Caitlin Teal Price Interview: Mysterious Reflections Against Light and Shadow

Caitlin Price shadows

The beginning steps to seeing light is seeing the shadows, and I’m not trying to be clever with this. I just think it’s true. When you first start putting the world to your lens, you’ll notice that shadows creates tension. And you’ll crave that darkness — to put it as dramatically as  possible. Some photographers just know how to tame it. Fine art photographer Caitlin Teal Price is one. She makes high-key lighting seem so easy to control.

It might be because her images are sparse. She withholds much. Using as much space as possible to isolate what’s being said in the image, Price creates through subtraction. Sometimes what’s said is unclear, sometimes barely heard, but it’s still all gorgeous. You’ll feel like you’re watching a classic film slashed into many tiny pieces. You’ll sense the story but only get the mysterious — shadows — instances of what’s going to happen next.

In this interview, Price talks about her style, explains how she approaches her fine art, and reveals why guerrilla style photography is still necessary.

guerrilla style shadows photographed

You have an amazing eye for light and shadows. How did you get your start in photography? How would you describe your style?

I started making pictures in High School in Washington, DC. I took as many classes as I could during the school year and every summer in between. Once I graduated, with the encouragement and support of my parents, I moved to NYC to study photography in college at Parsons School of Design. I would describe my style as pretty cinematic.

pretty cinematic shadows

When did you become confident of your abilities? Were you ever unsure of your talents?

My confidence is always shifting. When a project is in full swing, and I know what I want and what I am looking for, I am very confident that I can pull off my vision. But, when I start a new project I’m super nervous about whether or not I can actualize that vision. It’s a nerve-wracking and humbling experience to dive headfirst into a new project.

humbling shadows experienced

I love Annabelle, Annabelle. The light you capture is stunning. Could you explain your aims with this project?

Thank you! The light is definitely an important aspect in the Annabelle series. In fact, I often think of it as a secondary and complimentary subject to the women. I find that using both bright highlights and deep shadows in a single image creates an interesting tension. I see magnificence in the light and at the same time uncertainty in the darkness. These dualities are not only seductive, but they speak directly to the significance and story of the women in the photographs.

Annabelle shadows series

Many of these images feature women looking through light. Their expressions are important to the image’s meaning. How did you approach directing them? Are they actors?

A few of the women I’ve photographed are actors, but many of them are not – most are strangers. In terms of their expressions my approach to directing the women is slight. I usually suggest that they look deep into the horizon and think about something significant to them – something that carries emotion. I give each of my subjects a lot of credit for bringing personal depth into her own image.

shadows bringing personal depth

“Mall Lot” is great. I love its imposing tone. Could you explain how this image was made from start to finish?

Mall Lot was made in Las Vegas. While there, I spent my days driving around looking for locations. I would often drive through parking garages because of the bold lines, cascading shadows and the suggestion of more. The project Annabelle, Annabelle started in a mall so I was naturally drawn to them, and when I happened upon this particular mall garage I was super excited. I planned a whole photo shoot around it. It was the original location for the image Claire in Red. I had not gotten permission to photograph there, so despite my pleading on the day of the shoot we were quickly kicked out. I was totally bummed. I loved the location so much I couldn’t let it go to waist. I knew exactly what time the light cast those long beautiful shadows so I simply went back there at 5 O’clock one weekday afternoon and quickly took two frames. I was nervous that the mall cops would stop me again so I was very quick about it – I didn’t even use a tripod.

original shadows location

Although your images deal with straightforward subjects, they’re still very mysterious. There’s a lot going on underneath the surface of what you capture. It’s not ambiguity, but instead a deliberate withholding if that makes sense. Do you ever get this feeling from your images? If so, how do you think you’re able to create it?

Yes, I do get that feeling. And the withholding is definitely deliberate. I like to keep my images stripped of specifics – no signage, no cars, no people in the background, nothing to really date it. The locations I choose are usually stark everyday locations, often overpasses, parking garages or brutalist buildings. I like locations where there is a suggestion of movement – like a staircase, elevator or doorway – and I like for my models be in some sort of transition, many of them are walking. I find that with the right location and subtle details, I am able to imply more than if I handed out all of the information directly. The more general the image is, the more specific it can become.

shadows in parking garages

I also really like your shots of highway intersections, especially RT.1. How did you find this spot?

This image is shot just outside of Alexandria, VA. Being from DC, I knew that there was a crazy intersection of highways there, so I got up early one morning and drove around it in circles until I found a location that made sense for the project. I ended up parking in a used car lot and trekking through a muddy marsh to get the shot I wanted.

shadows of brutalist buildings

Your work has been exhibited throughout the country. How did you secure your first exhibition outside of school? Is there any secret to it?

My first exhibit outside of school was put on by Capricious, a New York City based gallery and fine art photography magazine. My work had been featured in the magazine a few times over the years, so when I graduated with my MFA they offered me a show in their space. There was no secret to it, just a bit of luck.

shadows on highway intersections

Best advice about making great work?

Trust your gut. Make work you want to see. Be persistent. Follow every lead. Don’t give up.

 

In the world of photography, today, where light plays the most important part in creating drama for your photographs shadows, are the underrated realities that actually give the theatrical effect.

Be sure to check out all of Caitlin’s work on her website! You can also buy prints here!

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