Cary Conover's photos depict life in Wichita, Kan. – The Washington Post

Although I’ve only met Cary Conover in person a couple of times, I’ve been acquainted with his photographs for a long time. Throughout the years, his work has been an inspiration. I’m always interested to see what he’s up to.
A few months ago, I noticed that he was presenting a new project on his hometown of Wichita. I had caught glimpses of it while following him on Instagram. It was different from the work I had come to know from him.
For as long as I’ve been following his work, probably from the ’90s when I first saw it online, it always took its cue from classical street photography, in the vein of the old masters such as Henri Cartier-Bresson. Always in black and white, Conover’s photos were slices of life captured on the streets or of his friends.
You could tell how much Conover loved photography through his photos — they were crafted so carefully. This was evident in his early work as a staff photographer in Monroe, Mich., where he published “Black Book: A Visual Diary.” It was a departure from the kind of work that’s the bread and butter of newspaper staff photographers. It was a window into his life. It was personal.
At some point, Conover decided to leave the life of a staff photographer at a newspaper behind and strike out for New York City. He spent years there, wandering the streets and pool halls and bars — always with a camera in hand, always taking personal photos.
Conover began yet another new chapter when he and his wife and child moved back to his hometown in Kansas, where he began teaching photography to high school students while continuing to make his own work.
In 2016, Conover began working on his latest project, “Close to Home: Wichita Photographs, 2016-2020.” These were just as personal as anything he had done in Michigan or New York. But this work is even more meditative.
For this latest project, Conover left behind the 35-millimeter format for the slower, more considered approach required for a large format. “Close to Home” is a survey of his hometown. Like his previous work, it’s intensely personal, and his love of exploring life through the visual language of photography is palpable.
But unlike in his previous photos, there’s a more formal approach. There aren’t any people depicted in the images, but you can feel the traces of them. The photos are chock-full of the wonder and curiosity of life.
I’ll leave you with Conover’s own words about “Close to Home”:
“Working entirely within a one-mile radius of my house, I have created a picture of my hometown of Wichita, Kansas. The boundary encompasses a diverse socioeconomic cross section of east central Wichita. The arbitrary perimeter is both limiting and liberating — by staying close to my home, I have eliminated the compulsion to capture everything in my city.
Threading a narrow path between facts and aesthetics, I skirt the boundaries between public and private, domesticity and abandonment, curiosity and surveyance. Exploring this zone, I experience trepidation and conflicting impulses to document what feels visually accessible yet voyeuristically off limits. Even if what I aim to photograph is illusory and fleeting, I am no less committed to capturing the subjective truth of my experience in this space.”
You can see more of Conover’s work on his website.
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