Anya Garrett: Eyes on the City

By Andrew Singer

If you’ve been involved in the vibrant performance scene in New York City, chances are you’ve probably seen the work of Anya Garrett.  She has taken photos of numerous talented performers, from comedians to musicians, as well as stunning outdoor photography.  Additionally, she has been involved with theater and video as well, both in front of and behind the camera.  Her work captures the vibrant and outsized personalities of her clients while also keeping them serene and personal.

CS: Please give us the scoop on your brand new book, “365(6)”.

AG: “365(6)” is a collection of portraits ~ of me and by me ~ taken daily over the course of one year. All 366 images are collected in the book. (The parenthetical 6 represents an extra day added onto the project due to the leap year of 2008). While the project originally seen on Flickr was obviously collected chronologically, the photos are categorized by theme and style in the book, and are accompanied by text that I’ve written to break down my style components and to catalog the journey I took over the course of that year. The project began as an experiment in styles of portraiture, a test for myself as a photographer - a new type of portrait everyday. Using myself as a subject was a natural progression for the simple fact that I was always with myself. Most images were taken at an arm’s length, some were taken with a camera’s self-timer, and later in the project I employed the use of a wireless remote trigger… I like to experiment with make-up and costuming, but don’t be fooled - each image is myself as photographed by myself.

365(6) Cover Artwork

365(6) Cover Artwork

What do you get out of directing film/video that you don’t get out of photography?

Movement. A series of thoughts and statements rather than one visual image. Now, movement can be implied in still images - but it can’t be truly documented with only one frame. Since movement is a huge part of human behavior, it’s a huge part of documenting human behavior. While there’s something to be said for capturing a single moment that tells a story, there’s something incredible about weaving these beautiful moments together to tell a more complex story. It’s also much like the difference between theater and film ~ theater is more instantaneous. You do a performance and then it is over. In terms of digital photography, you click a shutter and you immediately see an image. Film and video are much different in that it’s a longer process ~ with digital video, you can immediately view footage… but footage alone is not a film. It isn’t until the footage is edited that you get a film. From the scripting to the acting to the editing, a project can change and mutate several times and it often takes a lot of time to get to the final product. At least for myself, having started my career in film and television, the longer process of filmmaking results in a stronger attachment to each piece. I suppose that also explains why my personal photography goals are often collections or long term assignments.

Please tell us about one of your favorite role(s) as an actor.

Shooting Jewno was an incredible experience. When the first shooting date was pushed back, the original actor to play my father could no longer do the short (a shot-for-shot parody of the trailer for Juno)… somehow the stars aligned for J.K. Simmons to come in and play my father (as well as having played Juno’s dad in the original film), and it was an absolute delight to work with him.  I’ve worked with the director (Stephen Levinson) before, and Stephen gave me the distinct pleasure of casting my very talented friend Matt McCarthy into the piece. Although admittedly the smell of lox makes me quite queasy, working with Jon Golbe was also a treat.

Despite the fact that most of my acting work is in comedy, I studied dramatic acting and really enjoyed getting method with the part ~ including determining which scenes required padding and which ones I should tape myself down to do… It was a very quick but complete production experience and I’m very happy with its successes. I still hear stories from friends that they’ll receive youtube links to it as “this hilarious new video I found!”

PS: I’m not even Jewish.

Portrait of Glennis McMurray

Portrait of Glennis McMurray


When you’re doing a shoot, how do you make your clients comfortable and relaxed in front of the camera?

In photography, a subject doesn’t interact with the camera - the subject is really interacting with the person behind the camera. If I can’t get to know my subjects, I won’t be able to capture them. I’m not going to find their essence without first bringing them into themselves. And above all, unlike some other photographers, I don’t want you to hold a position you can’t stand so that I can get my dream shot… If you’re uncomfortable - you will look uncomfortable. Yes, it’s a bit strange to sit for a session when you are an untrained model - but I should be doing most of the work. You should concentrate on being you! Largely it just takes talking ~ connecting without the camera and while the camera is between us.

What new project are you just starting to work on?

I’m currently working on a simplified yearlong project entitled “Lii” (roman numerals for 52) which will consist of one self-portrait and one random image from each week in 2009.

Also, I always have something up my sleeve - or rather several things up my sleeve. I’m contemplating starting another book ~ this time a collection of my portraiture, I’m in talks to begin directing a friend’s one-woman-show for the stage, I’ve got several new videos in development, and a long-term photo project in the works depicting the progression of love in modern times. Plus, I’m all the while seeking out fascinating new portrait subjects and out just living life…

Photo from Lii

Photo from Lii

Andrew Singer performs all over the NYC as comedic rapper “soce, the elemental wizard.” He has toured Europe and the U.S., and been featured on numerous media outlets, including MTV, VH1, Here TV, Logo, The Source, Out, Howard Stern and Sirius Shade 45.  His new album, “Master of Fine Arts” comes out in August 2009.

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Posted on 03 May 2009 at 6:50pm
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