Caroline Gay

New York, NY

Who are you?

I'm Caroline and I'm an artist living in New York.

What do you want?

I desperately want to prove that I exist!

Why photography?

I love photography because everyone else is bored with it; it's an easy medium to criticize; there's too much of it, it's been exhausted. I actually used to have a lot of anxiety surrounding photography for those reasons so I stopped doing it for a while. You have to come to terms with the fact that there's something narcissistic about calling yourself a photographer.

I'm really optimistic about photography now; I think we're in the middle of something new and exciting because there are now as many photographers on earth as there are people. Everyone has control over their narratives in ways they never have before.

What gear do you use?

I always have a cheap point-and-shoot on me, sometimes two (one with weird/lomo/expired/b&w film, one with normal color film). The Olympus Stylus and Konica Big Mini are my two favorites. They're perfect because I'm too impatient to adjust for aperture or shutter speed or anything, and I'm always losing or breaking my cameras.

A lot of people still seem to think you're a "bad" photographer if you use shitty equipment, or don't care about what camera you use, or always use automatic settings or whatever. You can still be a great photographer if you only take pictures on an old flip phone. It's like how a lot of photographers reject hi-fi digital photography in favor of film: it's nostalgic, and the accidental artifacts that come with old equipment have a painterly quality to them that used to be invisible.

Photography seems to have a lot of "rules". Think of what's considered "acceptable" in modern sculpture. A room full of dirt can be a sculpture in the right context. We take it seriously because we know the artist is trying to communicate an idea, and we should listen to what they have to say. Why can't the same rules apply to photography?

It also goes to show how artistic mediums follow a predictable pattern of acceptance. Like how impressionism eventually eclipsed realism in painting: rather than trying to portray an accurate visual representation, the final product is now more about capturing a feeling or moment in time.

Any interests, hobbies, or passions outside of photography?

In my spare time I volunteer with 8-Ball Community, which can roughly be described as an artist collective, but it's really a lot more than that. Just in the last month we've put on a Xerox group art show, a workshop with Women's Prison Association, a zine show and a handful of musical performances. 8Ball is a big champion of cheap and accessible art, and all the volunteers work to give anyone and everyone an artistic platform who reaches out to us.

I also broadcast a biweekly radio show called Secrets of the Sunken Caves on 8Ball's online radio station. We used to operate out of a basement in Lower Manhattan, but now our new home base is a coffee shop in Brooklyn.

Music, movies, books, TV, games. What are some of your favorites? Any recommendations?

Lately I've been listening to the soundtrack from Killer of Sheep a lot. I learned recently that the film wasn't officially released until 2007, thirty years after it was made, because they hadn't secured the rights to the music. I'm glad they eventually did, because the music's probably the best part.

I also just read I Like Your Work: Art and Etiquette.

Any other photographers you think people should check out?

Definitely: Hiromix, Lyle Ashton Harris, Helen Levitt, Harley Weir, Carrie Mae Weems, Lise Sarfati, Ira Cohen, Deana Lawson, Daidō Moriyama, Jacob Holdt, Harry Callahan, Gillian Laub, and Tina Barney.

Who or what is inspiring you?

I've spent a lot of time on the internet researching and documenting my obsessions, like a lot of people do, which I think has been really formative to my photographic style.

I've started using Flickr again recently, which has actually been really fun. If you don't already know, it's an image sharing platform geared towards photographers. It probably reached its peak in the late aughts, but still has a strong camp of committed users. Anyone with a free account can store up to a terabyte worth of original images, which is really a lot, so some people will just dump their entire photo repository on the site and it's there for anyone to look at. It's amazing– a dedicated visual archive of someone's life.

I have a blog where I share some of my favorite pictures I find– it's called Images Anesthetize. I lifted the title from On Photography, after Susan Sontag's observation of images' ability to numb us. She also pointed out that images transfix, which is probably what I should've called the blog instead.

Living in New York is really inspiring too– it's one of the most energetic and culturally rich places I've ever lived, and I've met so many interesting people here. I love how dense everything is, I love accidentally staying out until the sun comes up, I love the constant buzz. It's a dream.

More of 

Caroline Gay

...