World-renowned photographer Catherine Opie visited the Archer Upper School on April 28. While here, Opie spoke with the Upper Schoolers about her work over the past two decades. Opie is currently a professor of photography at the University of California, Los Angeles.
According to her biography from the Guggenheim, “Catherine Opie has produced a complex body of photographic work, adopting such diverse genres as studio portraiture, landscape photography and urban street photography to explore notions of communal, sexual, and cultural identity.”
She began the lecture with her first self portrait.
“I begged my parents for a camera because I wanted to be a ‘social documentary photographer.’ How I came up with that language, I have no idea,” she said.
“One of the things that I’ve always felt that photography does the best, more than any other medium, is that it really describes our times. It really allows us to sink into the history that maybe we don’t understand in terms of reading a textbook,” Opie said in her presentation to the Upper School.
Opie explained how she chooses her subject matter: “I think I started focusing on ideas on the construct of community to really figure out where I fit in all of this… Most of my work comes out of curiosity.”
On her advice to young artists, Opie said, “Don’t ever talk yourself out of [an idea]. See it through, see what it looks like, and then you’re going to know if it works or not. One of the things at UCLA that I find with my students is that they’re so self critical, and I try to wipe that away.”
Originality, if we talk about it in a theoretical term, is supposedly dead. But, is it really? Anything that is created from oneself and their mind is unique in that perspective.” -Catherine Opie