Magnum Photos Now: Carolyn Drake on Collaborative Portraiture - Magnum Photos

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Carolyn Drake UKRAINE. Petrokhiv. Ternopil. 2014. The Internat Children's Home, a Soviet-era institute wedged between the forest and the new suburb of Petrykiv. © Carolyn Drake | Magnum Photos

Join us for an in-conversation with Magnum photographer Carolyn Drake, as we explore the dynamic between photographer and subject in photographic portraiture. Working with her subjects over an extended period of time, Drake often invites her subjects to become an active participant in her creative process, the results revealing a multitude of perspectives to intimate or complex narratives.

Drake began using collaborative methodologies in Wild Pigeon, a project in which she worked with the Uyghurs in China. The Uyghurs are a predominantly muslim Turkic people, one of China’s recognised ethnic minorities, with their own distinct language and writing systems. She found that the landscape changed on each visit as historic Uyghur neighborhoods were being torn down and rebuilt as modern Chinese cities, a result of government development policy.

Carolyn Drake Image burned into photo by an artist who sells carved gourds to tourists. His father used to carve elaborate horse saddles, but nobody does that job anymore, he said. 2013. © Carolyn Drake | Magnum Photos

As Drake tried to ask Uyghurs about these changes, the translator she was using quit, saying her questions were “too political”. So instead, she invited people to communicate through drawing. The resultant body of work is titled ‘Wild Pigeon’, so named after a folk tale about a bird that would rather die than be caged by humans, a story banned from publication by the Chinese government but passed on by word of mouth.

Her recent work, made in Ukraine, at a still-operating, Soviet-era orphanage called an “Internat”, is an exchange between Drake and the residents. Taking control over the lives of young females marked with disabilities for a variety of reasons, the Internat institution, guided by a male Director, carries the girls into adulthood in isolation. Drake actively collaborated with the residents to create images that form a layered, nuanced exploration of identity, drawing ideas about femininity and deviance from fairy tales, art history, and their joint intuitions.

In this event, Drake will discuss her approach to long term documentary projects, collaboration, and authorship, and the motivations behind these approaches.

Talk timings: 19.00-20.30

Tickets available through the Barbican Centre here.