Naniee and Ashleigh

Joseph Patrick Conroy is a filmmaker and photographer based in New York City. Grainy, high-contrast monochromatic images shot on black and white film permeate his highly-stylized approach to photography. Heavily influenced by Japanese photographers from the Provoke Magazine era, he carries on the tradition of ‘are, bure, boke‘, but with his own edge and eye for photographic expression.

How did the idea for the series come about?

Before we shot, I gave the girls a list of wardrobe ideas and that was about it. I don’t like to plan much beyond a basic idea. I prefer to build on things during the shoot and let inspiration take over. I knew I wanted to shoot something in black and white that was sexy, but not sexual, so I had each of the girls bring contrasting lingerie, go light on the makeup, and give their hair a natural look. We talked for a bit before shooting and I found out they’ve been best friends for quite some time. When we started, I had them get extremely close to one another, then asked them to hold hands as the shoot progressed. I think they became extremely comfortable once I had the two of them physically connect, and things just happened naturally from there. When you spend enough time with one person, you become almost the same person, while retaining your individuality. In the end, I think that’s what came out of this series.

How did your shoot with the girls go?

It went extremely well. Naniee had done some modelling previously, but Ashley hadn’t done much, if any, but they really responded well to direction and came across as pros. Aside from that, they’re just really fun people to be around. If the photographer isn’t comfortable with the models, and vice versa, nothing will happen and you might as well call it a day. I was really happy that the three of us clicked so well.

Can we photograph the female body differently in a more powerful way?

Absolutely. It’s crucial that we do. I think all photographers have the responsibility to go above and beyond capturing the unattainable imagery of perfection that’s so often seen in mainstream fashion and beauty mags. It’s become stale, but, at the same time, so tried and true that it’s used ubiquitously. And I’ve shot those kind of photos myself, so I can’t really pass judgment, but I’m actively trying to take my photography of females into a different realm. Women should be able to let their guard down in front of the camera and celebrate their individual femininity without the pressure of being held up to the high standards of ‘universal‘ perfection that the media has instilled within them. It’s a familiar battlecry, but one that needs to be heard, regardless. To me, the most powerful way we can photograph the female form is allowing the subject to be themselves.

What inspires you?

Music inspires everything I do. I can listen to a song and it’ll give me an idea or concept for my work almost right away. Music just frees my mind and allows me to think creatively. It’s always been like that for me, which tells me it’ll continue being like that for me until my dying day.

How would you define beauty?

Beauty is a subjective, yet shared experience. It’s a feeling that goes from your eyes to your brain, then directly to your heart, leaving a wake of warmth and happiness behind it. Everyone has his or her own idea of beauty, but it’s this feeling (and everyone’s had it) that’s universal.

Film or digital?

Film, hands down. Digital is just too ‚real‘, especially with the whole 4K/high megapixel count thing going on now. It’s got this plastic kinda vibe to it. So real, it’s fake. I don’t like it. Film has a unique, ethereal quality that just can’t be replicated; no matter how much post-production you put into a digital image. You can get close, but it’ll never be film. The grain structure, the tones, the soft sharpness of the image; it’s unparalleled. I’ve done the digital thing and I’m over it. I just can’t get the look that’s in my head to translate into digital, and for an artist, what’s in your head is rarely what’s seen in reality. I don’t want my photos to represent a reality. I want them to show another world; one that can be drawn from reality, but ultimately one that transcends what we experience in our daily lives.

What makes you happy?

My daughter, art, making art with my daughter.

What’s next for you?

I shoot and direct a lot of music videos for indie artists in and around the NYC area, but at the moment, I’m currently working on two photobooks: one featuring my street photography; the other, a collection of candid photos I’ve taken of my daughter — all on film, of course.