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Carey was born at Kilwarlin, Co Down, the son of a Moravian minister. He trained as an illustrator with Marcus Ward and Co; when this firm failed in 1899, he set up with his brother and another man at 142 Royal Avenue, Belfast. They specialised in illuminated addresses, presentation albums and bookplates.
Carey was also a landscape painter and founder-member of the Belfast Ramblers Sketching Club and the Belfast Art Society; he was later elected to the Ulster Academy of Arts. His best known work is a series of thirteen scenes from Belfast history (1903) for the Ulster Hall; these were restored in 1989. The Ulster Museum, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Armagh County Museum, the Linen Hall Library and the Harbour Commissioners' Office also have holdings of his work.
Percy French, a lifelong friend, was a frequent guest at his house in Knock.