A long sloping grassy hill, speckled with people flying kites. Hardcover books in the shape of the number four. The word ‘welcome’ spelled out in broken pencils. The same grassy hill, but in the winter, with many people sledding. A group of young adults silhouetted in front of a skyline at night. A portrait of a thin, shirtless, redheaded male with brown eyes. A snapshot of a family facetiming on a young child’s birthday. A timelapse of a barefoot fire dancer wearing cutoffs. An aerial view of corn fields. A close up of a reuben sandwich, resting on an open newspaper.
These are the images that you see when when scrolling through the Flickr of Paul Octavious. Portraits mix with selfies. Photographic experiments are followed landscapes that lead to pictures of a hearty breakfast. This might sound like any photographer's snapshot stream, but look more closely and you’ll see that each image and caption is a glimpse into something larger: This is the true documentation of Paul Octavious’ curious life. Nothing is boastful or even senseless. Every picture is pure, innocent, and timeless.
Octavious joined Flickr the day he bought his first professional-grade camera in 2005. Today his account holds over 4,000 photos and over 7,500 followers. Just by perusing a few pages, you can gather that he lives in Chicago, is an uncle of five, has several pairs of brightly colored loafers, enjoys public parks, and is an amature baker. The authenticity he shows online is mirrored in the childlike wonderment found in his portfolio.
In the early days of his photographic career, Paul described Flickr as his mentor. He joined community initiatives like Project 365, which ran on a photo-a-day criteria and helped him expand the bounds of his creativity. “I always had to think of new ideas and how to make the last photo better than the one before,” says Octavious. “One day my sister got a new dog and it ripped through one of her stuffed animals, and left teddy bear innards all over. I remember picking up a piece holding it up to the sky and saying ‘This is a Cloud!’ That started the whole Puffin Clouds series.”
Octavious’ art and photography career were more or less launched from this social platform, as well as Instagram in recent years. He began photographing while in design school as a way to create his own stock photography. As he proceeded to shoot the daily activities of his life and share them on the web, the world began to take notice. Portraits of his dying grandfather was the first series to gather a lot of attention--people responded and shared his work. He was inspired to create more series, until his work was spotlighted on premiere blogs such as swissmiss, The Fox is Black, and Colossal.
The advancements of the Internet has created a mass-sharing of photography, yet Octavious’ stream has continued to stand--perhaps for his risk-taking but also his transparency. “Using instagram for me started out as a journal to document my work and I still use it as such to this day,” says Octavious. “To go from that, to seeing the same photos you took for inspiration all around the world with an Apple logo on it makes you step back and finally take it all in.”
Today, Octavious’ photography can be found in many places--from Threadless t-shirts to McDonalds to The Paris Review. However, his website holds no commercial work. Paid shoots comes second nature to his love for photography as a pure art form. “Photography has no rules. Anything I can think up, I can attempt to make,” says Octavious. “If I succeed, that’s great! If I fail, it’s just another step to succeeding.” Much of his current artistic work is time-based: Smoke bombs filling a glass cylinder. A retro record in motion. People interacting with an Ann Hamilton art instillation. “Time is my teacher. I like using time as a way of learning and seeing things differently. Seeing hows things evolve, seeing how that thing didn’t work last time but how it works now.”
Octavious is not afraid to sign-up for a community-based project, to shoot and share his daily life, to experiment with time, or to write very candid captions on personal images. WeMake is excited to bring such a bright and fearless talent to the stage for our annual celebration. Join Octavious at the WeMake Celebrates on October 2nd for a daylong conference and let his keynote talk inspire some new work. Grab your ticket today!