This is a continuing series of interviews with the forty-eight artists whose work was selected for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. The third OBPC exhibition opened on March 23, 2013, and will run through February 23, 2014.
Caitlin Teal Price, who participated in our interviews last autumn, created the work Leslie for this competition.
Q: Where are you from, and where do you live now?
A: I grew up in Washington, DC, and I have recently returned.
Q: What medium(s) do you work with?
A: I work with a Mamiya RZ 67 camera and Kodak Portra NC film.
Q: Tell us about your technique/creative process.
A: As a photographer, much of my process involves going out into the world to observe. With the project Annabelle, Annabelle, there is a lot of thought and observation that goes into each image. Once I have a concept for a photograph, I scout out a location, which usually turns out to be a large brutalist building of some sort, an overpass, or a parking lot.
Once I’ve found an interesting location, I visit it a few times a day to scout the light; once the scene has been identified, I find a model. By the time the model is in the frame, I have done so much preparation that I am able to lose a little control and let the fate of the moment take over. The best images turn out to be the ones where I allow myself to open my eyes to the moment.
Q: What is your background (education, career, etc.), and how does it contribute to your art?
A: I received my BFA from Parsons School of Design and my MFA from the Yale School of Art. For me, making art has always been a reaction to a gut instinct. My education has helped me to understand and put words to those instincts. It has helped me zero in on the ideas that hold weight and weed out the ones that don’t.
Q: How did you learn about the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition?
A: I live in DC and have always been a fan of the Portrait Gallery. I went to the Portrait Gallery’s website to see what was showing and ran across the competition.
Q: Tell us about your larger body of work.
A: In Annabelle, Annabelle women stand transfixed in and among severe everyday landscapes, connected to the world by the objects surrounding them. Each frame is carefully constructed, but what lies just beyond is uncertain, perhaps threatening and ultimately left for wonder. These women, with strength and wisdom in the depth of their age, stand boldly and carefully alone. They offer us the opportunity to create stories about life and death, power and vulnerability, magnificence and uncertainty.
Q: Tell us about the piece you submitted to the competition.
A: Leslie, the piece I submitted, is part of the series Annabelle, Annabelle. I spoke with “Leslie” over the phone and asked her to meet me under the overpass just outside the CBD in New Orleans. I asked her to wear something from her closet that was hard to place in time. This was the first and only time we met. I prefer to photograph people I hardly know because it gives me the freedom to fantasize about who they are. When photographing strangers I feel no responsibility to tell their personal truths. In my mind they become less themselves and more characters I create for them.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I am working on three projects simultaneously. It’s good for me to have a few things going on, so when I need a break from one project I don’t just sit around worrying about it. I am working on Annabelle, Annabelle; a project called Washed Up, which is images of people lying on beaches; and a brand-new project involving architectural drawings and old slides found at a thrift store.
Q: How has your work changed over time?
A: Over time, my work has become more thoughtful and focused, in concept and in style.
Q: Tell us about a seminal experience you’ve had as an artist.
A: Working with Justine Kurland was a seminal experience for me. I met Justine for the first time when I flew out to Portland, Oregon, to assist her for a month. I was twenty-five, and she was ten years older than me.
The coolest thing for me was to watch a young, successful, up-and-coming photographer do her thing. I was there day in and day out. I saw how she worked, how she found her locations and her models, how she talked to strangers, how she stored her film, how she used her camera, and how she spent her days.
I saw that what she was doing wasn’t easy, but it was possible. I always knew that I wanted to be an artist, but I wasn’t really sure how it was going to play out—how I was actually going to make it happen. Justine helped me realize that it was possible and that if I really wanted it, with a lot of hard work and determination I could have it.
Q: Who is your favorite artist?
A: The ever-talented Amber Ibarreche. She’s always been an inspiration.