Patrick J. Adams embodies a picture-perfect young Hollywood star: chiseled features, a leading role on a hit TV show (Suits) and an equally successful and attractive fiancé (Troian Bellisario, Pretty Little Liars).
But what you might not know about the Canadian actor is that his shimmering star-quality could have easily been traded for the gritty life of a documentary photographer. He’s been viewing the world through the backside of a camera his entire life.
“That kind of photography is really exciting for me,” Adams told The Daily Beast, “because it’s not just about an art form, it’s almost a way of life.”
And a new exhibition of his work reveals his appetite for the art form. Behind the Lens: An Intimate Look at the World of Suits displays over thirty behind-the-scenes images of the show he fronts, offering an intimate look into the lives of the cast and crew.
Four seasons in, Suits has become the best show on the network, billed to take over as USA’s top series. It’s smart, funny, and daring with a longevity that has given Adams the ability to cultivate a relationship with the entire crew and an all-access-pass for photographing them.
“They capture them in moments that people aren’t used to seeing them,” he said. “They are more themselves than they are the characters.”
And while most people will be turning out to see those familiar faces, Adams hopes that the images of the unseen forces behind the show will be what really resonate; the ones he is most proud of.
“These are people who are just as important to the creation of Suits, but are never in front of the camera,” he said of the set crew, writers and directors. “Those are the ones that I’m most interested in seeing people’s response to.”
But his documentation of celebrities and Hollywood help isn’t where his true passion lies. It resides in far-off places and unfamiliar territories: anything that’s starkly different from what he knows.
As a child, Adams recalled flipping through stacks of photo books for hours; it was one of his favorite things to do. Even when he would visit a friend’s house, he noticed the photos that decorated their homes, sometimes stopping to glance through their family albums.
“I just thought it was incredible to be able to see how different the world looked and how different my family looked, and how time has this effect on things.” Soon enough, he picked up a camera and started documenting his own life and lives of those around the globe.
The son of a traveling journalist (his father covered historical events like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the genocides in Rwanda), Adams was exposed to some of the most beautiful (and controversial) places in the world. His family opted out of the traditional vacations to Disneyland, swapping pristine Florida beaches for third world or war-torn countries.
“I got really used to being in strange circumstances as a young kid,” Adams said of typical family vacations, which included Israel and the Philippines. “Sometimes traveling as a child was a little uncomfortable and I never really knew how to integrate myself into the place that I was visiting.”
Photography became a way for him to connect to places that he may not have belonged or felt like a stranger. “I really looked up to [my father] in that sort of spirit of telling a story.”
His first exhibition of work, Sea/Land, launched at Toronto-based gallery, OZ Studios, in 2013. The subject matter focused on the “home-setting lifestyle” of an island off the coast of British Columbia, where his sister lives in a community off the grid. The photos showed cold, desolate beaches juxtaposed with snow-covered cabins and decaying trees.
It’s traveling to places like that which inspire him most—being able to expose people to places they wouldn’t typically be aware of, much like Brazilian photographer Sebastião Selgado, who he admires.
Selgado is a man who spent entire chucks of his life integrating into environments and cultures that no one was even thinking or talking about, producing some of “the most beautiful images you’ve ever seen in your life.”
And while, at this point in time, it’s “not really possible for me to pursue photography in that way,” Adams makes sure to “bring that aesthetic or idea into whatever” he shoots, even if it is just a TV show.
Behind the Lens: An Intimate Look at the World of Suits is on display at 402 W 13th Street from January 23-25. Proceeds from the show will benefit Pablove Shutterbugs.