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Carolyn Drake works on long term photo-based projects seeking to interrogate dominant historical narratives and creatively reimagine them. Her practice embraces collaboration and has in recent years melded photography with sewing, collage, and sculpture. She is interested in collapsing the traditional divide between author and subject, the real and the imaginary, challenging entrenched binaries. “Men Untitled,” her latest photographic series presented at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson at the end of 2023, explores her relationship with the ideals of masculinity in American culture. She has received numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Peter S Reed Foundation, the Lange Taylor Prize and the HCB Foundation Award. She is represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery and Magnum Photos.


LACP Interviews Carolyn Drake

LACP asks Carolyn Drake ten questions about their background, career in and beliefs about photography.

Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?

Carolyn Drake: I work at pushing the boundaries of what documentary photography can be and has been.

LACP: How long have you been photographing?

CD: Since 2003.

LACP: Where did you get your training?

CD: Brown University, RISD, ICP, Ohio University

LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

CD: I never decided that my whole life would be devoted to photography – I’m more interested in a life that is open to change. But photography has definitely absorbed a lot of my time and thought over the last 20 years. Lately I’ve been working to find fulfillment in parts of life beyond photography because I feel it will help me grow as a human and as an artist

LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?

CD: Not really but I do get frustrated a lot.

LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

CD: Not really. I think about it as having chosen to be a photographer, not so much as sacrificing something.

LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?

CD: My life.

LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?

CD: Projects Dissected

LACP: What do you love most about teaching?

CD: Learning about what fascinates other people, learning that we are all equally struggling to work things out.

LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

CD: If you prioritize the work itself over career questions, the results will be more fruitful. Developing your work is an ongoing process. Your practice will keep growing if you keep finding questions or problems or obsessions you want to work through and if you create space in your life to work through them.