Imagine that pre-pubescent, self-conscious adolescent you once were. We’ve all been there, in some way, and if you haven’t thank your lucky stars. You didn’t miss out. Caroline Dare’s stunning photography simultaneously takes her audience back to that state of low self-esteem, as well as a place we all hope to arrive to, one day, if we can all get there. Her photography largely works to capture the human body in its raw, natural state, as a form of conversation about self discovery through sexuality. There is so much intelligence behind this lens, and it’s easy to spot while chatting about her work over a steaming cup of coffee. I, quite fortunately, was able to pick her mind about a month ago, and her work continues to challenge my own comfortability with my body and nudity in general.
Caroline has lived all over the United States, and has an eagerness to keep moving. She’s worked with AmeriCorps in California, helped out on a semi-organic farm in New Hampshire, and now finds herself taking photos throughout Milwaukee. Her attraction to photography isn’t a recent development, however. She’s held the lens quite close since roughly 2008, as her four sisters have all been interested in photography as well. With familial inspirations, she was able to learn the art from a young age, and continue to grow as an artist and photographer. Listening to her speak about her love for the process is inspiring; she has a contagious passion for the art that makes the process seem almost innate. “I’ve just never had to think about it (photography),” she beams. “I just love it”. Her excitement for the process absolutely translates in her work as she produces mildly controversial and statement-making images. When she first started shooting film, she described it as more of a hobby, or a new art she hoped to get better at. Today, she sees shooting as a photojournalistic approach to the process. Documenting the things around her in her daily life, her friends, the moments that stuck out to her, can be a form of documenting her life in a creative manner. “But not everything is meant to be photographed,” she says, although she still keeps the film she doesn’t like in the moment so she can look back on it, maybe with a new found reverence or inspiration.
Using various kinds of lighting, nudity and the display of the body are themes within her work today. She wants to do even more with these moving forward. She likes the extremes of things: either really low or really high, in any way, even emotions. Within her photography, she tends to layer various images or lighting which adds a tension to her work. Her photographs seem to play with both grimy, gritty aesthetics as well as a more angelic and soft aesthetic. The lighting and layering within her images work towards this balance and creates an interesting emotional undertone throughout. On the other hand, nudity, especially as a younger artist, isn't something we often see in a developing photographer, so I was particularly drawn to what compelled her to that topic in our chat. “I’m trying to find comfort in other people’s sexualities and sensualities. So many people are very comfortable with their bodies, and that’s interesting to see how other people connect with the camera,” she says. For the most part, her best sessions come from photographing the people she knows in a free space, not necessarily an active shoot.
Unfortunately, being a woman photographer displaying sexuality in her work can lead to some blatant harassment. Caroline used her Instagram as a form to showcase her projects, but was met with a lot of negativity, or just flat out sexual harassment. “My work of men doesn’t seem to get as much backlash, but if it’s of me, or any women that I know, we get tons,” she says. That doesn’t stop her from continuing to do what she wants, though. It’s a way to take ownership over her own body, and for the individuals she captures to take hold of theirs as well. It sounds freeing, and she hopes for that moment when people no longer have to feel ashamed of their bodies or sexualities. “When I was younger and starting to appreciate my body, there was so much shame there. There’s shame associated with feeling confident. That doesn't make any sense. It’s so exhausting to feel ashamed of yourself.” Caroline’s work tries to have that conversation about body image and how the audience feels about their own bodies and sexualities. Although her family doesn’t necessarily understand what she does, or frankly why, she says they give her a lot of support that helps her continue to do what she loves.
Recently, her first official website went up, creepycarol.com , and she hopes to develop a project around homoeroticism in the future. “The male gaze is so overdone. I don’t want to do that. The male body just seems more uncaptured,” she says. She wants to convey that there is not one way to be anyone, whether that’s in dealing with sexuality or gender expression. She wants to show that people can be whatever they want. Especially for women, she likes to capture moments that aren’t centered around this hyper-sexual idea of female bodies that seem to pervade society. Going forward, she wants to capture more of what is unseen and expose it.
At the end of every interview, I ask the artists to describe a special moment or memory they have in relation to their work. Caroline’s memory brought her back to Sweden, when she was trying to capture an image of a labyrinth but her camera wasn’t working for whatever reason. Frustrated over the fact she wasn’t able to preserve that moment, it actually made the image so much clearer. “I remember that scene so much more vividly now, though, because I couldn’t capture it. Some of my best moments are actually when my camera breaks and the photos don’t turn out.” Caroline Dare plays with visibilities in refreshing ways that contain the spontaneity of a moment, but also the nostalgia of the past.
Written By: Megan Gray Edited by: Bethany Price