057 - Carolyn Drake


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Magnum Photos member Carolyn Drake studied Media/Culture and History at Brown University, where she became interested in the ways that history and reality are purposefully shaped and revised over time, and in the ways that artists can interrupt and shift these narratives. After graduating, she worked for multimedia companies in New York but eventually left her office job at the age of 30 to engage with the physical world through photography. In 2006, she moved to Ukraine, where she spent a year examining cultural partitions in a country pursuing a unified national identity - a cloistered Soviet era orphanage near the European border; private, state-owned and illegal coal mining groups vying for influence in the Donbass; Crimean muslims claiming land rights. She made images everywhere, not as much for historical documentation as to come to terms with presumptions stemming from her Cold War childhood in the USA. The experience made her question the journalistic impulse to define, and to look for ways photography can emphasize ambiguity. Based in Istanbul between 2007 and 2013, Carolyn traveled frequently to Central Asia to work on two long term photography projects. The first, Two Rivers, is a poetic exploration of the shifting borders, histories, and life systems between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. The interconnectedness of ecology, culture and political power come to view in a territory on the edge of global attention. The second Central Asia project is an amalgam of photographs, drawings, and embroideries made in collaboration with Uyghurs in western China. Framed between passages from Nurmuhemmet Yasin's contraband story Wild Pigeon, the book puts forth a counter narrative about China's western frontier, Islam, and the freedoms associated with modernity. In the collaborative images, contrasting visual tools intersect, drawing attention to the awkward, difficult, sometimes beautiful cultural exchange that lies at the root of this series. Carolyn returned to the US in 2014 and is now based in Vallejo, California. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, the Lange Taylor Prize, a Fulbright fellowship, and the Anamorphosis prize, among other awards. Her work is in the collections at the SFMOMA, Soros Foundation, Library of Congress, and Ogden Museum of Southern Art. She is an associate at Magnum Photos.

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