Caitlin Teal Price
Caitlin Teal Price is not just some photographer I found whilst drudging through the depths of the web. She is a real person. She is to me anyway, because I actually talked to her. On the phone. Something that is rare these days. Her voice is kind and she gives me thoughtful, articulate, uncontrived answers as I put her on the spot with some specific questions about her most recent projects. Today, however, we feature images from my favorite series and book (only 20 copies left!!), “Stranger Lives”.
You went to Parsons and Yale. Are you an East Coaster for life?
I’ve been in DC for a couple of years now and feel pretty settled here. Yes, I’m forever an east coaster.
Speaking of Parsons and Yale…wow. Are you academic? Where you a good student?
Academically speaking I hard time in high school. I was diagnosed with Dyslexia. Some things didn't come naturally so I had to work extra hard. The one thing that did come naturally to me was art - specifically photography. I’m lucky because I had really supportive, encouraging parents who suggested Parsons as my next step. I did well there and attribute that to my work ethic.
Any advice for recent graduates?
Just don't get discouraged - It’s not easy for everybody. Follow your gut and realize there is no one way to do something. Trust the process - fame doesn't come right away. Follow every lead - you never know where it will take you. Be open and friendly.
Let’s talk about my personal favorite series of yours, “Stranger Lives”. How many people did you shoot in total? What beaches did you visit? What camera did you use? What was the driving force and was it hard to approach people?
I started that project in 2008 in the summer between my first and second year of grad school. Every summer, for most of the summer, I’d go to the beaches between Coney Island and Brighton Beach spending two weeks at a time there. It was a complete immersion. I was fully involved and consumed.
I was amazed by all of the characters on the beach - the stories I could pull just from what they brought with them…what they could survive with…how they set up camp, etc. I’ve been to beaches in LA and Florida and none have been as rich as that one mile stretch of land packed with sunbathers.
I shot hundreds of people. The final total of selects hovers around 100 people and I figure I edited out about 25%. This makes official total somewhere around 150 people. The camera I used was a Mamiya RZ 6x7.
I approached the subjects as if I was just another person on the beach. No make up and a red beach dress. The red dress was important to me because I didn’t want to come across as threatening in any way. I thought if people could see me coming and going then they would be more inclined to say yes to my request for a photograph. I think it worked pretty well. About 50% of the people I asked said yes.
I had previously learned the hard way how to approach people for their photos. For a personal project, I once knocked on strangers’ doors in certain neighborhoods and asked to take photos of them or their families in their homes. I think I had success with 3 people. Anyway, the cops got called on me. I was wearing a black hoody and I’m sure that didn’t help.
Since you shot a series called “Birds” I have to ask: Are you into bird watching? Do you have a favorite bird?
Not really!! AndI have no favorite by any means. “Birds” was sort of a transition project. In grad school I had been working on a project related to witchcraft and the mythology between life and death and I photographed people who identify as witches in Salem, Massachusetts. At that time I went to the Peabody museum at Yale to shoot a couple of birds. I must have looked thru a billion specimens.
When I came back to DC, I was pregnant and had some time on my hands so I took the bus to the Smithsonian. I was looking for a way to fill out my previous body of work. I also consider it a transition project because my new work is similar only more sculptural-like.
Tell me more about “Annabelle, Annabelle”. Did you style this? Who are the women?
Those pictures are from all around the country - some from Vegas and California. They are not styled. the women showed up just the way I shot them. They were all strangers or friends of friends of friends. I told them to wear something sort of dressed up, skirting the line of dressy.
These women look confident because they are confident. It doesn’t really work out otherwise. It was tricky to find women who were confident. Especially because I chose women of a certain age. I wanted women in their 40s-60s….women who have some history behind them and have a story to tell. To me that is more interesting. Confident women who know some shit, reflecting on the past. The overpasses were, in my mind, stand ins for the women - strong, confident, complicated. They swing above the air and are vulnerable. Heavy structures that are also whimsical.
What about Northern Territory, can you tell me anything about this series? Where did you shoot it and who are the people in it?
This was in Minnesota where my mom grew up - in a run down town on an indian reservation. I grew up in the city so going there was romantic and magical to me. I wanted to capture that magic, even with the depressing aspects of the place.
In regards to your “Motel” series,where the etchings in the wall already there? Did you leave your mark?
Those pics were taken all along the East coast in some of the dingiest hotels. I used to drive around, find a hotel, do a walk through of a room to make sure it was photo worthy and then I’d stay the night.
The etchings are from an amazing room I found on one of these drives. I decided I’d go back to it with my mom. We rented it for an hour or so to shoot and when we got in the room they had redone the walls - nothing was scratched on them anymore! My mom decided she would do it herself and she etched, “needle dick” on the wall! I was like, mother?!
I guess this is were unlucky meets lucky!
Images courtesy of CAITLIN TEAL PRICE
interview ASHLEY MUNNS
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