by Lara Arbid
I was first introduced to Travis’ work with an image from his tribe series. Kamen is pictured in a blue background with stars on his cheekbones, sprinkled with glitter, touched with clouds and lightning on his collarbones. It was an image that spoke beauty and fantasy. In Travis’ words, has a hint of nostalgia and little bit of magic.
Chantar is a photographer, but calls himself a modern magician. Born in California and raised in Idaho by two moms, he was first introduced to art forms with music; drama and painting then followed. Travis represents a generation of artists fighting insecurity and building self-awareness. He’s his number one activist when it comes to pushing self-boundaries and exercising creativity. It’s actually his main intention, saying, “I want to turn everyone into an artist. If you bring art into your life it will give you energy, fantasy, and meaning.”
What inspires the photographer’s work? Fantasy, and anything he sees that he knows he couldn’t have come up with himself.
Travis started painting people because he was intimidated by a blank canvas. With someone else present, he’s inspired by their mood, personality, and the surprise of what he’s able to create. Travis works with a diverse number of creatives. He finds his subjects himself, but with his wide social media presence he often has subjects who reach out to him. Photo shoots are an extremely intimate and vulnerable process. When Travis is working on set, people open up and share their insecurities. Chantar thinks self-doubt is the number one killer of actions and creativity. Through his line of work, he wants to strengthen the stories of his subjects. He draws out the personality of the people he’s working with, and urges them to communicate their narrative. He works alone with no assistant, and his process can last from 15 minutes up to 3 hours. The creative process teaches much patience, but for Travis it represents creating a community through these relationships. It’s a matter of putting someone else’s identity above your own. This is also why he’s not interested in capturing his own image, as he prefers to be involved in communicating other storylines.
The body painting series for Travis was a way of reaching into the subconscious mind. He liked the surprise of what he created. “Flowers represent bloom and the peak of life,” he says. His work is with nature, and what he finds to be the opposite of New York but is universally beautiful. The ritualistic aspect of it is a practice of decoration and a play with gender boundaries. “A lot of what I am trying to do is communicate what my subconscious mind is because I feel like when you do, you are using the voice of the universe and more people can understand you.” It’s this type of artistic intention that makes our world feel connected.
“Any work that you do will give you the same sort of freedom that I’ve gained through doing creative work. To me it made me realize how not to be to trust my subconscious mind.” The modern magician shows us the way to let go of our ego and insecurities, and hold our own narrative tightly. There’s a very precious moment when you wake up from a dream, it’s in the early groggy state where in a brief matter of seconds you can only vaguely remember what you dreamt about. You do however know how you feel. Travis believes that dreams are for forgetting, and it’s the emotion that matters. This is the kind of fantasy that Travis’ art shows us. In his work we see the value in not changing the story with over-exercising your memory, but diving into the subconscious and sharing the emotional ground. With photography, it’s not about sharing which shots are good but presenting which shots are passionately memorable.
Travis is an important role model for any creative. He openly pushes limits with his subjects and non-traditional materials. In this day and age, there are a number of things that affect our creativity and flow. Travis points a majority of the problems to insecurity. How do insecurity and fantasy relate? Fantasy is about dreams, creating, and power, and the modern magician preaches letting go of insecurities stimulates creative power.
When Travis first moved to New York he saw a sign that said ‘Protect your magic’. He makes it clear that magic is not exclusive, in fact something that we have to share in order to grow. “I want as many people as possible to feel that.”
All photos by Travis Chantar