The Culture Crush
Society Is Everybody's Business
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Candid Camera

photographs by CLAY BENSKIN

Throughout the history of photography, there have always been arguments regarding its legitimacy as artwork. A novelty, a contraption, a machine taking the place of the hand of the artist? Oh, the horror! But slowly, as the 20th century unfolded, cameras landed in the hands of artists, and these impractical visual novelties, these  mechanical painting machines, were put to work in service of the eye of the beholder. So now that everyone has a phone in their pocket, we are at a point where we ask, what qualifies anymore as photography when the machines are taking over once again? Well, if you call Clay Benskin a photographer, he will be quick to correct you. 

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 “I’m a street photographer, not a photographer,” has become something of a mantra for him since picking up a camera a couple of years ago. But unlike most of the self proclaimed street photographers of the Instagram age, Clay manages to capture something deeper, something true. “I have a love hate relationship with street photography. I love it because I don’t know what I’m doing and I hate it because I don’t know what I’m doing.” And though his approach comes off as nonchalant, the work is dynamic—always stopping time at the height of the action.

“I’m a street photographer, not a photographer,” has become something of a mantra for him since picking up a camera a couple of years ago. But unlike most of the self proclaimed street photographers of the Instagram age, Clay manages to capture something deeper, something true. “I have a love hate relationship with street photography. I love it because I don’t know what I’m doing and I hate it because I don’t know what I’m doing.” And though his approach comes off as nonchalant, the work is dynamic—always stopping time at the height of the action.

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 His work contains so much life, in all of its complicated yet extra-ordinary glory. We see the story through his own lens, a combination of his unique empathy and curiosity about people in the world.

His work contains so much life, in all of its complicated yet extra-ordinary glory. We see the story through his own lens, a combination of his unique empathy and curiosity about people in the world.

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 “I actually make up stories in my head, but I’m not necessarily looking for one, per se. I’m curious about everything and everybody.” Taking a look at society requires a separation of sorts; an ability to look beyond the self portrait, outside of one’s self all together. These kinds of skills are inherent, rarely learned, and often executed badly. But this sort of behavior has always been peculiar to Clay.

“I actually make up stories in my head, but I’m not necessarily looking for one, per se. I’m curious about everything and everybody.” Taking a look at society requires a separation of sorts; an ability to look beyond the self portrait, outside of one’s self all together. These kinds of skills are inherent, rarely learned, and often executed badly. But this sort of behavior has always been peculiar to Clay.

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 “I don’t put the camera up to my eye. I shoot from the chest. Everyone says to shoot from the hip, but I always shoot from the chest. If you put it to your eye it’s harder, people are gonna notice.”

“I don’t put the camera up to my eye. I shoot from the chest. Everyone says to shoot from the hip, but I always shoot from the chest. If you put it to your eye it’s harder, people are gonna notice.”

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 To capture stories right out of the world, to take a deep look at our society through everyday actions, to express the extraordinary through the moments that are ordinary, is itself an artistic gesture. What differentiates Clay’s work is his ability to let the viewer feel as though they too, are part of the story, like we are all in it together. And as we keep losing touch with reality, nothing feels more uniting than being allowed into the complicated story of all of us.

To capture stories right out of the world, to take a deep look at our society through everyday actions, to express the extraordinary through the moments that are ordinary, is itself an artistic gesture. What differentiates Clay’s work is his ability to let the viewer feel as though they too, are part of the story, like we are all in it together. And as we keep losing touch with reality, nothing feels more uniting than being allowed into the complicated story of all of us.

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