Film photographer and videographer Kadar Small came up through the robust nightlife scene in Brooklyn. A close associate of Kenni Javon, the party maker behind the black queer rave of the moment Dick Appointment, Small has made his name documenting the grit, joy and sweat of the community New York City owes its most lit parties to. Aside from nightlife, Small has shot at NYFW and for well-known brands like Calvin Klein and Urban Outfitters, as well as a stunning series of intimate Polaroid portraits of his friends and lovers.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Small has turned to his art to figure out his mental state. In a new series called “Mentally Gone”, he documents himself in isolation through a series of self-portraits and diary entries depicting breakdowns in quarantine. The series, which sharp colors and dramatic scenarios call to mind the works of Darren Aronofsky and Wong-Kar-Wai, speaks not only to Small, but to the invisible struggles of many; it’s a call to empathize with our fellow man, and an important way to kickstart communal healing post-pandemic.
We caught up with Small to talk about his latest photo series “Mentally Gone”, the future of nightlife post-COVID, and how he stays inspired while the pandemic rages on.
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Where are you quarantining?
I’m quarantining in my Bed-Stuy Apartment in Brooklyn, NY.
Tell me about your new photo series “Mentally Gone.”
My new series “Mentally Gone” is a series of self-portraits that explore my mental state during social distancing along with scanned journal entries during my breakdowns.
What photographers inspire your work and why?
As my career grows, I’ve noticed that less photographers inspire me. Even though I definitely admire a lot of photographer’s work, more of my environment and cultural issues are what inspire me. Pushing norms and boundaries is something [I’m] always for.
I know you largely shoot nightlife – aside from diving into personal projects like this one, what new photo subjects have caught your eye?
Films from the 80s and 90s have really caught my eye. I’m actually in the process of writing my first screenplay, tentatively titled “Stressed.” Will definitely be directing a film very soon.
What are you watching these days?
I’ve been watching films like “Nowhere” by Gregg Araki and “Requiem for a Dream” by Darren Aronofsky.
What are a few things you’ve realized in this time you can’t live with out?
A few things I’ve noticed I can’t live without are my VHS cameras, my point-and-shoot, and my photo book. Looking back at my memories has given me a lot of hope for the future.
What could you live without?
I could live without this fucking lockdown and virus. It’s messing up my bag! [laughs]
What fuels you, creatively?
Seeing my audience’s reactions… I live when my work inspires others.
Any other big projects coming up? What do you hope to do creatively by the end of the year in this new landscape?
I’m working on a few projects I can’t really speak on as of yet, but I’m very excited to share soon. I plan on these new projects getting me out of my comfort zone.
In lieu of events, people have been having Zoom parties; Dick Appointment threw a lit Zoom one. Have you been on the ZOOM party circuit, at all? As a constant fly-on-the-wall in these spaces, how do you think nightlife will change?
I personally haven’t really attended any Zoom parties besides Dick Appointment. It just makes me miss IRL partying too much. I like listening to different DJs like Byrell The Great and LSDXOXO. I feel like nightlife after this pandemic is going to be EPIC. People miss human contact and having fun in NYC.
What are you most looking forward to in a post-COVID world as a creative?
I’m looking forward to working and shooting people again. I’m a huge workaholic, so this lockdown has definitely slowed things down for me, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.