Carlin Wing

Interview by Megha Majumdar

Home, 99 Marion St, Somerville, MA, September 1 2005 - August 31, 2006 10x15 inkjet fiber print

Megha Majumdar: How did you begin taking photographs?

Carlin Wing: I started in high school, actually, when I had wrist surgery and couldn’t play squash. My mom knew I’d go crazy sitting at home, so she got me to sign up for a class at the International Center of Photography.

Pull out floor cushion, Room ?, INDES Sport Hotel, San Salvador, El Salvador, October 24-30, 2005 4x5.33 inkjet fiber print

MM: What were your initial photos like?

CW: In 40a—well, I was told it’d be difficult for an athlete to get into 40a, but I really wanted to, and Chris ended up taking me! My first idea for a project had to do with training rooms. At first I was shooting in the training room because I was injured that fall so that was where I was spending a lot of my time.  In hindsight it was much more interesting than the project about my friends from home that I ended up presenting at the end of the semester.  The photos had this aggressive sexuality to them – big football players lying around on tables icing their hamstrings or getting their ribs taped. But I scrapped that, though now I wish I’d followed through with it. And then in intermediate classes, I was drawn to the bright colors and clean forms of supermarkets. I was drawn to the sort of anti-aesthetic that I saw in it.

Dave, Danielle, Jemimah and Lin's living room floor, 25743 Hogan Drive, Valencia, CA, September 22, 2006 3x4 inkjet fiber prin

MM: You’ve done a series of photographs of ceilings—ceilings under which you’ve slept for the past few years, including tents, rooms in friends’ homes, and so on.  How did you arrive at this project?

CW: It was really a way for me to figure out how to make art again after college.  For my undergrad thesis I made a series of very formal 4×5 photographs of contemporary art works hanging in corporate boardrooms and hallways called Culture Inc.  After that series I needed to find a way to break away from the German School style of photography and I also needed to figure out ways to think about art making that complicated the overly simple equation of art work = market commodity.  Meanwhile, I had just spent two years based in Amsterdam, playing on the professional squash circuit, so I had been thinking about the gap between experience and the representation of experience.  For the ceilings project I wanted a very easy action and structure to produce the work.  And I wanted to use the different places I went and the different cameras that I used on a daily basis —film cameras, cellphones—to try to understand the problems of representation.

Home?, Patty's house, Whitesburg, KY, July 18, 2007 - August 18, 2007 7x10.5 inkjet fiber print

MM: Why ceilings?

CW: I wanted a space with no information, a space into which people can project their own thoughts and questions, but also a space we see every day. I was very aware of photos you’re supposed to take, you know? I was thinking about the tradition of people coming back from vacation and inviting their neighbors over for slide shows to show them where they have been, what far away places look like. But the truth is, viewers can’t know what my experience was, even with more concrete images. So with the ceilings, I wanted to encourage a relationship between the image, or the experience, and the viewer.

Home, Jocelyn's attic, 3303 Belmont Blvd, Nashville, TN, September 1, 2008 - June 2, 2009 10x15 inkjet fiber print

MM: It sounds like, for you, photos are not the end, but they activate something else.

CW: Yes, they are a space for projection.  Meaning bounces in and out of them very easily.  Context influences my work a lot; I’m interested in the meaning making that happens when a photo is shown in different contexts.

Women's Ridge, Short Mountain Sanctuary, Liberty, TN, September 28, 2008 3x4 inkjet fiber print

MM: In order to spark that productive process, why do you choose photography? Why not other media?

CW: I’ve moved into video and writing as well, actually.  Each medium has a different set of things that it affords and restricts.  Photography is inherently decontextualizing. You take a picture of something and put it somewhere else, it really plucks that thing from the original site and creates a tension with the new site. And this tension is very generative.

Borgia Hall, 5320 City Avenue. St Joseph's University, August 1, 2009 3x4.5 inkjet fiber print

MM:  What is your harshest criticism of your own work?

CW:   That’s a good question.  I sometimes worry that my concern with how meaning can so easily slip in and out of a work when it changes context makes me unable to say concrete things about specific subjects.  I also have a terrible fear of didacticism that leads me to have a lot of trouble making definitive statements – my instinct is to always anticipate the counter argument and qualify my answer ahead of time.  That said, I tend to believe that our strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin – so I would view these problems as the root of what is interesting in my work as well.

Liz's room, 3545 1/2 Griffen Ave, Los Angeles, CA, January 28 2010 - February 1, 2010 4x5.33 inkjet fiber print

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