The Lilith Blog 1 of 2

November 12, 2013 by

Mother, Photographer

422_4815_137527_xxlDon’t let the name fool you: Elinor Carucci was born in Jerusalem and studied at the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem; she moved to New York City the day after graduation to pursue her career as a photographer.  The first few months were very difficult; she was on her own, and struggling with the many cultural differences. But she persevered and was soon approached by the prestigious Ricco/Maresca Gallery and offered a solo show and representation; she is now represented by the Sasha Wolf Gallery.  Her first book, Closer, was published in 2002, the same year she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and it was followed by Diary of a Dancer in 2005.  Mother, her third book, just came out from Prestel, and she chatted with Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about the tender and intimate collection of photographs that comprise the volume.

YZM: Tell me about your earliest experiences with photography.

EC: I was 15 years old when I picked up my father’s camera. I then very intuitively walked into my mother’s bedroom and started taking pictures of her as she was waking up from her afternoon nap. in the coming weeks I continued taking pictures of her and then of my other family members and myself. I saw so much more with my camera, looking through it, looking at the photographs, it was another way of communicating with the people I love most and later with many more people.

YZM: Where do you find your inspiration?

EC: In feelings and seeing. In life, in art, in looking with attention and depth. Looking and feeling…and trying to understand and go deeper. In photographs, films and TV shows, painting, books. The streets, the people I love, looking at families in the subway, talking to a stranger, comforting a friend.

YZM: The subjects in your most recent body of work, Mother, are your children and your husband. How do you bring being a mother and being a photographer together?

EC: With a lot of hard work and focus. I had to set priorities, and give up a lot of my time with friends and free time for now.

YZM: Did you know this work would become a book or did that idea come after you had assembled it?

EC: At the beginning I had to see how it would develop, but at some point I did realize it would end up as a book, telling the story chronologically, trying to convey the universality of it.

YZM: Francine Prose’s introduction talks about the idea of a photograph revealing secrets; can you comment?

EC: I reveal what I don’t think should be a secret but it many times is. Here is a quote from Wojciech Kutyla who wrote about my work; he put it into words perfectly:  “I am especially drawn to the fact that you don’t overly sweeten your images, they are just a description of what is, there is no pretense, no false charm. It’s the life as we all know it. Such a shame that – to many – this is what they are uncomfortable with, since it goes well beyond their awareness, even if it should be obviously familiar.”

YZM: How do your children relate to your photographs, especially as they’re getting older? How do you perceive their experience of the moments when they’re very emotional and there’s a camera right in their face?

EC: First, I had to change the way that I photographed. Many of those shots are a one-frame thing, I mean, they were crying or emotional, I took one frame and picked them up. So I had to become really quick and moments that I could capture were precious. The huge majority of them, I didn’t photograph. I ended up looking at the parents around me and thinking that I’m the one that is taking the least photographs.

Parents today are taking so many pictures, and they’re also posting them on Facebook and now Instagram, so I don’t think even having so many pictures of them was such a big deal in our era of images everywhere. If anything it did bring up conversations between me and my daughter about the kind of images that I’m taking. She asked me why I don’t take pretty images, and actually, with all my fears, I think it led to good conversations about me telling her that these, for me, are beautiful moments, and everything we have in our family, also the difficult days, or the bad days, or the yelling days, are beautiful and inspirational and I embrace them. It ended up being a good message for the kids.

YZM: Technical question:  Often your photographs look like someone else has taken them. How do you achieve this effect?

EC: The camera is on a tripod and either I operate the self timer or my husband does, or recently one of my kids. And since I have been photographing myself since I was 15, I got better at getting pieces of life to happen in front of the camera

YZM: Does Israel still exert a strong pull for you?

EC: I visit once a year for 6-7 weeks with the kids.  I still love the place and am connected to it in many ways. I also still feel that my work reflects the fact that I was born and raised there; it is a warm place and very family oriented. As much as I love my family, the years away did their part, and I feel that New York is my home, especially after giving birth and raising my children as Americans. Sometimes feel like a foreigner in Israel, which can be a very painful feeling.