I’m a photographer and writer who lives in New York. In 2009 I went on the board of Professional Women Photographers (“PWP”) as archivist. When I visited the storage facility where their records were kept, I discovered something of a time capsule. As a digital gal, I was dumbstruck by the sheer amount of paper, as well as how photography, printing, and the general way of doing business has changed since the organization’s founding in 1975. It dawned on me that it was a lot of change in a relatively short amount of time.
In 2010, I began to write a blog for PWP, and came across various photographers who had worked in New York for a number of decades. Slowly I came to understand that behind the glittering technical possibilities we now take for granted were very human stories, some of them humbling. There were people who managed to control their own destinies, and others who were controlled by the time into which they were born. Some adapted to new aesthetics and technologies, others clung to ways they had always known. Some were content to be commercial photographers, others wanted artistic fame. There were a lot of options aesthetically as well as technically, and I was fascinated by how each person made decisions and charted their course. Also by how they saw themselves.
I kept writing, and one article, Sgt. Pepper Uncovered, was named by industry giant PhotoShelter to its list of Best Photography Blog Posts of 2011. I also did some articles for Arts in Bushwick, and wrote the introduction for Meryl Meisler’s two books: A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick and Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ’70s Suburbia & the City. Both were featured on NewYorker.com, where I was quoted twice (Disco in 2014, Sassy in 2015). The books have also garnered other wonderful international press. I also have a studio in the East Williamsbur/Bushwick area, so knowing and writing about Meryl’s work made me aware of changes in New York City as well.
But through it all, through my journey to Brooklyn and my own work, I never stopped being fascinated by the changes in photography and the stories that went with it. I began attending events sponsored by the Columbia University Department of Oral History, and in 2016, began an oral history of my own. Called Voices & Visions: Making Photographs in the Digital Age, it will be housed at an American university. If you have ideas or would like to be interviewed, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My aim is to cast a wide net, speaking not only to art and commercial photographers, but to students, teachers, gallerists, and various workers in the field. Many people have things to say and contribute to this rich and complex story. I will also write about this journey and findings here. Welcome!
– Catherine Kirkpatrick