Interview by Nayeli Rodriguez
Nayeli Rodriguez: Let’s talk about your thesis, which includes both a book and a series of large prints. Give me a little bit of background on your project.
Kristy Carpenter: So the title of the project is Brunson, MI. It’s pretty much a photo documentary project on the area in which I grew up.
NR: Tell me about the origins of the project, and how you came up with it.
KC: Well for my thesis originally I proposed something completely different that was a more Harvard-centric project. Then just talking about it to people I was much more excited about my summer project than my thesis so I took that as a kind of warning sign that maybe I should switch. Then, I shot obsessively over the summer because I didn’t know what I was going to use or even what I was going to focus on.
NR: What did you end up focusing on, in the end?
KC: Even since I’ve been here [at Harvard], even within the last four years, when I go home things have changed a lot. It’s a small farming community, and a lot of the farms have gone under. Another idea was also to show people at Harvard who are mostly from cities, the other side of country life and how a large portion of people live in the Midwest.
NR: I’ve seen a lot of your work over our years here and it seems like you frequently photography your immediate surroundings. Can you talk a little bit about how your past work helped developed the perspective you brought to this project?
KC: Well my first big, or successful work here was when I shot a series on Harvard bathrooms. I kind of like looking at the overlooked, and I guess I’d fallen into doing interiors and kind of avoided doing people at that point because they come with their own difficulties. So something that I’ve been interested in is looking at things that not everyone stops to consider. And that’s how I see the town, in some ways: as something overlooked and kind of marginalized.
NR: How did you incorporate the people themselves and did speaking to anyone you photographed significantly affect the course of the project?
KC: During the summer I was a bit more standoffish in that I just walked around with my camera a lot and stumbled into people. It wasn’t until I went back at break that I contacted people and tried to set up portraits.
NR: Do you see yourself continuing with this project or are you kind of ready to move on? What are your plans both for this work and in general for the future?
KC: I was really encouraged by my reviewers to continue with this subject over the summer and make it kind of a long-term project. I’m still really interested in the death of family farms and it is not something that’s strictly limited to Michigan. Maybe I’ll start branching out and looking into areas, perhaps closer to Rochester. It might become an overall theme in my future work.