When Adam Whyte was studying at Olympia, Washington’s Evergreen State College, his studies centred around philosophy, critical theory, and new media art. Then he moved to New York, found his lifestyle changing, and his photography following suit.
“Living in provincial Washington state offered me the time and space for a kind of reflection, contemplation and introspection that you can’t really seek out in the neoliberal white noise of New York”, he tells us. The switch to an urban environment saw a sense of immediacy seep into his work, and he started taking photos, at a rapid pace, with a point and shoot.
“Rather than imposing an established concept or theme onto my work during such a transient time, I began making images that were instead tied to an intuitive feeling”, Adam says. The resulting images are deeply expressive.
Adam shoots strange and surreal snapshots, capturing the eye of the storm in a chaotic world. “My reintroduction to the animated landscape of New York left me on a mental and visual rollercoaster of anxiety/wonder, awe/apathy, romanticisation/dissociation,” and the interplay between those alternating states are observable in his work. Sometimes they are silent and peaceful, but at other moments, strange reflections, streaks of light and flurries of snow excite and confuse the photograph, mesmerising the viewer’s eye and creating ambiguous question marks.
“Water, light and reflections act as very ephemeral, transient visual elements that can formally leave a lot in an image up to chance”, Adam tells us. The fluidity of these motifs is what attracts the photographer, and it is a subject he returns to repetitively. In an instant moment, a reflection can change transport a photograph into something beautiful, something other. In a city like New York, it’s tempting to leave creative moments up to luck, to call on the city to dictate your imagery.
The title of Adam’s project is Lucid, which the Oxford Dictionary describes as, “showing or having the ability to think clearly, especially in intervals between periods of confusion or insanity”. “I wanted to mould a utopia out of our dystopia”, Adam explains. “I needed to find some sort of luminous, otherworldly, and visceral beauty within the chaotic visual noise of the city”.
The photographer captures those moments of order within the disorder. He uses his camera as a magnifying glass, detecting those visions of beauty beside the busy, the jewels among the rubble. Using tight crops and unusual angles, Adam captures the secret corners, those places where you can pause, take a breath and just be.