New Interview
Catherine Opie

Catherine Opie: “If you don’t make it, it’s not out there”

February 21, 2024

Ms. Opie, you’ve photographed people from all walks of life. What is it like bringing them into your studio to make a portrait?

When people come into the studio, they bring with them forms and ideas of what they think a portrait should be — so my process is actually more about getting them to be with me in a shared moment. I’m also of course considering the way the fingers drape in a portrait, or when an arm is out, when a color comes through… But it’s about with how they feel within their bodies, too. We have to combine it together a little bit. I'm not interested in over-photographing somebody where the strobes are just flashing so much that they feel blasted and out of their body. I want it to be a shared quiet moment. I don't like a lot of crazy energy.I have an aesthetic, and I have a desire to make certain ideas come to life in my portraits. But within that, I'm watching how people move and where they're comfortable.

And in terms of your aesthetic, has that changed much over the years, in your opinion?

I think my aesthetic and style evolution happens when I buy a new camera! I'm a gearhead, I like a lot of equipment, so you always reinvent yourself in that way. But I would have to say that it's very hard for me to make a messy photograph, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. The only real messy photographs are from when I documented Obama's inauguration, and that's really street photography. Those are a bit messier, the camera is a bit crooked, which is something I don’t really allow in other bodies of work.

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Last week’s Interview
Miles Aldridge

Miles Aldridge: “You are trying to catch it”

February 14, 2024

I do like having a signature! And I think if I didn't, I probably wouldn't have been doing this as long as I have. The camera is incredibly easy to use, especially nowadays, it almost doesn't need anyone to take the picture. There’s a randomness that one can translate to photography, whereas with painting, the painters are heading towards one thing that they really want to do, and  the use of the paint and the paintbrush is how they're going to get there. The camera has far more autonomy over the picture than the paintbrush, and it will take a picture regardless of your talent. When you're painting with no talent, your painting probably isn’t very good, you know what I mean? What gets me excited about working is it will be an image that doesn't exist already, that it has this signature, that it fits this universe that I've been working in.

The photos are satisfying you because you’re achieving that goal of a signature look.

Yes, it’s rewarding for me, for example when I see in a retrospective exhibition like Virgin Mary. Supermarket. Popcorn. at Fotografiska in Berlin, and you see all the 75 works together, taken over the course of 20 years, there's not a sense that this is early work, and this is middle work, and this is later work, they all hang together as one universe. And I do find that quite satisfying actually.