Dean O'Brien's Blog

Elinor Carucci answers open questions on her work

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A while ago I was asked if I wanted to ask Elinor Carucci a question about her work.  After recently viewing the ‘Eden Peeking’ image I wanted to know if she thought that if she were a man would she be able to get away with producing such an image.  Elinor replied to this question and many others which others had put to her.

Below I have pasted into my blog the complete interview history.  Credit for this goes to Elinor Carucci and Matt Johnston.

Elinor Carucci – The Community Interview

BY MATT JOHNSTON, ON NOVEMBER 22ND, 2010

Over the past few weeks I have been working with Elinor Carucci and her fans to create a community sourced interview. Questions came via the facebook page and the #askelinor hashtag on Twitter. The results are below, a huge thanks to Elinor and everyone that took part.

Bloggers: Feel free to have this post on your own blog – please credit Elinor Carucci and Matt Johnston


Bite 2, 2001 ©ELINOR CARUCCI 

JONATHAN WORTH – Hello Elinor, how do you teach intimacy or intimate practice in your classes?

ELINOR CARUCCI Hi Jonathan,

well…it’s hard to really teach it, but i try, I try by helping the people who want to have intimacy in their work to recognize it, to translate it to images. i share my own experience and hope it will help them find their own way and what and how to photograph from theirs personal moments.

JONATHAN WORTH – How do you unpick a (your) practice that enables your subjects to surrender themselves utterly, and how do you share your advice with your students when say, their subjects aren’t people they’re already intimate with?

ELINOR CARUCCI – I feel that the bottom line here is pretty simple, either someone wants to be a part of this process or not, and you can’t force it. I had close family members who didn’t want to be photographed, and there was nothing i could do about it but respect it, it’s is not something you can change, I mean you can explain what you do and try to be as sensitive and understanding as you can, but that’s about it.  I also had to respect the different limits my loved ones have (my father is more private then my mom so you can see ‘less’ of him in my work). then within what someone is willing to give and share you can push or pull a little but it’s something that is a result of the photographer’s and the subject’s personalities and the nature of the relationship they have.

Masks, 1996 ©ELINOR CARUCCI 

ELLIE FOORD – Every time you take an image do you think of the meaning it brings to your project or is this something that develops more in selection and editing

ELINOR CARUCCI – It is as you said something that develops more in selection and editing, I try to keep the image taking very intuitive and not to ‘force’ any meaning on it, because I know that it doesn’t work for me, and i just end up with images that are obvious and forced.

EMILY MARSH – What is the proudest moment in your career?

ELINOR CARUCCI – It’s hard to answer that…small private moments and formal ones…I remember feeling proud winning the infinity ICP award when my parents come from israel to be there with me, and a few days ago my daughter looked at one of my images and said ‘mom, this is a beautiful photograph, you are a good photographer mom’…it made me so proud! then there are moments where i look at my children, and just feel grateful and proud that I manage to be a mother and do the photography I want to do, with no connection to any achievements or recognition from my field.

EMILY HICKEY-MASON – What was your inspiration for ‘Diary of a Dancer’?

ELINOR CARUCCI – My life for 15 years as a professional belly dancer…I wanted to capture the experiences and glimpses into the places and communities that I met. You can read more about it in the introduction to my book.

From ‘Diary of a Dancer’ 2005 ©ELINOR CARUCCI 

EMILY HICKEY-MASON – What advice can you give for capturing the moment?

ELINOR CARUCCI – I think the main thing is to dedicate yourself to seeing, take many pictures, edit them, understand what you want to develop about them, what are you after, look at photography, work on project, find what is the bet way for you to make your best work, it’s a very individual process and a journey to take.

LUCY SCHILLING – How do you envisage your audience viewing your work?

ELINOR CARUCCI – In many ways…some that are closer to what originally intended to put in a certain image or series and some very far,  sometimes seeing less, or more or entirely different things in it.

Emmanuelle having her hair cut, 2007 ©ELINOR CARUCCI 

MALIN LANEY – I’ve noticed that in many of your commercial portraits you photograph the person from above with them looking up at you, while in much of your more personal work the camera is at eye level with yourself/your subject(s). Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks.

ELINOR CARUCCI – I don’t think it is always the case, many times I feel that photographing from slightly above makes the person look better, sharper chin line, bigger eyes, more flattering, so I think I tend to do it for commercial work more because then there is usually bigger pressure to make the person look good.

GEORGE RIPPON – I wanted to ask you about self-portraiture.Let’s start with the idea that there is a supposed triangle relationship in every portrait, between the photographer, the subject, and the viewer; and that the photographer holds a degree of control over how the subject is presented and hence how they will be judged or thought of by the viewer. I’m interested in when that three-way relationship becomes two-way: when the photographer and the subject are the same person, and how that then affects the viewer’s judgment or opinion. When photographing yourself, you have control of the editing and therefore control of how you appear. How do you think the viewer responds to you as a subject, knowing that you are also the image creator?

ELINOR CARUCCI – I think it immediately makes the work very personal, brings even more intimacy to it, and sometimes even embarrassment, especially when viewers meet me in person. but in a way it makes the work more direct, or maybe even believable, which i think is a positive effect.

GEORGE RIPPON – I suppose we also have to think about the idea of performance. Do you ‘perform’ or behave in a certain way conscious of the photograph being made, or do you try to act naturally just like another subject?

ELINOR CARUCCI – I think I do both, some times end up performing more then other times, but I am, of course, always very aware since it’s a self-portrait…you can’t take a snapshot of yourself.

Mother puts on my lipstick, 1993 

ADELE REED – Do you ever feel scared about being so honest?

ELINOR CARUCCI – No. in a way I even feel it will protect me somehow…

ADELE REED – How often do you have that awful feeling when you’ve just seen something great and you’ve missed capturing it?

ELINOR CARUCCI – 50 times a day!

ADELE REED – From where did your love for photography originate?

ELINOR CARUCCI – I don’t know…I just fell in love once i started taking pictures. I think it is in a way similar to falling in love with a person, I can count the wonderful things about my husband, and about photography, but why I fell in love with him and not with other men, with photography and not with other areas, is in a way a mystery.

First tears over anoher man, 2002 ©ELINOR CARUCCI 

CRAIG LEAPER – Ever felt like you couldn’t document a moment? Or where do you draw the line at capturing a moment?

ELINOR CARUCCI – All the time, and most of the moments I want to photograph, I don’t, many moments I will bring the mother/wife/daughter first, or i would just wouldn’t want to pull out a camera in a certain situations being respectful or sensitive to my loved ones.

JOANNA ORNOWSKA – Do you think photographs can serve the process of forgetting by presenting only a selective history? What do you not photograph?

ELINOR CARUCCI – Yes, it does represent what we want to remember and how we want to remember…for the second pert of your question please look at the previous answer.

JOANNA ORNOWSKA – What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your career as a photographer?

ELINOR CARUCCI – A lot…mainly that things take time, especially in the fine art world. that if one or two or 20 people don’t like my work it can still be interesting to other people, that I can be down but then up again (when you are young you think failure is the end of the world) and that success made in your own way is better then ‘absolute’ success that is simply base on objective achievements/money/shows/fame, you need to find your path, even if it makes you ‘less’ successful, it’s the kind of success you and your work need.

DEAN O BRIEN – Ref the image ‘eden peeking’. Do you think you could have produced that image and got away with it had you not been a female?

ELINOR CARUCCI – I didn’t get away with it :-) well…I did get some criticism, and I think society is even more critical to mothers, and if you are suspected in being anything other then a devoted mother by the standards of the society you live in, then you are heavily criticized, so i am not sure being a  female helped me here, even though it can be helpful at times in other situations.

JULIE LANG – (Ref to ‘Closer’) Are there any events (more worldly than personal) that you were dealing with at the same ti…me as creating these images? Thanks!

ELINOR CARUCCI – I did Closer from 1993 to 2001. in 1995 I moved to new york and shortly after that Yitshak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister was assassinated by an Israeli extremist, so in a way for me the Israel i left was never the same.

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Written by Dean O'Brien

November 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm

One Response

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  1. Incredibly insightful interview. Was worth reading.
    I liked what JOANNA ORNOWSKA said about
    selective history and George Rippon about
    the nature of self-portraiture.

    Chris Alford

    January 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm


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