face as someone who is following their passion?
Continuing to make content that I love and not getting lost in likes and follows. And balancing the day-gig with photography.
Are you happy with your work?
Yes and no. It is incredible to me to look back at some of my work from even just three or four years ago, hell, last year, and how vastly different it is, and how much I think I've improved. But, I also get scans back all the time that I love, but with a more critical eye, I always see something else I'd like to change. But mostly, I'm just stoked with the fact that I feel like I'm really finding my own style these days and have passed on from trying to emulate others (even if there are plenty of times I find myself looking at friends' work and wish I had made that photo).
Hah. Kind of living it now. Doing the 8-5 day gig, coming home and shooting or editing, or making photography vacations.
Aside from photography, do you have any other creative outlets?
Mechanical design. It is a different kind of creativity. Solving design problems, figuring out how best to analyze a part, or trying to improve interactions with products for users, occasionally dabbling in industrial design.
Favorite web resources?
Working on building some new portfolios and just keep shooting for myself at this point, waiting for some rad weddings towards the end of the year and early next year for some good friends.
Find Casey elsewhere / Portfolio