Carrie Mae Weems
[Artist, b. 1953, Portland, Oregon, lives in Syracuse, New York.]
I got my first camera when I was 21—my boyfriend gave it to me for my birthday. But at that point politics was my life, and I viewed the camera as a tool for expressing my political beliefs rather than as an art medium.
Grabbing snatching blink and you be gone.
It’s fair to say that black folks operate under a cloud of invisibility—this too is part of the work, is indeed central to [my photographs]... This invisibility—this erasure out of the complex history of our life and time—is the greatest source of my longing.
I’m not interested in stomping around the world with thirteen cameras, ten lenses, umbrellas and stands, and all that bullshit. I move around with an old beat-up camera, a fucked-up tripod, and as much film as I can carry. Then I just trust that I know what I’m doing with this little black box...
The camera gave me an incredible freedom. It gave me the ability to parade through the world and look at people and things very, very closely.
Sometimes my work needs to be photographic, sometimes it needs words, sometimes it needs to have a relationship with music, sometimes it needs all three and become a video projection.
Photography can still be used to champion activism and change. I believe this, even while standing in the cool winds of postmodernism... Postmodernism looked radical, but it wasn’t. As a movement it was profoundly liberal and became a victim of itself. Precisely at this historical moment, when multicultural democracy is the order of the day, photography can be used as a powerful weapon toward instituting political and cultural change. I for one will continue to work toward this end.
Suddenly this camera, this thing, allowed me to move around the world in a certain kind of way, with a certain kind of purpose. (On receiving a camera for her twenty-first birthday)