The eternal adolescence of Chad Moore's photography
His new book 'Anybody Anyway' captures the childlike spirit of creative New Yorkers. Here, Chad discusses finding that same magic in nature.
This story originally appeared on i-D Italy.
When people talk about coming of age, they’re usually referring to a brief life stage: a set of attitudes and experiences that might vary slightly from person to person, era to era, major city to middle-of-nowhere town, but which ultimately all follow the same narrative. Reducing this to a mere moment though, lessens its emotional, conceptual and symbolic significance. After all, is coming of age not an ongoing process? A much-mythologised mood that can last anywhere from the length of a school year to an entire lifetime?
Throughout his career, Chad Moore has certainly suggested so. Now in his mid-30s, the photographer has spent years documenting his vision of coming of age — a youthful, American aesthetic dotted with road trips, giddy smiles, rainbow hair and bare skin. Compiling unseen archival work of this ilk with new portraits, Chad’s new photo book, Anybody Anyway, weaves an ode to friendship, kisses, nights out and mornings spent watching sunrises from unfamiliar windows.
Tear-stained faces appear next to tight embraces; moments of intimacy alongside bursts of carefree abandon. At the heart of the project lies the quest to capture individuals throwing themselves headlong into discovering who they are and what surrounds them. "The subjects of my photographs are also my friends, so there’s a youthful aspect to them, but not always in a literal sense,” Chad tells us. “It's something that I think is part of the community and the spirit of New York. Even though we’re adults now, we’re still the same.” This sense of eternal adolescence materialises, he explains, as "the spirit of youth; that childlike obsession with the world".
Born in 1987 in Tampa, Florida, Chad spent much of his teenage years riding his BMX through the streets, something which allowed him "to shoot and take trips that could be filmed and photographed — this is how my obsession with photography began," he tells us. High school gave him the opportunity to realise this passion further, attending photography classes and experimenting in the darkroom. Over the next few years, Chad managed to save up the money he needed to buy his first Nikon scanner along with a one-way ticket to New York.
The young talent relocated to Brooklyn with a group of friends, also into BMXing, who rented "an absurd loft in Williamsburg" together. Of those early years, he remembers the madness of being part of a creative scene on the rise, crediting his art for allowing him to find his place in the world. "I was a bit of an awkward kid, so photography offered me a new way to relate to my surroundings," he says. In his new home, Chad befriended other young creatives — many of whom quickly became protagonists in his work; others, like his “older brother from another mother” Ryan McGinley, who he would go on to assist.
Since he decided to seriously pursue a career in photography over a decade ago, the explosion of social media has meant an overexposure to images that can verge on overwhelming at times. As such, Chad remains fond of more tactile, thoughtful mediums. "I love working on books," he admits. "I think it's the most democratic way to access a more artistic side of photography. Most people can’t afford a Richard Avedon print, but they can buy one of his books." Chad started work on Anybody Anyway early in the pandemic. It was a period in which his creative process, which previously focused on physicality and intimacy with his subjects, came to an abrupt halt. "Normally, I shoot constantly but I wasn't able to be with people for so long, that I had to think about a new direction I wanted to take,” he says. “Let's just say that that moment of crisis gave me a big push."
The culmination of Chad’s moment of artistic and emotional reflection led to a rediscovery of nature — something which replaces the city streets in his more recent work. "I began to think about what humanity might represent in the absence of a human subject,” he says. “So I focused on the night sky. And I think this approach worked because I found the same energy in it as in a portrait."
All photography courtesy of Chad Moore