May 14, 2010

Elinor Carucci: My Children

Interview with Elinor Carucci
May 13, 2010

All of your images are all so personal and intimate. How does a photo session typically begin with your family members and yourself? Are scenes photographed in the moment, staged, or reenacted?

I will sometimes see the light first. For instance, with the children, If I know I am brushing their teeth every night at a certain time I will try to bring them into the light. There are some with my mom where I asked her, or my husband Eran, when I asked them to redo things, so some are more constructed and some are totally spontaneous. I don't use the tripod anymore. I used to, but the kids can stay still now. The camera, some days it is ready, and some days

I just don't take pictures. Sometimes when I know in my mind I am ready to take a picture, I'll have it ready and I'll open a strobe or just put the strobe in the room, or if I have enough available light, I’ll use that. So sometimes I am ready, but I am not always on standby to take a picture. I'm really not.

How do your family members feel about being photographed? At what point did you decide to put yourself in some of the photos and not in others?

My close family, my immediate family, are okay with it. I mean, my mom loves being photographed. My husband loves being photographed. In the more extended family, there were people who didn't feel comfortable, so I didn't photograph them. With my kids it varies. Some days they will say 'leave me alone, I don't want to take pictures". Some days they like it and it is playful. It really depends on their mood. I started taking pictures of my family and myself at a very young age. I was 15, so it wasn't even a decision, it was just something I did very intuitively. Now, it is also very intuitive.

In your latest series, My Children, you photograph yourself during your pregnancy and also as your children are beginning to grow. Do you plan on continuing to photograph them throughout their childhood?

I do. For me, it is a longer project. I hope they will let me. As long as they will let me take their pictures, then I think I will probably photograph them on and off, forever.

Can you elaborate on your inspiration and intentions with this project? How does it compare to the work that you have done in the past?

For me, this project is an extension of my other projects because I will always photograph my life. Photographing the children did change the way I photograph in many ways. My work became more about extremes, since I feel that the experience of motherhood is a very total one, especially the first years, you are very quickly moving from beautiful serene moments to anger and frustration, you experience different spectrum of emotions within a period of eight minutes. The need to photograph becomes stronger since the passing time is so apparent, every week is different, every stage is fleeing. It's sometimes very difficult to photograph. They want me all the time, and it's never enough, and there is a choice to make. I feel the guilt for neglecting them, even if it's just for two seconds, to take, to make the photograph. I take the camera and I am not available for them, another reason (there are so many of them when you are a mother) to feel guilty. But the final result is that I photograph very quickly and take very few frames. Also many things I want to photograph, I don't. If the mother and photographer in me collide...the mother always wins….and many pictures are not being taken.

How do you feel about your work being compared to the work of Sally Mann and her Immediate Family series?

I have been compared to Sally Mann, I think because of photographing children and my family. I am okay with that. I love her work, but it is different from my own. I think my work, quite understandably, will always be compared to any work of a female photographer photographing her children and Sally is just the most well-known one.

In his article in The Guardian (UK), Sean O’Hagan talks about the fact that your adult family members “have the power of veto” over photographs you have taken of them, but your children “do not”. How do you respond to this?

It’s true, yeah it’s true, and I hope that they will grow to accept what I am doing: the fact that I am photographing everything around my life, and to embrace it, because that's who I am. I have no way to know right now, and I am much more careful and thoughtful than I was before in editing some images out, so I am taking it into consideration, and I hope that it will be a positive thing in their lives, an empowering thing. I am definitely trying to make it this way. But I know that they might, you know, rebel against it, or not like it, or they might not want to continue being photographed, so I am ready for that, more or less.

I myself have found that photographing through a moment in time actually helps me to get through certain situations. Do you find your photography to be therapeutic?

Oh yes, yes definitely. I can say that all of it is therapeutic and also there are many images that I never show, and even the unsuccessful images, for me, I guess the action of taking pictures and looking at them, is helpful and comforting and therapeutic, even, you know, the ones that are not "good" pictures. It is hard to define, but for me looking over my whole body of work is comforting so definitely, yes, I relate!

Elinor Carucci was born in Israel in 1971, lives and works in New York City, and has had internationally exhibited shows at the Herzlia Museum for Contemporary Art, Edwynn Houk Gallery, Fifty One Fine Art Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, London, among others. Her photographs are included in collections in the US, Europe and Israel. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the ICP Infinity Award (2001) and the Guggenheim Fellowship (2002). She is represented by James Hyman Gallery in London and her work is also currently being exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) as part of the exhibition, Pictures By Women: A History of Modern Photography.