“A friend once referred to my images as moodscapes and I believe that is a good way to refer to what I do. In many of my images clouds play an important role, people are absent and the type of light is a reflection of a particular mood. I feel like there is a sense of looking and moving through space.”
Christine Carr (born in 1968) is a photographer currently based in Roanoke, Virginia (USA). She studied photography at Tyler School of Art of Temple University (Philadelphia, PA), Corcoran College of Art and Design (Washington, DC), and Tidewater Community College Visual Arts Center (Portsmouth, VA).
“Photography is a license to explore outward and inward. It is never boring as I feel there are always new ideas to pursue and countless techniques to try. It is a means of expression and an outlet for me. If I don’t make new work on a regular basis I get cranky.”
Interview with Christine Carr
Christine, what was your first photographic experience?
My grandmother gave me a Kodak Ektralite 10 point and shoot camera when I was a teenager and I used it for intermittent snapshots. One day I took pictures of my friend lying down on railroad tracks from an elevated roadway. I’m convinced that would have started my photographic journey, but unfortunately my mother sucked up the film while vacuuming out the car. I didn’t return to photography until years later (late 20’s) and at that time I bought a Canon Rebel for classes.
Why did you become a photographer?
After my first college attempt I bartended for years but had an inkling there was something else I wanted to do. I took a photo in a park one day that I really liked which prompted me to do some research. I was intrigued that photography was more complicated than I thought; apertures and shutter speeds challenged me for a while. I was lucky that my local community college had a fantastic program that I could try before making any big decisions. I was smitten with photography during my first semester and still have a love affair with it.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is a license to explore outward and inward. It is never boring as I feel there are always new ideas to pursue and countless techniques to try. It is a means of expression and an outlet for me. If I don’t make new work on a regular basis I get cranky.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work affects me deeply on visual, conceptual and spiritual levels. I am not only mesmerized by his images, but also fascinated by the way he writes about his work. In addition, I am enthralled by the research that informs his work, his sense of discovery, how he uses light as a subject and the way he portrays three-dimensional forms. I admire how prolific he is and enjoy the vision of a scientist constantly exploring through the medium of photography.
“To me photography functions as a fossilization of time.”
Your favorite photography quote?
I narrowed it down to two:
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.”
How would you describe your photographic style and way of creative process?
A friend once referred to my images as moodscapes and I believe that is a good way to refer to what I do. In many of my images clouds play an important role, people are absent and the type of light is a reflection of a particular mood. I feel like there is a sense of looking and moving through space.
“For many projects I roam to find images; the type of light during that particular time will dictate what project I shoot.”
My process begins as intuition and segues into deliberation. I follow my urges about what to shoot or pursue, but then spend quite a bit of time analyzing individual images, how images work together and what impact they have in particular groupings. I used to work on one project at a time but now there are so many things I want to explore (including non-photographic art forms) that I find myself working on different projects concurrently.
When I am shooting I work alone as I need to focus very intently on seeing and channeling the moment. I need to make sure that the choices I’m making will work for what I am trying to convey. For many projects I roam to find images; the type of light during that particular time will dictate what project I shoot. Location choices are a little more ambiguous.
In some cases I will have an idea of what areas to shoot, but usually I have to wait until the light is right and then hunt for the ideal situation.
Trusting and following instincts in conjunction with time, passion, concentration and effort. Doing what you like is important rather than doing what you think others will like or what you think will be popular. For me it helps to regularly analyze recurring themes and approaches. I think it also helps to question why I am drawn to particular places or situations.
In 2010 for the first time I participated in a residency and found that the change of scenery (environment, culture, and people) helped tremendously to give me a new perspective on my work and to trigger ideas and breakthroughs. Feedback from various sources also allows me to discover what other people see in the work and whether I am communicating effectively.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
To boil it down, I would say that much of my work is a photographic response to concerns in my life combined with my affinity for the mysterious possibilities of light. I photographically configure the landscape for expressive purposes, and quite often shoot for catharsis.
“A recurring subject matter includes elements of human construction woven throughout nature.”
The effect of color choices, type of light and a resolved composition are very important to me. A recurring subject matter includes elements of human construction woven throughout nature.
I am very taken with medium format-it is versatile but also has a larger negative than a 35mm camera and has rectangle and square options. Medium format is lighter and speedier than large format, which becomes very important as light and cloud configurations change quickly.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
Impact, new perspective (have we seen this before, is this a new look, approach or idea?) and/or a fantastic sense of timing in conjunction with a solid formal resolution.
On a more ambiguous level, I think of an image as a great photo when it clicks in my heart and mind and when I desire to keep referring to it.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
So many places-movies, books, articles, other artwork, nature, dreams/nightmares, anxiety, driving, new experiences, music, films, conversations-quite often something will just click and I will write it down or work on it until I decide to either pursue it further or set it aside.
Many projects are an evolution; I am either continuing to explore a certain way of working or resolving ideas that did not work earlier.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Mamiya medium format film cameras (7 and C330), digital camera Canon G12, tripod, computer, scanner, and printer.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
What photography book would you recommend?
The classic: “The Americans” by Robert Frank. It continuously reveals and the editing and sequencing are masterful. Each image powerfully tells a story, but also works in the context of the other images in the book.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Work hard, follow your passion, pursue opportunity, network, be professional and courteous, don’t burn any bridges, be aware of what has been done and what is being done in your field.