Antony Scully

This one has been long in coming. When we reached out to Scully he was willing but time didn't permit. However, here it is, Antony Scully's take from Behind The Lens. Enjoy.

I never thought of myself as being very artistically creative…

How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?

Creativity is the ability to express the feelings, sights, abilities and experiences we all possess in one form or another. Creativity to me is an extension of innovation. The ability to express these things while finding intersections in my abilities.

How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?

I think much of our creativity is innate. I never thought of myself as being very artistically creative at an early age. I was very interested in sciences - chemistry, biology, space, and building mechanical things. My Father was a joiner and shopfitter by trade, and I found myself in his workshop watching, learning and helping. I built my first table at 7.

It wasn't until I was in secondary school that I drew a carnival street scene with coloured pencils in art class, and the teacher was astounded. She lauded me for that drawing for a couple years after, encouraging me to take art class. I wasn't interested though, I loved technical drawing and soon found that with the restraint and precision of the instruments, I was able to tap into that technical background.

Much later I attended interior design courses, and quickly realised that many aspects of colour theory and composition came naturally to me. Later again, I took up photography, and then under the tutelage of a master photographer, Iearned how to use these innate abilities together to create something meaningful.

So I'd say a lot of my creativity is innate, but I needed to learn how to bring these skills together, and that came from mentoring and practice.

When did you realize that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?

I had a burst of creativity when I was about 14, when there was a government sponsored drive to encourage teenagers toward creative entrepreneurism. I found myself making repurposed jewelry using the skills I'd learned around my Dad's workshop. I made some prototypes, showed my parents, and that plan was promptly shut down in lieu of bettering my shoddy grades at school.

…there’s a fluctuating love/hate relationship between my camera and me.

What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?

Much of my creativity, and my creative standards came from being around my Father. He was a perfectionist. It was often frustrating, but I appreciate it now.
I'm very hard on myself, and those who work with me mention it. I usually have a very specific vision, that took weeks or months to construe in my mind. By the time I'm on a shoot, sometimes it can be crippling if things don't come together according to that plan.

In recent years, I've found myself working on commercial/advertising photoshoots, where scenarios can change in minutes, and I've come to embrace this challenge. I now love it, and I have clients that recognise this love and the knack I have for problem solving on the fly, and they don't mind paying for this ability. This means a lot to me, (and to those to whom I pay my monthly bills) though in an ideal world, I think I'd be able to create more freely if my livelihood wasn't connected to it.

Many times I'd go for a drive or even travel, and people would ask where's my camera? Sometimes I would leave my camera at home because there's a fluctuating love/hate relationship between my camera and I. When I'm out and my camera is with me I'm not relaxed, I tend to switch into "work" mode. To combat that, I have a smaller mirrorless camera that I'd travel with, and I use my phone camera quite a lot too.

I judge the work of others as I'd judge my own. It's very harsh, and I often have to think a lot about how I deliver my feedback.

Approve yourself!

Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavours are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?

Earlier on as a photographer, I created images that resembled (or tried to resemble) images I'd seen in magazines or on TV, and I tried to appease my audience. Today, in my personal work, I shoot what I want, what I envision.
I once had the opportunity to meet the legendary dancer and actor, Geoffrey Holder, who pulled me aside from a group conversation and asked about my photography and where I wanted to go with it. It was very early in it for me and I really wasn't sure, he told me the story of how he was told by his peers to stay in Trinidad, and he eventually made the leap to Broadway and much more, and encouraged me to "Approve yourself" and not wait for others to push me.

I took those words and some years later they made sense. At my first gallery exhibition, one of the pieces I was exhibiting was a portrait of a woman in an African headdress, centred on a dark, framed, canvas print. I was extremely proud of this piece, to me it told a story and showed my technical skill with lighting, and it sold on the opening night. While walking around the launch, I overheard a group of some of the islands most experienced photographers discussing this piece. They loved the subject, the costuming, the lighting, the colours, but they were distressed about the composition. I named the image "Inner Peace, and with warm tones, soft expression, quiet body language, and a centred subject, I conveyed my impression of a sense of peaceful balance.

The critics were saying that the subject should have been placed to one side of the images, I should have used the rule of thirds, the composition is poor. It really hurt, and I spent some hours that night, into the next morning, doubting myself, re-editing the image on the computer, cropping in different ways, then those words came back to me "Approve yourself", and I realised that this was the moment I needed to stop playing for the audience and to start playing my own tune. I've never looked back since.

Living in the Caribbean, on a small island, with a diverse range of ethnicities and cultures, I'm inspired by, and work with what I have around me.

What do you do when you experience a creative block?

I find myself in creative ruts now and then; I would sometimes go for a drive, to a beach to let go for a bit, reboot, and start again. I also find release and inspiration in movies, some old, some new, and more recently some bouts of binge-watching, where I can escape the rut, and start fresh. Netflix and chill?

More like Netflix and leave me alone...lol. The other get-away I have is the kitchen. I love to experiment in the kitchen. It's as if it calls for the use of another part of the brain, and I get to give the blocked part a rest, while creating something else.

I’m a dreamer.

How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?

I have a lot of ideas (A LOT), some in line with what I'm currently able to do, and others completely out of the realm of what I can do. It's a blessing and a curse. In the last week, I saw two ideas I'd had in the last couple years come to fruition by others, and I'm happy to see these things, but I wish I'd pursued them some more.

Some people around me get fed up of my ideas. I'm a dreamer. I got licks in school (constantly) for daydreaming. I've got to bounce them off people, sort out the viable from the far-fetched. I'll have that initial "spark", sometimes while daydreaming, sometimes while dreaming while sleeping, or in the shower. Then I'll start to think, and visualise...rationalise. At this point, I'll usually share it with someone, and it'll either be shelved or undergo much more thinking, and daydreaming. I try to make notes, but I'm terrible with that. A lot stays in my head. Despite my secondary school art teacher's compliments, I'm terrible at freehand drawing, and have little ability (that won't cause embarrassment) to put what's in my head to paper, other than with words. (Thank God for cameras!) 

After much thinking and mental hashing, sometimes with input from others, I start building the concept, sourcing materials, talent, and by that point, I have a very clear goal in mind.

After that, I just need to find the time to materialise it, and hopefully, that spark turns into fire.

Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?

Lots and lots of procrastination. I'm a firm believer in the saying "Everything happens in it's own time". Sometimes I'm well-ready to start a project, but I find myself holding back, for no apparent reason, but when the time is right, and I get in there, it's magical. A good friend once told me "We does plan, and God does laugh". Same principle.

Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?

My style has been all over the place over the years, and I can sometimes date one of my photos by the style of lighting I used, but I've found an identity, particularly through my lighting that others can sometimes recognise in my work. I started with huge light sources, close to subjects, because I'd been taught that large soft light sources were the best, then I dabble with smaller light sources, and moving those large light sources further away from subjects. I loved the contrast, and the detail. I then dabbled with colour temperatures, and coloured lighting, then I went for a lot of highly controlled light sources for more directional, dramatic light. I loved the cinematic look. Recently I've come full circle, and I'm back with large light sources, but the techniques I'm using now are much different to what I was doing the first time around.

I wished I’d been more attentive…
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What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?

I married in 2007, and quit my job in 2009 to pursue photography professionally. I'd read books upon books on running a photography business and entrepreneurship. A common thread in all of these was that 90% of startups fail, and that at least for the first year, 110% of my time would be required in order to succeed. I'd quit my job, and put all my savings into building a business. I then, with my wife's blessing put my everything into it.

I realised a little more than halfway through the first year that my relationship was being stressed, but didn't realise the extent. I plodded on, and eventually realised that I needed to change the bias and put more effort into my marriage.

Almost two years after quitting my job, and less than a week after my first gallery exhibition, my wife lost her life in an accident. My career was taking off, but I'd lost her and at that point (and still today), I wished I'd been more attentive and made more changes, sooner.

Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?

My Father was a stubborn perfectionist. I've inherited this, and it's helped me try to be the best I can be in everything I do. My wife, Kerlene pushed me early on in my career, and when I lost her, I had no choice but to persevere with my craft. Master photographer, Desmond Clarke mentored me early on, and helped me with a foundation on which to build my craft. He's been a huge encouragement along with a number of creative associates and friends like Butch Limchoy, Sarita Rampersad, Mark Lyndersay and my brother, Rory.

2016 was a challenging year, both professionally as well as emotionally, I questioned myself extensively and was ready to quit, but with the love and support of my partner, Sarah I'm back at it now, and my craft is bearing fruit.

I no longer play for the audience. I have no need to be accepted by anyone.
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Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.

As mentioned earlier, I no longer play for the audience. I have no need to be accepted by anyone. This was cemented when a good friend told me recently on my 40th birthday "40 is the age where you finally know where you've come from, and where you want to go."

Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?

I look back at my work sometimes and gasp, roll my eyes, turn red - it's an evolution, and it'll never end. I'm always learning. I know that if I didn't take the steps I took back then, I'd never be where I am now. No regrets. I don't delete any images that I shoot. I keep everything, so that I can look back and see where I've come from.

What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?

A few years ago, I read "The Medici Effect" and some other books on innovation, and challenged myself to find intersections of my skills and abilities. The results were very satisfying. I designed and prototyped functional art pieces for interiors, and I produced some photoshoots where I captured movement in still photos in ways I'd never seen before.

What is the best advice you've received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?

"Approve yourself"

I break rules all the time, but I think it’s critical to know the rules before you break them.

To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?

Take that innate creativity and drive, use it, create, be humble, find a mentor, take a class, learn the fundamentals. These are important. I break rules all the time, but I think it's critical to know the rules before you break them. Then go back out there, create, find your direction and "Approve yourself"

What would you most like to be remembered for?

I don't think I've as yet achieved what I'd like to be remembered for. There's something. I don't even know what it is.

I share everything I know. Butch Limchoy once said to me "Some of them (older photographers) only have two tricks up their sleeves, so they can't afford to give up one." I don't want to be one of those guys. In sharing, and teaching, I learn and re-learn what I think I already know, and the benefit is twofold.
I'd like to be remembered for being a creative innovator who shared, and also the guy who did that awesome thing I don't know what it is as yet.

If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?

Inspired Innovative Indigo

 

Thanks to Scully for taking the time to share with us. To see more of his work on his website. You can also follow him on Instagram  or Facebook.


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A Creative Professional with over twenty years experience. Which he gained during his time spent at a few of Trinidad’s top advertising agencies. Then functioning as the Regional Creative head of the Caribbean’s largest retailer. Contributing to the development of the group’s regional marketing strategy. Forming the regional Design Strategy. Conceptualisation and execution of all creative, marketing and advertising communication for the group’s brands. With oversight of regional and local creative teams and creative processes. He continues to sharpen his creative edge. A passionate, twenty-four hour creative junky. Admirer of sexy typefaces, lover of words and aspiring life long learner. He is also the founder of A BigBox Of Crayons. An online and offline community for creative thinkers + makers in Trinidad & Tobago.