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Posted under: Fine Art Interviews

Chuck Marcus on film photography and creative expression

Chuck Marcus is a New York-based film photographer who specializes in storytelling and product photography. We spoke to Marcus about his passion for photography, his inspirations and his recent exhibition "Awkward Spaces."

Blavity: When I explored "Awkward Spaces," the photos reminded me of what it feels like to not fit in — but gracefully, to not belong (but gracefully), to not be seen (but gracefully), which is largely a reflection of the black experience. To what extent did you intend to for the photos to ignite these sentiments?

Chuck Marcus: I intended to ignite the audience's curiosity to find the answers to specific questions: “Why is this an Awkward Space?” “Why is this dancer in this Awkward Space?” and “How did the dancer own her space?” Dance, at its core, as an art form, is graceful. Dance has the power to change the energy of any setting into what the dancer desires to portray because of how the body fills that space. I wanted to push that expression on to the audience. I wanted to have these classically-trained women of color display their art and show you just how they can express themselves in any space no matter how awkward.

Courtesy of Chuck Marcus
Courtesy of Chuck Marcus
Photo: Courtesy of Chuck Marcus

B: The subjects of the photos are black female dancers, tell us more about why you chose dancers, and why you made NYC the backdrop.

CM: I chose dancers of color because it is an art form that rarely gives traditionally trained women that look like them a platform or in my case a medium to display their gift. As a former dancer, I understood the importance of creating this space. When it comes to choosing NYC as the backdrop, there are many reasons I wanted to use it. I truly believe there is so much beauty in the city. I was born and raised in this beautiful city around all these unsuspecting spaces that hold so many stories. I tried my best to use out-of-the-box locations that depict everyday life, but not how NYC is typically portrayed.

Courtesy of Chuck Marcus
Courtesy of Chuck Marcus
Photo: Courtesy of Chuck Marcus

B: What were some of the challenges you ran into creatively while crafting this series?

CM: The biggest challenge I had was location scouting. Some locations just happened like bursts of inspiration. Others made me work for them and some completely fell through. I truly wanted to shoot in a theatre, but gaining access to a theatre proved to be extremely difficult. Another challenge was making sure the space was telling a story using nothing but the dancers' energy and the natural elements of the space.

Courtesy of Chuck Marcus
Courtesy of Chuck Marcus
Photo: Courtesy of Chuck Marcus

B: Tell us about your background, when did photography become your chosen medium of expression?

CM: I have the privilege of not looking too far for what lead me to photography. My father is a film photographer and I picked it up from watching him. I would not say there was a mentorship but definitely emulation. I did not begin taking it seriously as my chosen art form until about five years ago; I buckled down and went the professional route.

Courtesy of Chuck Marcus
Courtesy of Chuck Marcus
Photo: Courtesy of Chuck Marcus

B: What are your thoughts on the role of art in the fight for social justice?

CM: I can only speak on the art form I chose when discussing the role of art in social justice. I did not set out to gear my images toward social justice or even societal constructs. I specialize in photographing fashion and portraits, but as far as using photography in the fight for social justice, it is a medium that immediately captures a memory and tells the story of the people on the front lines. Think about some of the most iconic moments in history, you rarely think back to something that isn’t a photographic image, it's a feeling frozen in time.

Courtesy of Chuck Marcus
Courtesy of Chuck Marcus
Photo: Courtesy of Chuck Marcus

B: My personal belief is that creativity leads to liberation, of self and of community, to what extent is your photography tied in with your own personal form of activism?

CM: Taking photography seriously and deciding to make it my profession has given me the opportunity to introduce this art form to the youth in my immediate neighborhood and those in surrounding communities of color who might not have otherwise been exposed to this expressive art form. I love teaching photography, it gives the kids another outlet.

Follow Chuck Marcus on Instagram here.

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Blavity Staff Writer