Monday, July 1, 2013

Carrie Will

Carrie Will is a photographer and a New York native. Her camera is always aimed at people and the relationships in her life, especially the relationship she has with her twin sister. Her photographs document and often exaggerate the space that lies between their similarities. Photolucida named Carrie one of the top 50 photographers in 2012 via the Critical Mass competition. Will’s work is held in various permanent collections including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC and The University Art Museum in Albany, NY. Her work has also been seen in many galleries nationally and internationally, most notably at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, Michael Foley Gallery in NYC and the Australian Center for Photography. A solo show of Carrie's photographs will open in November 2013 at the SRO Photo Gallery in Lubbock, Texas.

View more of Carrie's work here

Ashley Kauschinger: How did your series, I am Redundant, begin? Did this feel like work you needed to create? What has this work taught you about your identity?

Carrie Will: The series entitled, I Am Redundant, began when I found myself in Syracuse, NY. I was cold, isolated, lonely and broken hearted. I was an MFA candidate at Syracuse University and life didn’t feel easy (I should point out that being cold is the only thing I blame Syracuse for). Eventually I hit bottom. One broken heart, one totaled car (with no injuries) and lots of sadness seemed to be the right recipe for art making. Despite all my dwelling in the past eventually I realized that what was in front of me was what mattered the most and I started making pictures of my twin sister and myself.  

Making pictures of Rikki and I was not new to me. I had done it before and I had actually fought the idea of doing it again for no good reason. Perhaps I wanted to be sure that the images were being made out of necessity and not ease. After eight years of photographing our relationship I can safely say that this is work I needed to be making. Creating I Am Redundant has taught me that I am one person as well as two and that my understanding of my sister and myself is always changing. When I started making the work I wanted to answer questions, to create visuals of how connected Rikki and I are but what I got were lots of questions with lots of possible answers. I believe good photographs should ask more questions than they answer. Similarly, the definition of my identity is always shifting and changing. Sometimes I think I know the truth, other times I feel as though I know nothing. Making this work has taught me that the not knowing is okay too.

AK: In your statement, you talk about creating a visual language that you can use to discuss your relationship with your twin. Do you feel this language was developed naturally, or was labored into existence? What do you feel a visual language can say that words cannot?

CW: The only thing I labor over, when making images, is getting the colors right. Other than that, the process is pretty easy and natural. I’ve always been interested in the way in which people communicate, whether it’s words that are spoken or written, glances, body language and gestures. I love the idea of it, the shortcomings and the successes. I am also obsessed with the idea of communicating with no gestures or language. This stems from the fact that the bond between twins is defined by moments of knowing and understanding another human beings almost as well as you can understand yourself. This ‘knowing’ has little or nothing to do with words. 

When my sister went into labor I dreamt that she had the baby and all was well, when I woke up, I had two text messages. One saying she was in the labor, the other saying she had the baby. I missed the messages but I knew. It’s experiences like this one that have driven me to create a visual language. Words can be beautiful but often language fails us in its finality. An image creates a language that changes depending on who’s looking at it and what they have brought to the image. I want my images to communicate as clearly as any human can. I expect them to tell the truth as well as lie a little, to speak clearly and yet be misunderstood sometimes, to ask lots of questions and to only answer the necessary ones.

AK: The narratives that you create are varied, complicated, and strong. They have a flowing rhythm and are not repetitive. What are your thoughts on creating individual narratives within a series, and getting down to the final edit of images? Some photographers have a belief that all images should be in the same lighting, or all taken inside. Your variation suggests a different mindset.

CW: Thank you for the kind words about my work. When making work that features the same two people over and over my fear is repetition. It’s always nice to hear the words ‘not repetitive’ in the same sentence in regards to ‘I Am Redundant’. I love stories, which is why I love photography. I think a series of photographs should tell a general story and each image within it has a responsibility to tell a different story within the framework of the main theme. I believe they can vary and differ and even be at odds with each other but overall they always point us back to the whole. The full title of the series is 'I Am Redundant, Half of a Whole, A Freak, Identical and Lucky'. Each image has it's own narrative but can find it's place somewhere in that sentence. 

I have a few rules that I follow when making images. I almost always shoot in natural light, I always shoot landscape orientation, I only shoot Kodak Portra film and I shoot with a 4x5 view camera. I used to have more but I have lightened up a bit over the years. I find the formality of these things forces me to think through the image just enough. I like having a plan and then completely changing it at the last minutes. I also love happy accidents, otherwise I wouldn't put myself in the images. When it comes the making of each image and the meaning inside of it, my process is always different. Perhaps that’s where the variation comes from that you mention.

AK: Finally, what is your process of self promotion? How do you balance life and creating work?

CW: Self-promotion can be tricky. I consider it part of the process of art making but if not careful it can take up a lot of precious art-making time. I reserve time in my week to do research about upcoming shows, grants and residencies. Conferences are a good place to network and I make sure always to follow up on contacts and send ‘thank you’ and ‘it was nice meeting you’ messages. I have been pretty lucky and I am so grateful to the people who find me via my website and include me in things to help promote my work. Thank you, Light Leaked!

I find balance between life and making art to be always influx. Some days I get it evenly split, other days it’s all off but that’s what balancing is, always changing and shifting. I try not to be too hard on myself. For years I taught photography as an adjunct instructor at different colleges. Making art was almost impossible for me because I felt like I was always spread too thin. I know people that can make it work, but I couldn’t. Now I teach yoga, I practice yoga and I make art. Balance feels easier now that I enjoy all aspects of my working life.

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