"As I lay on the basement floor with my hands tied behind my back and a gun to my head, I thought, 'I am going to die tonight.' Lying there, with my eyes closed, I felt this sudden, indescribable wave take hold of my body. This thing inside me proclaimed: 'It is not your time to die. You have not yet done what you were put on Earth to do, you have not even begun it.' This wave left as quickly as it came and when I opened my eyes the man with a gun to my head was gone. That cold night in December changed my life forever. Since then, I have followed this spirit inside me that fought so hard to live that night, doing what I now know I was put on Earth to do, this thing called my art. All of my work is based on the fight to be alive. I use photography as a method of inquiry; it is a tool for understanding the world. The camera exploits a certain curiosity in me and gives me a reason to explore worlds I normally would not."
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in 1980 in, United States
Currently living and working in New York
Will Steacy is an American photographer and writer. He worked as a Union Laborer before becoming a photographer. His photographs have been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums across the United States and are already included in various private and public collections. Steacy was awarded as one of the 25 under 25: Upcoming American Photographers by PowerHouse Books and the Centre for Documentary Studies. Furthermore he is the recipient of the Tierney Fellowship and the Aperture Foundation New York City Green Cart Photography Commission. His works have been featured in The New Yorker, Harper’s, New York Magazine, Newsweek, The Paris Review, and on HBO and CNN. Steacy was furthermore included in the 1st Hearst 8x10 Photography Biennial, in 2009.
ABOUT HIS WORK
Down These Mean Streets examines fear and the abandonment of America’s inner cities. Working through the night, Steacy walks from airport to inner city, past abandoned factories, down deserted streets and through neglected neighbourhoods, stopping to photograph scenes and people illuminated only by streetlamps, neon signs, headlights and moonlight. By addressing the loss and despair that prevail in our urban communities his aim is to reveal a modern day portrait of the American inner city.
Depicting bullet holes, cigarette butts, boarded up housing projects, homeless people, gutter trash, and vacant lots, but they do so without voyeuristic sentimentality or cheap sensationalism. Even though Steacy is an outsider to these particular communities, his viewpoint comes from within, more in a social documentary style steeped in everyday realism. He has chosen emblematic scenes that have a formal clarity, with an added edge of anxiety and danger. A coffee cup lies inside a broken newspaper vending machine, a bus bench is reduced to two sawed off stubs, a purse lies abandoned on the sidewalk, and a fence encircles a dark brick housing facility, a barrier for both those wanting to get in and those wanting to get out. The sense of being out-in-the-open and alone is palpable.
Not the easiest work to like, Steacy’s works holds up a mirror to a world we have created for ourselves that isn’t particularly pretty. There is a sense of fighting spirit in these pictures; the artist has dug deeply and worked hard to tell these sometimes bleak and unforgiving stories. As result, they have power and intensity that is absent in other similar drive-by projects of ruined cities. Steacy has immersed himself in this neglected and forgotten part of our world, made it his own, and is clearly taking it personally.
“This work has been fueled by America's fear. We have become so preoccupied with homeland security and protecting our country from foreign forces that we have lost sight of what it is we are for fighting for-ourselves. America is at a crossroads as we are waist deep in an economic and housing crisis, still at war and struggling to find our place in a changing global society. By addressing the loss and despair that prevail in our urban communities my aim is to reveal a modern portrait of the American inner city as problems and issues cannot be solved if they are not first identified. We must look inward at ourselves.”