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 and writer and curator Susan Bright, 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 the people she photographs 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 Internat, is an exchange between Drake and the residents. Looking after the lives of young women with disabilities, 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.

Susan Bright is a curator and writer based in Paris. She has curated exhibitions internationally at institutions including: Tate Britain, The National Portrait Gallery in London and The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago and The Serlachius Museum in Finland amongst others.

The exhibition How We Are: Photographing Britain was the first major exhibition of British photography at Tate. The exhibition of Home Truths (Photographers’ Gallery and the Foundling Museum and traveling to MoCP, Chicago and Belfast Exposed) was named one of the top exhibitions of 2013/2014 by The Guardian and The Chicago Tribune.

Her published books include: Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography (2017), Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood (2013), Auto Focus: The Self Portrait in Contemporary Photography (2010), How We Are: Photographing Britain (2007: co-­‐authored with Val Williams), Face of Fashion (2007), and Art Photography Now (2005). She regularly writes for museums and monographic books, and contributes to numerous magazines and journals.

She holds a Ph.D in Curating from Goldsmiths, University of London and is currently working on a book on photographic visual literacy for Tate and touring ‘Feast for the Eyes’ as an international exhibition.

Talk timings: 19.00-20.30

Tickets available through the Barbican Centre here.