42. Piecing Together a Narrative w/ Samir Abady

In Episode 42, we talk to New York photographer & Fast Company digital photo editor Samir Abady about creating photo narratives, being authentic in your art, and how the current moment provides new context to old work. 

Samir Abady is a documentary photographer and photo editor born and based in Queens, New York to Lebanese parents. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English from St. John’s University (2012), he attended the International Center of Photography for Documentary Photography and Photojournalism (2014), receiving the John and Anna Maria Phillips Foundation Scholarship and the Eddie Adams Workshop (2017). Since then he has been honored to be selected for American Photography 32 and was a finalist for the portrait prize in Australia’s Head On Photo Festival in 2016. He has photographed for The Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed News, and Fast Company and his work has appeared in Refinery29, The Village Voice, Juxtapoz, and FeatureShoot.

Check out his work on his website: samirabady.com. You can also follow him on Instagram @samir_ and on Twitter @Samir_

People, Places, and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

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“My practice was always kind of long-term projects on people and finding a way to tell psychologically revealing slow-paced stories.” @Samir_

“[I’m] photographing without a story most of the time until the rare occasion that [I] see something and call it a project; so I’m just kind of piecing together conceptually and finding a thread related to the pictures I’m selecting and calling that a narrative.” @Samir_

“Finding this outlet of […] digging through the archives and seeing what’s there […] that’s helped the gears keep on moving.” @Samir_

“A buddy of mine…said, ‘Oh it’s an interesting time to showcase meeting places and people in either bars or on the street or what have you, hanging out, because we don’t have that.’ I never thought about it as a commentary on our times until he brought that up.” @Samir_

“[The pandemic] makes me miss, more than anything, contextual relationships with people. Like if you’re a regular at a place and you only know so-and-so person at that place on Thursdays, that’s something totally missing. I might not know that person’s name, but I talk to him every week.” @Samir_

“If I approach people with kindness or understanding or curiosity, then I think they respond well to that.” @Samir_

“I feel like every generation has something that democratizes the image.” @Samir_ 

“I think everything has an aesthetic, an intention or mood…Everyone has their thumbprint I think once they pick up a camera.” @Samir_

“Where it’s fun to kind of find meaning is when you put picture A next to picture B, and do they say something to each other when they’re followed by picture C? That’s, I think, where the wild creativity can come in.” @Samir_

“I’m just trying to think about this medium in every way I can at this point.” @Samir_

“If I had to think about what the reoccurring motif is [in my work] it’s the idea of why I’m photographing people to begin with. It’s always kind of these […] smaller communities. I just try to make them seem as normal as possible, whether it be a sex worker or hidden bookstore or whatever it may be; it’s people, with a common language, and perhaps interest or lifestyle, just finding each other.” @Samir_

“I’m happy and honored that I can make you sad with me.” @Samir_

“Even the simplest things can change the concept.” @Samir_

“Being authentic to one’s own voice is the key.” @Samir_

This episode was recorded on December 14, 2020. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod.

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