Photographer based in Los Angeles, CA

Innovate Grant Honorable Mention Rory Hamovit
Rory Hamovit, Portrait of the photographer

Tell us about yourself, what's your background?

I am an artist working primarily in photography and video living in Los Angeles. I grew up in New England and have lived many places since, most recently New Mexico. I received my MFA in photography from Yale in 2020. I originally took up photography due to peer pressure in high school, wanting to take a class with all my friends. I knew I wanted to be an artist much earlier however, realizing at a young age that I had little interest or practical skill for anything else. One of my favorite pastimes as a kid was spending hours drawing and coming up with elaborate stories to illustrate, which is likely why I originally wanted to work in animation.

Chalk, 2020, Gelatin Silver Print, 16x20

"Humor is a key component of my practice and honing in on how to activate it visually in a way that allows the viewer to access joy and tragedy intertwined took time and practice."

Painting, 2018, Gelatin Silver Print, 16x20

What are you currently working on and where did the inspiration for it come from?

I'm working on some large, panorama-esque view camera composites as well as a few long-form videos. I want every idea or project to lead to a new or different idea or project. I never want to experience stagnation or repetition so often inspiration comes from simply wanting something different than what came before

It Had to Be You, 2020, Gelatin Silver Print, 16x20

Shadow Puppet, 2018, Gelatin Silver Print, 16x20

Innovation does not only happen in the field of technology — it occurs everyday in a creative practice. What do you do for inspiration?

I love to read. I read a lot. All types of things. It's the most generative medium for me to engage with because it allows me to generate visual worlds constantly. I also like the tried-and-true going for a walk.

Pollinator, 2021, Gelatin Silver Print, 16x20

Describe your practice and process. Where do ideas start for you? In the studio or being in the world?

I like to say ideas are gradual and all at once simultaneously. Oftentimes I'll have a big, wild image of an idea strike me due to something I've read or seen or experienced. It's like a big block of marble in my head that I spend the next days, or weeks, or months or years carving mentally. I help this part of the process along by drawing everything out on paper or writing abstracts that I refine and workshop, taping to them on my studio wall in a big grid where I can read it all like a map and add notes like materials that will be needed for the final image. I may do some more research or begin building out the image, learning new skills along the way. The final staging of a photograph or video may take weeks of preparation. An important part of my process I've learnt to embrace is the "re-do" if something doesn't turn out quite like I envisioned.

How do you make your work, does it start with a sketch?

Everything starts with a sketch, no matter if it's photography or video. Not sure how best to describe my style but I think it grew out of working through influence, keeping and discarding parts. Humor is a key component of my practice and honing in on how to activate it visually in a way that allows the viewer to access joy and tragedy intertwined took time and practice. It was a lot of asking "Do you get it? Do you really get it?" to be certain narrative and pathos were coming through.

Detail of studio
In the studio

Do you have your own studio ritual? What does that look like for you?

I'm a morning person and like being in the studio early, listening to the entire discography of one artist in one sitting and using hunger and snacks as motivation to finish tasks. The only real ritual is dedicating the first few minutes to draw new or changed ideas. It acts a bit like a portal.

Studio view

Who are your biggest influences?

Robert Cumming, 19th century photography generally but especially Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Sophie Calle, Chris Marker, Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel's Evidence, William Wegman's early video work, Caravaggio, Joni Mitchell.

Strongman, 2021, Gelatin Silver Print, 16x20

Are there books or films that are an important source of inspiration?

Any works by George Kuchar, Chantal Akerman, Agnes Varda. I love Robert Altman, Monty Pyton, "This is Spinal Tap," Jacque Tati's "Playtime," Tarkovsky. "All That Jazz" has been one of my favorite films in recent years. In terms of books, W.G. Sebald, a lot of SciFi, Olga Tokarczuk's "Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead." In terms of theory, Jose Esteban Munoz's "Cruising Utopia" and Jack Halberstam "The Queer Art of Failure" were big entry points.

Sundial, 2021, Gelatin Silver Print, 16x20
Dragging, 2021, Gelatin Silver Print, 16x20

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Jack Ferver (a big influence) once told me their greatest motivations for making art are love and revenge.

What is the best advice you would give to other artists?

Embrace a do-over, listen to others and always remember why you actually love what you're doing.

Stay up to date with Rory Hamovit
Instagram @roryhamovit