Colin Czerwinski (1991) is a self-taught photographer, painter, and musician. He currently resides in a small town called Bluffton, South Carolina. He has toured the country multiple times with his band, Henrietta, and with other bands doing photo work. His work revolves around both the comical and the allegorical essence of the world around him. Colin is also the editor/curator of NOICE Magazine.
Henrietta Tour (2016)
I sit back and contemplate on how strange my life is sometimes. As a musician and photographer, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the country multiple times. I could have never imagined that I would do such a thing so often, but it’s the appetition for beauty that my mind craves for, and it’s when I’m traveling when I feel most blissful. These photographs were taken in 2016 when my band, Henrietta, went on the road for a few weeks. It’s always exhilarating whenever I go out because I have to be spontaneous, yet meticulous on my compositions. It’s a challenge, but I love it. I wish I could take my time more or even stroll around each city longer, but the most amazing, beautiful and comical situations seem to be attracted to me, and I’m always ready.
I talked to Colin about his personal work as a photographer and a musician on the roads of the US in addition to learning about his exciting platform NOICE that focuses on photography , celebrating artists from all over both in print and online.
You mention that you are both a photographer and a musician. Can you tell me how you came about those two passions in life? How do they work together?
Music and art came very early when growing up. My father is a drummer (also an industrial/mechanical engineer) and my mother used to teach ballet and jazz (currently an eye optometrist), so those two together was the onset of becoming an artist of some sort. My father first started teaching me how to play drums when I was young, but it just never caught a good hold of me. I think it was mainly due to the fact that they’re fairly loud and I wouldn’t be able to play at night, and I wanted to play with him and write songs. So I picked up the guitar at around age 12 and haven’t looked back. I learned a lot of guitar from improvisational jams with him. We would play a bunch of Rush covers too (my favorite band).
I’m not quite sure when exactly photography came in, but I do remember always seeing my aunt with some new nifty, compact camera that I thought was cool. The first one that I remember that she had was one of the first models of the Sony Cyber-Shot. It was so slick to me, haha. But, I soon picked up a digital camera of my own; a Canon 300D. I used to skate a lot when I was younger, and I would take photographs of my friends skating at the park or some street spots. I got really good at it and started experimenting more with off camera flash and stuff, and eventually upgraded to a Canon 5d mkii). I then got into high school and found out that they had a photography class that I could take. I loved it, and my teacher, Mr. Vernon, was the best. I got my first 35mm camera from him – a Canon AE-1 with a 50mm lens, and I still have it. I took all 4 years of photo, including an AP class, and enjoyed every minute of it. All my other classes in high school felt totally irrelevant to me. I really didn’t like school at all, haha.
When did you first think of becoming a photographer?
I’m not quite sure, to be honest. Photography has always been my passion since I started photographing my friends skating. I think during my later years of high school, I started looking for colleges that had photography programs of some sort. I ended up not going that route because I felt like I could teach myself my craft, other than having somebody tell me how. Just a personal thing I guess. Because of that decision of not going to school for it, I never really imagined photography to become so prominent in my life. I’m glad it stuck with me though because I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot with my friends around the country.
Your work and the ‘themes’ in it are very diverse – from nature to portraiture to architecture etc. What drives you to take a photo, and what photo is necessary to your journey?
I’ve always noticed that I had a very diverse range of style in my photography. I don’t like to pigeonhole myself into a distinct genre or what-have-you because everything is beautiful and funny. The most important thing that drives me to take a photograph is a unique arrangement in the object and the quality of light on it. I like good and interesting color pallets too. A good example of what I’m talking about is the purple finger/fish photograph that I took in Philly while on tour in 2015. Taking that shot was just revolutionary to me because it showed me what my mind was attracted to artistically; which is a unique/funny subject matter, with a pinch of allegorical content and weird color arrangements. But, of course, I focus primarily on good composition and strive to eliminate all distracting elements that would take away from what I’m trying to have the viewer focus on. Everything becomes an unconscious habit now when photographing. It’s best to not think too hard about the shot and just feel it. It’s a lot like writing music. When I write a cool little riff, I get this giddy sensation and start laughing because it’s so cool. Happens to me when I see a good opportunity for a photograph; I get all excited haha. That’s when you know you have something special.
Can you tell us about a photo that you missed or were not able to capture for some reason and regret it?
Hmm, I don’t think so! I usually have some sort of camera with me that I can shoot with if something good does come around. Over the years, I’ve refined what I want to shoot – as we all do – so I’m never too “shutter happy”. It’s very particular things that I look for, or they look for me rather. I shoot medium format stuff sometimes, and I’ve probably missed something due to the fact that it takes a bit longer to compose and expose!
As you travel and document your journey, you are also documenting the culture and the places that you visit. There is something very “American” about many of the images. Do you feel that that aspect of your work is important? Do you find that the place you visit shapes your photography?
Oh, most definitely. That’s why I love traveling so much. The way that I understand my own vision for my work now has mainly been from traveling, because it forces you to see new content, and also to act more quickly. You’re on the constant move every day, so being highly observative is a necessary component. Noticing the subtle cultural changes in each city/state is always interesting. I find myself in the most beautiful, then in the grimmest places, but that’s what I enjoy as a photographer. I’m exposed to a vast amount of different experiences that it starts to change how you observe yourself and your surroundings. It’s a journey for sure.
You have created a magazine titled “NOICE” – what was the inspiration behind creating a new photography magazine, especially in a time where things are almost oversaturated with these types of platforms?
Before I started NOICE, I started a PR service for bands. The motivation behind that was to help expose some of my friend’s bands, and other bands that I enjoyed, to a broader audience. I helped set up album streams on publications like Brooklyn Vegan and Alternative Press, and also sent out EPK’s for album reviews. I did that for a while, but I soon realized that I didn’t enjoy it too much.
So some time went by, and I then started working more on my photography. I sent out my work to some publications, but I got really tired of spending my time writing all of these people and not hearing anything back, although I did get a few replies. This led me to the idea of starting NOICE. I liked my personal work, so I decided to start a photography magazine based around the kind of photography I did, and also with the motivation to build a community of photographers and artists that also have the same keen eye for things. Basically, it was the same kind of idea that I had with the PR thing; to help expose artists to a broader audience in hopes of them being more recognized.
The name, NOICE, just kind of came to me. I wanted something simple, precise, and easy to remember. I then kind of coined a new photography term/genre called, “minimal comic play”. My personal philosophy for this is based in zen, which is seeing and doing everything with a particular concentration and awareness of mind. What I’m trying to point at, is that there is an essence of humor in everything. It’s not always so apparent, though. It takes a particular eye for things to be able to capture it effectively, and there’s only but a few factors that make it possible to do so: the particular light, the colors, and pattern. If composed correctly, the photograph wouldn’t need any explanation. Instead, you should just be able to look at it and go, “ahh, noiceeee”. It’s something that’s clever that you see.
Photography has really become a very popular medium in our time, there are thousands of young artists struggling to share and promote their work and try and distinguish themselves among the crowded scene, what makes you choose a person to be in NOICE? What makes a ‘good’ photo project in your opinion?
Yeah, you’re right. Photography has become more of an accepted art form than ever before. I think it’s connected to just the ease of use of being able to take a photo on your iPhone nowadays. It’s great, though; people need to exercise creativity and imagination more. The lack of it leads to a rather larval, or low awareness of life itself.
When it comes to submissions, I basically look for a well-composed photograph, focused, and a deliberate intent of what the artist is trying to convey. As I mentioned above, humor is a big part of what makes a photograph for me, but obviously not the only thing. It can be in any fashion. Just as long as there’s some sort of emotional effect when I look at it. It may be surprising, but I really don’t concern too much about the description of the project or series of photographs that people submit. I look at photographs first and see if there’s anything there, then I look back at the description to see if it correlates with what I saw in the photographs alone. In all, an interesting arrangement of colors and light, textures, humor, and ingenuity in the composition are all the key ingredients that make it for me. Also, having your photos in focus is preferred.
What would you tell a young artist or photographer trying to succeed in the world, what would be your advice to them?
Your perception of yourself and the world is primary. As long as you strive to continue to learn and have open-mindedness, events that you desire in your life will be attracted to you. Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer for you than for others. And stay focused, because it’s easy to get distracted. Social media doesn’t make it any easier because you’re always constantly comparing yourself to what others are doing. Instead, focus on yourself and know and love what you’re doing.
What are your goals for NOICE ? Where do you see it in 10 yeas from now?
Every day I’m continuously getting new ideas as to what direction I want NOICE to go, and right now the move is to bring it into more of a brand type of thing. It’s literally been just me running NOICE, and a couple of other people – Nathan Smith and Kourtney Jackson – that help put the issues together, and I’m so grateful for them. So, it’s coming to a point where I need help running it because the things I want to do I just can’t do due to time constraints or not understanding something. I’m always learning something new, though. I’d like to build a team up over the next few years and really expand on it. I envision it all the time. So, if you’re reading this and you’re a writer, web designer, illustrator, advertiser/media guru, etc, please do get in touch! Would love to have ya on the team.
To view more of Colin’s work please visit his website.