Corinne May Botz


Written by Hatti Whitman
Photos and illustrations by Corinne May Botz
12 Monday 12th December 2011

Can you explain a bit about your inspirations? Where do you get the ideas for projects like Parameters and Haunted Houses?

These projects are a natural extension of my investigation into our psychological connection to space. The idea of ghosts and hauntings is so fertile because it relates to obsessive memory, notions of loss, mourning, and history, and how the past resonates in the present. Agoraphobia, the starting point for Parameters, initially struck me because it’s known as the “housewives disease,” it is estimated that 80 to 85 percent of agoraphobics are women. Both projects also appealed to me because I realized that there was an inherent photographic challenge: I would be using the camera to consider something that is not present or seemingly impossible to represent.

Much of your work focuses on aspects of space and habitation that are outside the norm. When did you first become interested in people’s spaces?

I’ve always been interested in people’s spaces. I remember babysitting as a teenager and feeling intrigued and uncomfortable spending time in an unfamiliar family’s house, especially after the children were asleep and I was free to wander. The first space I explored photographically, when I was an undergraduate student, was my childhood home. While the spaces I explore might appear to be aberrant, I’m actually interested in normality. I believe that by considering extreme relationships to space - be that a supernatural experience or the life-world of an agoraphobic - we can better understand how people experience space.

Do you have a favourite photograph? If so, why?

A favourite image that I always have hanging in my house is Baby’s Crib. It’s one of the more disturbing photographs from my series, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. It exemplifies the incredible contrasts contained in the dioramas: they are cosy and horrifying, childlike and adult, and loving care was lavished onto grisly death scenes.

Much of your work is quite unsettling. Is this a deliberate effect that you work towards?

I don’t deliberately set out to make an image unsettling, although sometimes that quality is inherent to the subject matter I’m considering. I photograph primarily with a large format camera and I make careful decisions about how I frame and light something. All of my work is based on a historical understanding of photography. My photographs reference various applications of photography including its use as evidence, to prove the invisible as seen in turn of the century spirit photographs, as melancholy objects, and for anthropological purposes.

You seem to take quite a cerebral approach to photography; do you think that’s a fair assessment of your process?

I become engrossed researching for my projects, and I find inspiration through a variety of sources including literature, vernacular photographs, odd museums, medical textbooks, psychoanalysis, architectural theory etc. I often write a lengthy text to accompany the book versions of my projects. That said, my projects develop in an intuitive manner. I rarely pre-visualize and my images are usually the result of my phenomenological experience of a place. My personal subjectivity and desire are always a part of the relationship that I develop with my material. There is a lot of room for surprise in my process and I’m open to following where a project will lead me.

Do you do much in terms of post-production on your images?

I was trained in a very traditional photographic manner and I try to maintain a similar approach when I print digitally. I usually want my prints to appear as if they were darkroom prints. However, it’s another tool at my disposal and I’m certainly not opposed to making digital manipulations if it will better communicate my intentions.

You’ve talked about ‘obsession’ with regard to your work before; how important do you think that obsession is when working on a large-scale project?

Obsession can certainly help fuel a project. But when working on a large-scale project, I think tenacity and determination are the most important attributes.

Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment?

I have a few projects underway. I’ve been amassing a collection of objects from people who have difficulty letting go of possessions. They give me object of sentimental value in exchange for a photograph of the object. I have also been photographing personal belongings that are left behind in cars after accidents [see above image]. The cars are towed to the block where I live in Brooklyn, intruding on my personal living space. It’s a neighbourhood document and continues my investigation into the nature of objects and violated safe spaces.

Corinne lives and works in Brooklyn, NYC. To find out more about her work visit her website, or visit Amazon to buy her books.

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