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Featured Artist Interview - Carrie Schechter

The exclusivity of American photographer Carrie Schechter makes her one woman whom many aspire to work with. Taking a picture with her is one thing, having a picture taken by her is another.

Schechter's portfolio exhibits an array of imaginative and hauntingly intriguing pictures that lure people through the wonders of her camera lens. Winner of numerous awards, this Brooklyn-based photographer first understood the importance of using light for modeling and developing the complex moods in her work at the School of Visual Arts. With this background, it is little wonder that Schechter instills a unique sense of artistry in her work that gently exudes the gothic charms of a bygone era.

TAXI rushes through the time tunnel and returns to present time just to have a chat with this inspiring, sweet-natured photographer.

TAXI>>Your images are a look at stark reality, tinged with an “other-worldliness” that is very appealing. What does this style mean to you, and how do you feel it applies to your subjects?

Carrie>>Thank you. I would describe life like that as well. I have a vivid imagination, and I take many roads less travelled by in life that has given me my foundation in creating my work. I enjoy the rawness and the emotion of going into a story line that is not your every day walk in the park.

Everyone has experience in their life, we draw from that and create characters. I think it can be fun becoming someone or something new and doing things you might not normally do on a daily basis. I also enjoy shooting people just being themselves; we’re all a little “otherworldly” in our own way.

TAXI>>5 Rivers of Hades is inspired by Dante's “Inferno” of the ferryman's passage through 5 rivers: Hate, Forgetfulness, Sinners, Traitors and the final river Acheron, the river of Sorrow and Woe. How did you begin exploring this theme and its subsequent execution?

Carrie>>An offer had come across my desk from a new magazine looking for stories for their first issue. They asked if I would contribute something and told me it could be anything I wanted. Instead of using existing work – I decided to do shoot something new.

I needed a little inspiration, opened up the dictionary to the word “fate”. My thoughts travelled to 2 people in vintage outfits in a rowboat, then rivers, journeys, & within minutes I thought of Hades. I’m sure a therapist would have a lot to say about my train of thought.

The hardest part was locating a boat in NYC in the middle of winter, and making sure it could fit in the studio. Since I decided I wanted to shoot two full & different stories that day, we had to deal with a crazy time crunch. I had 15 minutes to shoot each shot, do set changes and deal with the possessed smoke machines that had minds of their own. It was pure organized madness, and it was fabulous.

When I retouched this story I felt like I went to Hades myself, I didn’t sleep for many many days and my office staff made fun of me and said I was starting to twitch when I’d answer the door in the morning. With so many jobs on the horizon, eventually I had to sleep, but for a while I got lost in it – it was an amazing experience.

Individual images as well as the whole story have been published many times and won awards and travelled around the world in exhibits. It is about to be shown again in a solo exhibit in Italy either this Sept or Dec and possibly Moscow in spring ‘09.

TAXI>>Your themes encompass that of reality and mythology. For the latter, how do you inspire your models to obtain the perfect mood?

Carrie>>Drugs and alcohol. [laughs] No, I’m totally kidding.

Each situation is relative. Sometimes I create the characters, sometimes the clients do and sometimes it’s collaborative. I do a lot of directing off and on throughout the day. It takes a community to produce a hot shot, and I encourage everyone to really get into it, and let loose. There is a lot of energy on set, its magic.

I guess the perfect mood is obtained with trust between the talent and me.

TAXI>>Lighting can be said to be your forte. How did you hone this current style and why is this personal to you?

Carrie>>Thank you. I wanted to see what light looked like when it kissed you. It had to be a specific kiss – soft and tender, & I wanted to visually feel it more than see it if that makes sense. I experimented and let accidents happen, soon, I saw it kiss a models face (in my opinion at least). Now I tell it to lick, kick, bite, hug, well you get it.

My imagery is how I communicate with the world - it’s my voice. Light tells half the story, the shadows tell the rest.

TAXI>>You “push the boundaries in both life and art, pushing the concept of photography to a level of hyperrealism”. How do you determine this boundary and its limits? To that end, share with us your process in achieving that.

Carrie>>When I hear the police sirens I know I pushed too far, or at least got caught trying. [laughs]

Photography is an illusion, nothings real; everything is shaped and created to tell a story, so why not go further. You can take Photoshop completely out of the process and just move a light around a models head while she sits in one place and you can change her face shape and your communication with the audience every time. Add Photoshop back into the recipe and we can fly to the moon. My process in achieving that? I just do it, I think it – I do it, and I like to go big..

I carefully hand pick the creative people on my team and their talents have no limitations. My clients are pure genius, and I love being able to create what it is that they see in their heads as well as my own.

I am always thirsty for a challenge, and I won’t stop until I achieve a level of success that’s greater than what my clients and I expect.

TAXI>>Your extensive portfolio includes portraits of celebrities, bands, and hip-hop artists. What approach do you take when photographing them and what type of photo shoot do you enjoy the most?

Carrie>>Each photo shoot is different, since each person has a different way to express themselves and how they desire to be seen. Some talent hands it all over to me & lets me go for it, sometimes its meetings between publicists, agents, managers, & art directors, and other times the artist gets really into the planning of the shoot.

I recently shot an amazing rock band named End The Stars the excitement was contagious. We had a very long, but fun meeting talking out all of our ideas, it is very important to me when shooting music that they are seen the way they sound, the guys and I had so much input that we achieved just that.

All of these shoots are exciting in different ways, and I could never pick a favourite, I love them all.

TAXI>>Given the topic “TAXI”, what kind of photographs would it inspire you to take?

Carrie>>It would be fun to do motorcycle with sidecar taxis. There would be 5 different scenes with 5 different passenger, 2 different drivers, it should be shot throughout different times of day and different weather conditions.

Each pair has to deal with some sort of nature emergency…rain with high winds and flying trash, flocks of birds, sheep crossings, being chased by mutant spiders, you know all the normal stuff that happens when you take a taxi, especially in my experience in the East Village in New York City.

The focus would mostly be on the passenger, and their problem solving methods, or lack there of - to the situations at hand. I think I would love to shoot it in the outskirts of London.

So… do I have the job?

TAXI>>As a professional photographer now looking back upon your beginning, how do you view your past work?

Carrie>>Some of it is made of sugar and spice and everything nice, and some are puppy dog tails and snails. In my old work and my new work I do a lot of experimenting, sometimes you win sometimes you blow rent for 3 months on some film experiment and learn that you should have just saved the money for rent. My old work makes up some really fun adventurous chapters in my life, I’m positive it will continue like that for many many years to come.

TAXI>>I'm sure everyone would love to see your current working space. How about showing it to us?

TAXI>>Okay, before we end, where would you like a TAXI to take you to now?

Carrie>>Either to the earth’s core or into outer space in the far reaches of the Milky Way.

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