Carolyn Drake – Episode 60

In this episode of PhotoWork with Sasha Wolf, Sasha and photographer, Carolyn Drake discuss her celebrated book Knit Club, published by TBW Books, as well as her other bodies of work. Carolyn talks about her complex reasons for leaving and then returning to the United States, after many years, and the importance of being connected to the place you are photographing.

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, and challenging entrenched binaries.

Drake was born in California and studied Media/Culture and History in the early 1990s at Brown University. Following her graduation from Brown, in 1994, Drake moved to New York and worked as an interactive designer for many years before departing to engage with the physical world through photography.

Between 2007 and 2013, Drake traveled frequently to Central Asia from her base in Istanbul to work on two long term projects. Two Rivers (self-published ,2013) explores the connections between ecology, culture and political power along the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers and earned a 2010 Guggenheim fellowship. Wild Pigeon (self-published, 2014) is an amalgam of photographs, drawings, and embroideries made in collaboration with Uyghurs in western China. This work was presented in a six month solo exhibition at SFMOMA in 2018 and earned the Anamorphosis Book prize. Following this, in Internat (self-published, 2017), Drake worked with young women in an ex Soviet orphanage to create photographs and paintings that point beyond the walls of the institution and its gender expectations. This work was awarded the 2018 HCP fellowship curated by Charlotte Cotton and later exhibited in several festivals in Europe. This project was followed by Knit Club (TBW Books, 2020), which emerged from her collaboration with an enigmatic group of women in Mississippi. Knit Club was shortlisted for the Paris Photo Aperture Book of the Year and Lucie Photo Book Awards and exhibited at McEvoy Foundation in San Francisco and at Yancey Richardson Gallery and ICP in New York.

Drake now lives in California and is currently developing self-reflective projects close to home. Her latest work, Isolation Therapy, was exhibited at SFMOMA’s show Close to Home: Creativity in Crisis in 2021 and at Yancey Richardson Gallery in 2022. Her work has also been supported by Peter S Reed Foundation, Lightwork, the Do Good Fund, the Lange Taylor prize, Magnum Foundation, the Pulitzer Center, and a Fulbright fellowship. She is a member of Magnum Photos and represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery.

This podcast is sponsored by picturehouse + thesmalldarkroom.