Carolyn Drake works on long term photo-based projects seeking to interrogate dominant historical narratives and imagine alternatives to them. Her work explores community and the interactions within it, as well as the barriers and connections between people, between places and between ways of perceiving.
Her practice has embraced collaboration, and through this, collage, drawing, sewing, text, and found images have been integrated into her work.
Between 2007 and 2013, Drake traveled frequently to Central Asia from her base in Istanbul to work on two long term projects which became acclaimed bodies of work. Wild Pigeon (2014) is an amalgam of photographs, drawings, and embroideries made in collaboration with Uyghurs in western China. Two Rivers (2013) explores the connections between ecology, culture and political power along the Amu Dary and Syr Darya rivers. In Internat (2014-17), 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.
Drake returned to the US in 2014 and is now based in Vallejo, California.
By The Way
Pino Donaggio –John’s Theme (Love Scene) from Don’t Look Now (Original Film Soundtrack) ℗ 1973 Edizioni Curci / Carosello Records under licence to Silva Screen Records Ltd. (Link)
A foreboding meditation in the vein of Southern Gothic literature, Drake’s most recent body of work emerged through her collaboration with an enigmatic group of women loosely calling themselves “Knit Club.” The nature of the club is ambiguous. It is a cross between a gang, a cult of mysteries, and a group of friends bound by secrets only they share.
The book follows a narrative structure loosely borrowed from Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying–– that is to say, not one omniscient narrator but many disparate stream-of-consciousness voices. We sense the authorship of the photographs to be collaborative, the result of creative play between Drake and the Club in which she found herself embedded, their process a kind of alchemy.
What we find, however, is not grotesque but something vital. A community that manages to exist outside the gaze or control of men. Women, children, and mothers, shrouded in masks and mystery to live a life on their own terms.