Chad Moore: From BMX to High Art

Chad Moore, carefully being held by Darryl Nau. Launch Chad's photo gallery » 

In the art world, Ryan McGinley needs no introduction. From having a solo exhibition at the Whitney at the ripe age of 26 to being mentioned on the teen soap opera Gossip Girl, McGinley is one of, if not the art star of my generation. While the backdrops have changed from the Lower East Side of New York City to the American Southwest and beyond, one thing remains constant: the celebration of youth. Ryan achieves this every summer with a band of modern day pranksters, and it just so happens that one of these pranksters is 22 year-old BMXer and photographer Chad Moore. Like many, Chad has picked up a camera along the way, only his photos are quite different from the immaculate action shots most choose to take. Chad was kind enough to let me pick his brain about landing a dream job and much more.

Since you are a NYC transplant, where did you grow up and where in NYC are you currently living?

I grew in Tampa, Florida and moved to New York last year. First I lived in this crazy loft called the Snake Lounge in Brooklyn, and recently I moved to the Lower East Side.

And you moved to NYC for work right?

Well, kind of. I basically just did it on a whim, although I had wanted to live here for so long. I wrecked my car and I got some insurance money so I just went for it. I didn't have a job waiting on me or anything.

That's awesome, so what are you currently doing for a job now?

Well, I had been interning for Ryan McGinley for a few months, then I started working for him on and off and that's kind of what I still do as well as do my own photo jobs. It's basically pay check to pay check.

How did working for Ryan McGinley all come about? I've heard that he's hired people just based on the fact that Belle and Sebastian are their favorite band.

Well last October, one of my friends who knew I liked his work was like "Hey McGinley is hiring interns," and I was like, "There's no way I could get hired," but my friends just told me to go for it and I interviewed with Marc, his studio manager, and I got the job. I don't know, it was one of the most exciting things, it still is. I don't know what I would have been doing this past year if I hadn't worked for him.

So before I get too far, let's back up for a second. We'll get more into Ryan and his work in a minute. How did the photography thing come about? Was it through BMX?

Yeah, well kind of. A lot of my friends took photos of BMX, namely Ryan Bailey, so I just kind of followed the band wagon when I was 14 or so. I think it's kind of natural if you ride, you want to take photos of riding. I hated shooting BMX photos though because you need so much gear. To make a halfway decent photo at least.

Totally, so you knew right away you didn't want to shoot BMX, right?

I suppose, it was just too much. Flashes, pocket wizards, you know the whole thing. And it would be like everything is so staged and I guess that just wasn't my thing.

I feel the same way. It completely takes the trick out of context when there are five flashes and one million attempts. So how did you get into doing the work you do now then?

I had been shooting on and off though high school and stuff with a Canon SLR, and then I started getting interested in art photographers and somehow heard about the Yashica T4 (I know I know, so cliche right) and ended up getting one off eBay for $100 and would just always carry it with me and take photos of my friends: riding, partying, hanging out.

And now it's evolved into more than that though, which is nice. Did you end up going to school for photography or art at all after digging deeper into photography?

Kind of, I had taken some classes in high school but at that point I already knew how to use a camera. Then I was in community college and took two photo classes, but that was basically just because the teacher was really cool and let us shoot whatever we wanted. But to answer that, I don't have any kind of art degree.

That all seems so whirlwind, you know? Just moving to NYC and getting a gig with one of your favorite artists? Stuff like that doesn't happen everyday.

Yeah I know, I've been super lucky, unbelievably lucky!

For sure, it's more than just luck though. Since you did actually spend the summer working with McGinley, can you explain what goes on and maybe give us an example of a day's work?

Oh man, it's always something different and crazy. This summer we focused on his cave series, so that was basically 14 of us venturing into these amazing, sometimes scary, sometimes dangerous spaces with a few cameras, some spot lights and a backpack full of peanut butter and jellies. Sometimes we would be in a cave for ten hours, and a few times we camped out in them. No one on the trip had ever really been into a cave, but after this summer, I feel confident that we have been in more caves than most cavers ever will. We also did a lot other stuff too like jumping off cliffs onto this big fall mat or setting up a full size trampoline in the middle of nowhere. It's a serious adventure. One night we might stay at a huge Mormon ranch house and then camp out in the middle of a desert for three days at a time. Just driving around in a shuttle bus with a trailer packed with so much gear.

And what is your role in all of that?

Pretty much everything. My friend Jeff and I drove a lot. Setting up the fall mat, it weighs like 200 pounds, helping to shoot, sorting film, grocery shopping, holding spot lights, cooking. Everything.

Crazy. And this took place for how long and where in the US did the crew go?

We left NYC on June 1st and went all through the South, Southwest, parts of California and ended in Colorado, only because the bus broke down so bad that we all had to fly back. I think we got back to New York on July 29th.

So I assume BMX had nothing to do with those two months right?

Nope, it was weird because I didn't touch a bike the whole time, but it basically had the same vibe as any BMX trip I've ever been on, just no bikes.

Yeah, the trip itself is usually my favorite part, so I can relate. Where does BMX fit into your schedule now? You're still riding right?

Yeah, I still ride, but it's not like every day like Florida. I'm always trying to work on photo stuff, but I usually try to ride a few times a week. The winter is starting to set in early so that's not to cool.

That's always the worst time in the Northeast, just waiting for the really bad weather to set in.

Yep! It's pouring rain right now.

So when you do ride in NYC who and what do you ride with, it must have been a big change from Tampa?

Yeah totally, spots here are weird and it's like an all day event to go ride an amazing spot. I usually ride with Zach Sky or Torey Kish. Just around Brooklyn, or there's this little skatepark plaza type thing right by my house.

The idea of the road trip is instilled in my blood; I think that's from BMX.

--Chad Moore

And as far as your own artwork goes where do you see that going in the future?

I think I'll always be making photographs of youth, kind of just life on the run with no inhibitions. I love New York, but I feel like when I'm here, I always want to be on the road somewhere, especially during winter. The idea of the road trip is instilled in my blood; I think that's from BMX. I've been working on some fun fashion stuff with a few different companies and I would love to continue doing that, it helps to fund doing art stuff!

Nice. Since I'm sure you probably have numerous people to thank, here's your chance.

Okay. First, I gotta thank my Mom, she's always down for supporting me through all the craziness that I'm always getting into. The McGinley crew, Ryan, Marc, Chris, everyone there. My friends, Zach, Bailey, Spencer, Pinzon, Jon Wilson, so many people it's hard so I'm just going to say that everyone else knows who they are! And of course you Nick, for this interview. Is that cheesy?

No. Thank you's are cheesy in general so it's fine. I didn't really want to do one but always feel obligated. So instead of ending it there, I have one more question. When you've been hanging out with art stars and arteests in general, do you sometimes ever wish you were hanging gout someone as level headed as say, (Luis) Pinzon or Conall (Keenan)?

Well the majority of the people I'm friends with who are artists are pretty awesome. I feel like like people get the wrong impression and think that just because people do something else, like making art, that they act differently. Sure there are some people involved in art that are super uppity and what not, but I feel like there are just as many people like that now in BMX. People have given me a hard time before for trying to explore something else besides BMX, and living in NYC in general, but like I said, the people I surround myself with kind of have the same mentality of someone who rides, they just don't ride. But I would do anything to hang out with Pinzon and Conall on a daily basis!

Well said, thanks a lot Chad.

To view more of Chad's photography, visit his site here.