It's nearly impossible to distill who we are, as complex beings full of emotion, into a single word. Because I'm more than just one thing. You are, too, I imagine. But for simplicity's sake, that's what we attempt to do... we aim to take ourselves and pin a strength to our exterior armor or slap a joke alongside our smile. We try to understand the inexplicable by breaking it down, sentence by sentence and word by word, until we have something that is graspable... until we can lay the foundation — filled with hopes, dreams, and experience — and build ourselves up into the reflection we'd like to see staring back in the mirror.
Or, we could just hire Aaron Conway. The 32-year-old who grew up in Covington before moving to Cincinnati to attend UC's DAAP program has the innate ability to take all the above (i.e. a complex being full of emotion) and distill him/her down into a single image — to capture, in a moment, who we are in this world. That's an impressive feat, but it's a challenge and pursuit that Conway chases like that of the open road on his motorcycle.
So without further adieu, we're going to step away from the camera and hand it back to Conway.
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Cincinnati Refined: What first inspired your interest in photography?
Aaron Conway: My interest in photography started from an interesting path. My high school art teacher, Mr. Haders, told me that I was going to be a photographer, even though it was never my focus. I can't quote him exactly, but he said I was going to be a photographer because I wanted instant gratification, which, at the time, was a huge insult. I will never know how he knew that... when I was 17 years old, stubborn, and focused on being a painter. But I guess that's what makes a good teacher. So to make the rest of this quick, from high school I went to college and was actually a sculpture major, where I spent most of my time working with metal and bronze casting. I still took photography classes and had a job at the darkroom at DAAP. From there, my love for photography grew, and I saw the possibilities and future. After college, I moved around and thought about what every post graduation 20 year old thinks about... having fun and, well, making money, which eventually took me away from Cincinnati, but then back when I got a job working at a commercial photography studio in town. Which, at that time, set the course to where I am now.
CR: How long have you been a professional photographer?
AC: Depends on how you want to define a “professional photographer.” I technically was working and making an income from photography during college and after. But I would say it truly started around 2011/2012 — that's when I really entered into the commercial side of photography and worked for a studio in Cincinnati called OMS Photography. That's where I learned what it really takes to work as a photographer, and — without my time there — I wouldn’t be where I am now. So to answer the question, I have been working as a professional photographer for six years.
CR: What’s your favorite subject to shoot?
AC: My favorite subject to photograph is people. I love working with people, and I’m lucky to get the chance to meet so many different people. I am a talker, so I really like to chat with someone and try to get to know him/her in, sometimes, only a few moments. Once we have broken down those barriers, then I can take his/her photo. I love trying to capture people's personalities, whether it's a serious look, a little half smile, or full-on laugh. The portrait should be you; and when people see it, they should recognize you versus just seeing the likeness.
CR: What’s at the top of your photography bucket list?
AC: The top of my photography bucket list hmm, I would have to say shooting celebrity portraits, which I know isn’t necessarily a single bucket list moment, but it's something I would like to do more. There are a couple of factors with that subject matter that makes it exciting for me; these are busy people, so you have to work quickly and be on your toes. Another reason is having the chance to be more creative with the portrait, sets, and locations.
CR: Camera of choice? Lens you can’t live without?
AC: This is a tough question, because I am in a camera/lens transition right now. But to answer this simply, I love a 50mm lens. I love the distortion it has for close-up portraits, and it can work great for location work as well.
CR: How would you describe your photographic style (i.e. what makes an Aaron Conway photo distinct from others)?
AC: Technical things aside, I would like to think it's personal. When I am photographing someone, I like to break through some of the barriers... have conversations and capture someone's real personality.
CR: Fill in the blank: My coolest/ most memorable/ favorite experience while shooting was ________.
AC: I have mentioned a couple things in this interview that make me think of a specific photoshoot with local newscaster Bob Herzog. The location for the photo shoot was at Stricker's Grove amusement park located in Ross, Ohio. You can't beat having an amusement park at your disposal for a couple hours; and when you get to photograph the great personality of Bob... well, it [naturally] led to a great photoshoot.
CR: Any advice for aspiring photographers?
AC: I would say the biggest advice would be to never stop learning: experiment and be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. Your best resource is your friends. Make them sit and take photos with you, testing out lighting and ideas. I mean, that's what friends are for, right? Some friends help you move, some friends sit in front of your camera for hours at a time; which would you rather be?
CR: Motto to live by
AC: “Work hard, stay humble.”
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Aaron Conway is an incredibly talented portrait and lifestyle photographer. If you dig his vibe, scroll back up to the top and check out a photo gallery of his work.