Cartoons, whether we like it or not have impacted our lives in many ways, creating myths and expectations of the world; Clifton Harvey (a bloody talented individual) was so affected by the pathos of Mickey’s Christmas Carol (when Mickey places a crutch by Tiny Tim’s grave)that he decided to infuse those feelings with his work, by letting the viewer draw his/her own conclusions- a sort of photographic narrative that inflicts a feeling of nostalgia for something the viewer might have never experienced. This is what glued me to his work, the flexibility of interpretation over the “story line” was enthralling to me.
It was in college Harvey started his love affair with photography, a love that came about from his fixation on the cameras magical ability to freeze a moment in time. Along with the camera was his passion for illustration and by throwing both loves into the mixing pot he’s come up with a rather unique photography style. By digitally placing his figures into a photograph, it allows the mediums to collaborate with each other, creating a rather bizarre and mystifying effect; one that tugs on the sympathetic heart strings.
As he takes his pictures, Harvey has more on his plate to chew than your average photographer; not only is he tweaking with his ISO, he’s arranging the elements of his shot to serve as a reference for lighting and perspective so that he can build a dramatic stage for his characters to act upon. The culmination if his labor resulted in his thesis work called Left Behind, a “meditation on personal indignities and an allegory on the passing of childhood.” The graphic narrative approach of this work is later expanded on in two of his following series: The Conductor & Castaways.
The biblical passage from Matthew,“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” was a conceptual starting point for The Conductor series. Harvey asked himself “who are the meek and what happens when they inherit the earth?” from this he imagined an empty world only inhabited by creatures that are broken in both body and spirit. Among these creatures he pictured “a displaced corporate mascot, abandoned by a society that once revered him, a stilted beast of burden who has grown complacent with being manipulated, and a puddle-bellied brute fascinated with socks.” He drew upon influences such as comic books, films, cartoons like Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, and the dark visions depicted in Goya’s Los Caprichos. Overall, The Conductor is a reflection on the many social strifes people face day-by-day, with themes of abandonment, humiliation, and disappointment in falling short of one’s ambitions and other’s expectations.
Castaways was conceived after Harvey discovered his old sketches marooned in a dusty drawing book of his; he thought of how his abandoned creations were never fully realised for at the time their potential was locked away, ready to be found in a distant future. So the perspective gained through the passing of time helped him fulfil these unrealised illustrations- this lead to the theme of the entire series: A dedication to the departed and an elegy for everyone left behind, hoping for a reunion in the imaginary places they miss.
If you like what you see, go check out the rest of his work here!