Photos by Caroline Tompkins
Interview by Delima Shanti
American photographer Caroline Tompkins wanders between observer and planner as she uses photography to improve her understanding of herself. Her tenacity and honesty is immediately evident in her work and has garnered international attention.
‘I work as a photo editor at Bloomberg Business Week as my day job, but the personal project I’ve been working on the most actively is one about summer, centered around my hometown – Ohio. I’ve been photographing my hometown on and off for the last six to seven years, because when you grow up somewhere, you don’t realise how strange it is until you leave. Once you leave, the separation changes the way you think about the place that you thought you knew so well. I’ve been taking photos of Ohio’s attempts at drawing tourism. I live in New York City, which has such a strong tourism industry. Ohio, meanwhile, tries earnestly to create its own tourism with things like the giant fibreglass loaf of white bread, or the field of over-a-hundred giant cement corn in Dublin, Ohio.’
‘Ultimately, the themes that run through my work come from within – I can’t get away from myself. I am and will always be interested in gender – it’s a topic I’m constantly thinking about, in particular the ways gender places people in society, and the way my gender determines how I’m treated by the people around me. Sincerity is also an idea I like to play around with. I’m not interested in being ironic even if my work often seems like I’m laughing at a joke or like I’m pointing at something. Often, like with my work on my hometown, I’m just celebrating the subject or at the very least I’m laughing with people, not at them. It’s different with every project, but I think the way I frame portraits goes back to the way I use photography as a way of actualising my desires. Placing a subject in the middle of the frame is a way of putting my desires in the forefront…’
Read the full article inside PSQ#15. On sale now.
See more of Caroline’s work here.