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Mississippi Month: Sidney Conley On His Passion For Art + Representing Mississippi

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Jackson photographer Sidney Conley has a desire to show Mississippi the beauty of art through his eyes. He started his artistic journey at Tougaloo College and went on to establish his own business, Sidney Conley Photography.

Check out our one-on-one with him below.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What part of Mississippi are you from?
Sidney Conley: I was born and raised in Jackson.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: How old are you?
SC: I’m 25.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What’s your educational background?
SC: I graduated from Murrah High School in 2006 and I graduated from Tougaloo College with a Bachelor’s in Art last May.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: As far as your industry, how did you get your start in the business?
SC: I basically took every Art course that was offered at Tougaloo and the only course I didn’t take was photography…so I was just going at it because I didn’t have a choice and I fell in love with it. After I graduated from Tougaloo, I bought my own camera and started taking pictures and just doing what I love…just creating art and people started seeing it and I just kept going and I don’t really consider it a movement or a hustle. I’m just a simple guy that likes taking pictures of art and sharing it with the world.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What’s your take on success in Mississippi in the photography business?
SC: I don’t think this area really has been exposed to art so I think that’s my job to open up this area’s eyes to what’s really art and what I consider art to be. I just want to show everyone art through my eyes.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What does being a Mississippian mean to you?
SC: It means a lot! Just growing up being limited to resources has taught me how to take advantage of what I have and to fully use it because we really don’t have like a lot of places to shoot that’s really nice so I take the smallest things and just turn it into magic.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: Who are your artistic influences?
SC: Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Van Gogh.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: Why those three? 
SC: Because I researched them. I started off as a painter and then I moved on to drawing. The Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo and I loved it and one day I hope to go see it and Van Gogh’s painting structures and styles just inspired me to create art and now that I know the history of art, it’s easy for me to take a picture and make sure every picture is filled with art.

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JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What has been your favorite session and why?
SC: My favorite series is the Runaway Bride because honestly I was just brainstorming one day and the idea just came to my head out the blue and I wanted to do a bride shoot, but I didn’t want it to be all happy and what not. I just wanted something different so that’s as and when the concept came for the Runaway Bride. I didn’t want her to just be the typical running down the street or somewhere. I got to thinking of what someone might do and that’s how I created the picture of her walking in the water and then the other concept was the changes of a runaway bride running into the woods so it’s another concept that I thought of and if people would go look at my work, they would see that it kind of has like a mist behind her and she’s leaving two luggage cases and I just put a lot of time and work in that and I’m proud of that series.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What do you feel sets you apart from other photographers?
SC: I don’t really…hmmm, I’m not gonna sit here and say that I don’t watch other photographers because I do and that’s a key concept that I taught myself – to learn from their mistakes. I don’t really know what sets me apart. I just know that I like to have all the elements of art in one picture and if that’s what sets me apart, then I guess that’s what it is, but I don’t really study their work. I just know what my work has to include.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: Any advice for emerging photographers?
SC: To do what you love and don’t mold your work to any other photographer. I started out doing what I love and that’s exactly how I wanna end.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What does photography do for you personally?
SC: Man, it just brings peace to me. If anyone has ever seen me at a shoot, I’m always laughing because I love doing it. I wanna do this for the rest of my life and it just brings me joy when I can please the client. If I was rich, I would do this for free because this is what I wanna do and I don’t mind doing it. I would say it brings me peace.

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: When did you actually start your business.
SC: Really, honestly, I don’t even look at myself as a business just yet. Others do and it may look like a business, but me personally, I look at it as a young person who likes taking pictures and people just like seeing them. So, that’s how I look at it. I don’t really look at it as a business, but to answer your question, it started last year when I brought my camera. I was brainstorming and asking myself for a long time, “What should I call myself? What should I call my work?” And I was just like, “Hey, what’s more simple than my name?”

JESSICASIMIEN.COM: Any last thoughts on the photography business or working in Mississippi?
SC: Basically I just want to do something that no one has ever done before. I want to show Mississippi and represent Mississippi the best way I know how. When people look at my work, I want their mouths to drop and be like, “Wow, that’s crazy.” And that’s really all I strive for.

To connect with Sidney and to view his work, follow him on Instagram @sidney_conley.

This interview was a part of our annual Mississippi Month feature. Like what you read? Share it using the hashtag #JSMississippiMonth!

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