Andrew B. Myers is a still-life photographer based in Toronto and represented by Apostrophe Reps. After a photo degree from Ryerson in Toronto, Andrew gained traction for his graphic, spare, elegant compositions, his small-scale narratives and incisive visual one-liners. His client list includes Conde Nast, DDB, Wired, The Walrus, Sirius XM, Saatchi & Saatchi, McDonald’s, GQ, The Hive, Money and Mother among others.
When I first saw Andrew’s work, I wanted to talk with him. I loved his images and assumed he’d be very funny and smart. Basically, a great interview and someone I’d really enjoy talking with. I’d also read (somewhere) that he spent some of his free time reading the About.com paranormal stories and thought maybe he’d talk with me about Bigfoot. He didn’t. Andrew is much more interested in the horror genre and was a “paranormal tourist,” drawn to discerning trends like ‘Black-eyed kids” and “space sounds.”
One of the best parts of writing POP is the people I meet and the things I learn. Prior to talking with Andrew, I had no idea there were trends in paranormal stories. I’d always wondered what happened to quicksand but never thought of it as a passing cultural meme. But now I had hard evidence. It was confirmed.
But back to his imagery. Unique among the current trend towards bright, contrasting colors, irony and stark imagery, Andrews images are visually compelling and brilliantly composed. And he has a strong, unique vision. Plus he’s smart, clever and fun! It’s no surprise he has had early success. I asked his rep, Kelly Montez for an introduction. She obliged and we had a great, fun chat and an ensuing interview in which he shares his early inspirations, how he found his style and collaborating with art directors.
Big thank you to Andrew (and Kelly) for a great interview!
POP: What were your earliest creative influences and interests?
As a child I was usually drawn to diagrams, we had a big set of encyclopedias on our shelf, some old edition of World Book that had me learning about the USSR well after it had dissolved. Occasionally an entry would involve detailed charts, maps, lists, or categories. I vividly remember Flowers, Human Body, Solar System, World Flags, and the Periodic Table. I consumed these visuals, memorized them, and replicated them. It’s what began my love of drawing, as well as that which was neat and categorical. We moved to the countryside when I was a teenager, it was either flat green fields or white horizons (what was referred to as the snow-belt in Southwestern Ontario), so aside from absorbing very sparse scenery, there wasn’t much to do other than draw or read, and I remember starting to like Pop Art at the time. It all makes sense now that I think about. My family was a fairly strong influence as well. It didn’t bother them that I had absolutely no interest in sports, and since they vocal liberal arts types, my many siblings ended up in creative professions, for instance my sister the tattoo artist or my brother the journalist.
POP: When did you start taking photos?
I didn’t really take any pictures until my last year of high school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I applied to a handful of different subjects at different schools. Almost on a whim I ended up studying photography at a university called Ryerson in Toronto. It was that or architecture. It was quite the conceptually driven program. Nothing technical came until later on, and I’m still not really that technical on the camera side of things. I have no real interest in gadgetry, simply resulting images.
POP: Finding your style?
Whatever my current way of working is, the style that I end up coming back to whether I like it or not, happened somewhere halfway through university. Some kind of wiring was activated, perhaps it was the culmination of a lot of different factors mentioned earlier, but it clicked. My work tends to be light-hearted, since I think that for the most part I’m a light-hearted fellow. I appreciate the ‘neat’ in both ways; the neat and tidy, and the ‘neat!’ meaning fascinating or cool. So I appreciate weird little moments or circumstances, and things we can all relate to but never take the time to articulate. Taking this sort of thing and giving it credit by bringing it into a controlled setting and recreating it seems to be what I do quite often.
POP: What are you working on now?
I have an ongoing body of work that I add to often, it’s become a very large series of unrelated vignettes, unified by a general mood.
What new projects have taken you in new direction(s) and/or challenged you creatively?
I enjoyed co-directing a motion project for Sid Lee. Anything that takes one outside their comfort zone will be a creative challenge. I’d love make more of these little vignettes into short and sweet snippets that move. I’ve had quite a few ideas that would only really work in motion. The element of sound or time being crucial.
Process for still-lifes?
The fact that I earlier mentioned that I’m not the most technical guy makes for many means to an end. For still lives, if the scale is larger, I’ll move things around in post to experiment with placement, which I’m thinking more and more is something instinctive. Maybe there isn’t a rigid science to it at all.
You are hired very much for your style. How much input/collaboration? Creative collaborator?
I’d say a lot of what I’m asked to do is collaboration. I tend to be given an idea of what the content of the project is, and then freedom to think of how to illustrate it. It’s great to be able to test your mental agility, say by coming up with a handful of ideas in a day. I’d say I’m hired to use my style most often. It’s a strange idea that I’d be taken on to do what any photographer could. We’re collaborating for a specific reason.
And what about advertising jobs? Are you also getting hired for your style and how much creative freedom are you given?
I think I’m still being hired to bring something of my own to the project, usually my style, although the subject matter will be handed to me, there’s less control on my part.
You build a lot of your own sets and have a very particular aesthetic. What is the collaborative process like on set when you have to delegate the styling, etc.?
I’m particular and easygoing at the same time. I like to thing I’m very relaxed when working with other creatives, we’re all in the same place to bring something to the table. I like to adopt the attitude that two heads are better than one, rather than that there are too many cooks in the kitchen. I’m used to styling a lot of my own work, so the transition into more commercial projects has been interesting, and of course they’ll do these things better than I will. I see eye to eye perfectly with certain designers and stylists. Shout out to Adi Goodrich who I hope I can work with some day soon.
Maybe how controlling I am of my own work. I love to collaborate if I can but I do like to take control of every aspect of an image if I can figure out how to work solo. I find it meditative, I find it therapeutic. I’m can be very anxious, and executing an image works often as relief.
Reading in your free time?
I enjoy reading articles about unusual subject matter or short fiction, but you caught me with the question as I was reading about the paranormal. It’s neat exploring niche or delusional online subcultures. In this case, user submitted anecdotes about encounters with shadow people or black eyed children. Google this shit. Anyway, I’m actually quite the skeptic.
I’m usually drawn to playful work, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Anything that appeals to one’s childlike sense of wonder or desire to explore out of curiosity will delight me, from Hieronymus Bosch to Where’s Waldo to Raqib Shaw. Anything that seems to indicated pure imagination will likewise get me going, such as Olaf Breuning, Vinogradov and Dubossarsky, and Jules de Balincourt.
With the internet making global connections possible, what is this like for you? You have a very international network?
Being online, anyone can have access to your work. I’m sure I could have survived as a professional in the pre-internet world, but what I’m currently experiencing is all I’ve known, and it seems to have a lot of advantages. I’ve met quite a few creatives in different cities based only on our shared activity on blogs and in online communities.
Why the “B.” Is that a Canadian thing?
The B. was a quick decision I made a while back when I created a website. My name is no John Smith, but it’s common enough that I sink into a sea of other guys named Andrew Myers on Google, Facebook, etc. What began as an attempt to be distinctive never really went away, and now I wouldn’t know how to simply erase it. I do like the rings of William H. Macy or Hunter S. Thompson though.
Any chance you’ll move to the US?
The idea is to move to New York in the near future. It’s been an idea for so long, but I finally obtained a very tricky visa, the O-1. I was initially drawn to the idea of Los Angeles, but the lack of density is daunting. Would I meet people easily? Either way, the smog and palm trees are beautiful and exotic to someone from the land of ice and snow. The light is absolutely amazing too, that direct but hazy sunlight everywhere. Anyway, I’ll stick with the cold and wind up in Brooklyn most likely. I do like being a Canadian though, I’d probably want a family here someday.