Clary Estes is a documentary photographer from Central Kentucky who works internationally on stories about the human condition.
When I was young, my mother gave me a camera as a means to stave off boredom one afternoon. For the next 6 hours, I photographed non-stop. I was hooked. It was as if I were seeing the world for the first time; the colors where brighter, the people were more interesting and the horizon was endless.
The camera has since become my voice, my eyes and my very essence. It is how I communicate with and understand people. It is how I grow and evolve. I am never more myself than I am when I have my camera.
As a photographer, I have come to understand my work as being a delicate balance between a record of life and a testimony of the human condition. Each series I create works to strike this balance and tell the story of humanity in new and different ways. Sometimes, these stories are manifest in a linear storytelling method where I listen to and see someone’s life unfold in front of me and they share their most personal and intimate moments with me. Other times the boundaries between past and present blur to create a quiet melancholy that questions life and our place within it. And sometimes my work simply rejoices in the brevity and innate excitement of life and all its uncertainty.
I photograph all of this while trying to be as open and honest as possible. I ask those who came before me for insight and I teach those who come after me what I have learned. I ask questions and challenge the boundary between subject and photographer – what is it to be seen and what is it to see? Through my work I can reflect, I can grow and I can move forward. I used to believe that as a photographer I helped others with my work, but in reality, my subjects are the ones who help me and in return, I show a part of my soul to convey the charity that I have received.