Justin Carney ’20 shares his journey with Photography & Video seniors in a virtual artist talk

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Tuesday, February 28th, 2023

When Justin Carney was thinking about grad school after PCA&D, he had some questions: Would it be worthwhile? Would it be a good fit for his ambitions for a career in photography?

Because he was at a school like PCA&D and knew faculty well enough to use them as a sounding board, he’s ended up exactly where he wanted to be: A third-year MFA student in Studio Art with a concentration in Photography at Indiana University Bloomington.

This Thursday, the 2020 Photography & Video graduate will present a virtual artist talk to the senior Photography & Video majors at PCA&D. We talked to Justin about the impact his alma mater has had on his photography, his decision to go to grad school, and his outlook on art. 

What drew you to PCA&D’s Photography program?

Justin Carney: I was really drawn to the size of the school and the size of the department. Being on a smaller scale, it allowed closer relationships with professors which (I correctly imagined) would allow for in-depth and emphasized learning. I also was very impressed with the facilities and camera equipment available to use, despite the size of the school.

Justin, do you have a current focus for your work (like, a particular subject or method, etc.?)

JC: The subject of my work continues to be about my family and our relationship surrounding the loss of my grandmother and the grief we have experienced and live with. My method in exploring this subject has shifted from more straight photos to manipulating the physical print through sanding and a mono-printing technique using transparency film and painting with water to get ink to run.

What is a valuable lesson that you learned in the classroom at PCA&D?

JC: I forget who said this, but I know that I heard it in undergrad from one of my photography professors, I think it was Eric Weeks. It went like, “the most personal things tend to connect to the most universal.” That one statement really helped push me forward in working with the subject I am working on and continuing my work.

What’s a valuable lesson you learned outside of the classroom at PCA&D?

JC: A valuable lesson I learned outside the classroom is to take walks and experience the world, look at the world, make art for fun, not just for a project, enjoy the journey, and don’t put so much pressure on the end result. Art is and should be fun, I really do believe that, and my environment in and around PCA&D taught me that.

Are there any special projects, exhibitions, etc., that you’re in now or that are coming up?

JC: The biggest thing coming up is my Thesis Exhibition on April 4-15 at Grunwald Gallery at Indiana University Bloomington. The opening reception is April 7, 6-8 pm. A recent accomplishment, which was such a beautiful surprise, was winning the First Place Single Image Award in the LensCulture Art Photography Awards 2023.  

Finally, how did you choose grad school as your next step after earning your BFA?

JC: I had a lot of discussions with my photography professors about what grad school was like, if I’d be a good fit, and if it would be useful and worthwhile. My teachers all said I would do great in grad school and they thought I’d make a good teacher. I also felt like I still had so much to learn about photography, and I still have so much to learn.

The school I’m in now, Indiana University Bloomington, was suggested by Eric Weeks and Ashley Moog (Bowlsbey). I’m really glad they told me to go.   

Top image: Detail of photo courtesy of Justin Carney. 

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