Adam Geary is a photographer based in Scotland with a dozen books to his name. He doubles as an advocate for print culture. As a creator of art has impacted art in unseen ways. We explore how he became the artist he is today, and how his new books journey into the directed current direction of his country as well as the consciousness of the entire world.
How did you get into photography?
I always remember a photograph hanging in my Gran and Grandpa’s house. It was a beach scene with palm trees and blue skies. Living in Scotland, which isn’t famed for its perfect weather, this represented sheer escapism. I always wanted to visit a place like this. Several years later a family friend gave me a camera and I started taking my own pictures. I was studying to have a career in the Merchant Navy at the time but by the end, I was more interested in photography and had started to buy books by photographers and other artists. In fact , I would buy anything I could find in Glasgow. At this point I decided to study photography and went to Derby, which at the time was one of the top photography degree courses in the UK. It was here that I met my wife Astrid, a Costa Rican, which meant that I ended up travelling to the places that I once dreamed of on the wall of my Gran and Grandpa’s house.
What is your background in photography?
I work in the cultural sector in Ayrshire and prior to this I have worked in many arts/cultural organisation across the UK. Photography has always been central to my practice and have always continued to work in a parallel career path. I have never worked commercially with photography and always worked on my own projects. I see it as my creative outlet and is personal. I do hope that people like my work, but if they don’t then this is OK. I do it for myself and not others. I do however want to reach an audience and so far have been able to achieve this through my books and pictures.
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 How has your photography grown since you first started?
When I was studying, I was already starting to interrogate picture making and was moving away from straight photography, to making installations. I became really interested in sculpture and how images could work physically in the space. I really felt that a visit to a gallery needed to be an experience and if you could do things in temporary spaces then all the better. When I graduated, I had already moved into a more campaigning mode and started working on poster campaigns, using billboards, flyposting and bus shelter sites. I really liked the idea of getting work out and away from galleries, which I felt, at this time, were somehow not all that relevant. As a result of moving my work in this direction, I got involved in organising projects and events and also publishing, which inadvertently led me to develop  a parallel career as a photographer and arts/cultural administrator which is what I do today. My photography is now pretty much focused on publishing both my own work and that of others through my imprint AGLU, which I started over 5 years ago and have published over 26 books by a host of different photographers alongside my own work.
Why did you choose each of the following themes for both of your books?
My latest books offer a chance for reflection. Codex, which charts the last five years of my output and creates ‘my’ book of pictures. Many of these images I have had good success at selling as prints and been published in previous books. The short introductory text sums up its approach: “There is not enough silence in our lives. The rumours of the past rustle in our ears and compete with the noise of the present. Occasionally the light reveals itself and quiet moments appear.” Guiding Light was shot in Tiree in late 2015. Tiree is a small remote island on the west coast of Scotland. It has beautiful beaches and is basically very quiet and tranquil. My focus was on the rocks and objects that I found and during my stay, they somehow came to life and exuded a kind of magic and mystery. I hope the sense of magic is apparent in the pictures. The introduction to this book reads: “It’s right in front of you. Right in front of your eyes. That’s where the mystery is. That’s where the truth lies! Strung together by a fine thread of poetry and memory, the pictures take us to the edge of the sea and beyond.” The two books are quite different stylistically, although all my pictures are triggered by the light and poetry of the moment and this is what drives my practice.
What is the first thing you notice when picking a subject?
It is about light and feeling. I often get excited by the image when I photograph. One image often triggers something and then I’m off on a journey and start working on the title and sequence. This then becomes my ‘point of departure’ and get pretty focused on completing the project. I always have a compulsion to publish the end result and need to do this to finish and then move on to another project. Only when It’s published can I move on.
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Does music or other art forms affect your work?
Poetry and the visual arts are my main influence and would say my use of colour, line and graphics has been influenced by painters, designers, as much by photographers. My photography doesn’t work in isolation and feel that photography has a habit of obsessing about itself and needs to mix it up with other art forms more. I’m not precious about my images and love to see them in different contexts and think this helps them to reach out to wider audiences. I would like to think that my work is accessible and hopefully beautiful.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m currently working on a new book called Stereo and this will move me in a new direction. I’d love to go to some of the big photo festivals and sell some books at these but the cost has been prohibitive. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I have a few options for exhibitions at present but main focus will be developing book projects, as I’d prefer to invest in this area and feel my work is designed for this. I work in the arts and museum world, but my photography is central to my practice and would love to continue to publish more books and reach out and get them to larger audiences. It would be great if the work could get picked up by a large publisher and get wider distribution. I remain hopeful!
If you were to have unlimited funds and time, what would you do?
I would definitely expand my publishing activities and reach out to a more mainstream audience. Photography is such a democratic medium and everyone is a photographer and yet the photography world is so insular. I have always found this to be strange. It would be good to commission new work and keep on producing my own. Certainly with unlimited funds I would like to think I could make a big impact!
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Do you believe the internet age has revolutionized or destabilized the art world?
It certainly has democratised the arts and allowed people to bypass the conventional art establishment and reach out to new audiences. This has got to be a good thing, especially for younger artists and photographers. I think being able to see work and read about other photographers and artists is a fantastic thing and it opens out the sector and creates a sharper, more focused and informed young generation of artists. It does challenge the status quo, as photographers and artists have more control over their own destiny.
Does social media play an integral part of your photography and life?
I wouldn’t say social media has a huge impact on my life and do worry about people becoming overly obsessive. It does offer opportunities to promote your work however and allows photographers to get their work out there and build an audience. The websites that I use to promote my work and publishing projects has allowed me to sell books and prints online. So I see this as being positive. I wish this technology was available when I was starting out! It has certainly made me more prolific in my output.
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