Last year I was looking for a photographer, that a friend of mine said “just google ‘galleries in Minnesota’ and you will find their work.” So without a name but armed with a description of their work, I began my search. Usually Google is very good returning links closely related to my search requests; but not always. On this particular search Google returned in the list a gallery called Minnesota Street Project (actually a collection of galleries) which is located in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. And specifically, a body of work from Carine Magescas titled “La Plage Blanche”. That proved to be serendipity at its most elegant. I was struck by her high-key style. You can immediately see that Magescas has chosen to only leave in her photographs what is necessary. Creating scenes that challenge us to see beaches in a new light. Whether you are looking at surfers waiting for the next wave that we cannot see or chairs lined up and hinting of ocean just beyond our sight, her photographs compel you to lean in and look a little deeper at what she has chosen to share with the viewer. While researching her work, I discovered that in early June of 2015 I was within a few yards of one of her exhibitions. I was in the Chelsea district of NYC to see the works of a few artists I knew. What I didn’t know at the time was that she had a solo exhibition in a gallery on W 27th St: just a few steps across the street from where I was. I now will be on the lookout for her next exhibition: hopefully you will be too. Until then we can all enjoy this interview and accompanying photographs. And be sure to check out many more images on her website (link provided below). I need to share one more thing. In the emails, she and I have shared, she has been very warm and personable. That is a hard thing to accomplish in an email.
The photographs Carine has selected to share with us can be found in our gallery room: Carine Magescas
PH Do you see your images in your mind’s eye before you start to create? Or is each image a surprise?
CM I do have a strong sense of what I want to accomplish and the end-result I have in mind but I enjoy being surprised and discovery is part of the process for me. I instantly know when there is something I see and want to photograph. It keeps surprising my husband and my son when they are with me because they rarely see what I see, although my son (who is 11) is developing quite an interesting eye.
But as much as I do have a strong sense of what I want to accomplish and the end-result I have in mind, I also really enjoy a dash of unexpected. This sometimes happens in the digital darkroom when I bring back contrast and exposure to the images I shoot in over-exposure, which is not unlike the process of burning and dogging part of a print back in the day. This is how I proceeded for “One Wave”, “One Wave II” and “Bikini” in particular. The images were almost completely white when I first shot them, and by bringing back exposure and contrast, there is often a detail I might not have noticed and makes all the difference to me. Like an ankle bracelet on the young woman in Bikini”, or a touch of color popping out in “The Surge #1”. In “Camargue #2”, there is a tiny kite with a Union Jack flag that made my day!
PH Have any photographers impacted you? Either in style or inspiration?
CM Inspiration is important, but it is also a limitation – with the constant flow of images it’s easy to question the need for more and why yours. So I actually spend very little time looking at other people’s photography even though it’s by far my favorite medium – I don’t want it to influence me, to change my vision. That said, I am always attracted by photography with a certain degree of abstraction, I enjoy photographs that could seem simple at first but have more layers than what you see at first glance. I find you never get tired of those pictures and you can keep seeing different things in them. It’s something I instinctively seek in my work. I also find a lot of inspiration in my travels and in architecture. I spent last August in Portugal and look forward to going to Japan this summer.
PH If we came to your studio what would we see?
CM I work in a bright white room in our New York home. A light filled bright white space with all white furniture except for a copper chair, a Mac desktop, a large format Epson printer, several Fujifilm cameras and my former favorite Olympus, a bunch of lenses of course, and a lot of proofs on the walls. Looking out the window I am lucky to gaze at the New York roofs and those wonderful water towers. – I cannot get enough of them. We don’t have those in Europe.
PH What memorable responses have you had to your work? (good, bad, funny or all three)
CM A funny thing happened to me a couple of years ago as I was shooting on a beach in Italy. My gear is quite small and discreet and usually people don’t notice me too much when I shoot. As I was shooting the beach from afar, particularly inspired by a few colorful parasols and lanky silhouettes under a glaring sun, I see growing in my visor 2 silhouettes, all of the sudden on me, angrily asking why I was photographing them. I explained who I was, showed them how overexposed my images were on my camera – which triggered a lot of perplexity – and told them they would only be far silhouettes in the picture. A few weeks later they reached out to me, apologizing and saying now that they had seen my work, they were hoping to be included in it. Positive energy is something I care about, it’s important for me to capture something I feel good about, because every time you look at the picture you are transported back in the moment. I could not resolve myself to use those photos so far…
But mostly response to my work has been overwhelmingly positive and I am very grateful for it. I try to instill in my images that element of layered simplicity that will allow a piece to never get tiring yet reveal itself more with time. I have received the most touching testimonies over time, from a client’s young daughters growing up with “The Surge #1”, to a couple of beautiful verses in prose, from a client, friend and collector who had found solace in my work after a loss. I am very happy and grateful that people find a certain sense of peace and serenity in my work.
PH I have noticed that some of your works are printed on “Plex”; could you explain what that is and why you selected it for your photographs?
CM It’s actually not directly printed on plexiglass but face mounted to plexiglass after the photograph is printed to a professional archival photo paper (pigment or digital C print). Once the print is adhered to the acrylic, a backing material is adhered to the back of the print.
I like the floating effect of the finished product off the wall and its modernity and that it allows me to have control over what the finished product will look like. A frame can sometimes distract from an image. I also feel that a plex mount particularly suits the “wet quality” of the images of “La Plage Blanche”.
PH You had mentioned to me in an email that you are working on a photobook; is it too early to ask about details? When might our readers be able to purchase a copy?
CM For my first solo exhibition in NYC I published a small catalog featuring a slightly larger collection than the exhibited photos and anecdotes. There is a digital version of it on my web site. The new book is a more mature version with higher quality paper and accurate color printing, with over 60 images, more anecdotes and hopefully a thumbnail poster. It is entitled “La Plage Blanche”, as was my last exhibition and I hope I can release it by the end of the summer.
PH Do you know of an overlooked or underappreciated Photographer we should know about?
CM He’s a lot more known now but I discovered Saul Leiter at Paris Photo 7 or 8 years ago. He was still alive then and I felt an immediate connection to his work. His use of negative space, how he was not afraid to be unconventional, by not respecting conventional composition rules, even in the 50’s…. With the first money I made with my work, I bought one of his photographs, that luckily he was able to sign a few months before he died. It’s one of my favorite possession and I never get tired of it. It is hard to believe he only gained recognition so late in his life.
PH What are your photographic guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre/style?
CM I enjoy old archive-type family photos. I am fascinated by the human psyche and people stories. I love looking at a photograph and imagining who the person was and what her thoughts were at the time of the picture. Even though I purposively do not prominently feature people in my work, the human story is very much at the center of everything I do. I also really like street photography, little stolen instants or when suddenly there is a dash of poetry where you expect it the least. I find Harry Gruayert’s images extremely poetic and I discovered some work by Wim Wenders that have that slight melancholy I enjoy seeing in photographs.
PH What subjects other than photography are you interested in?
CM Too many! I struggle for time! I love architecture and design and building houses. I have remodeled and designed all our homes – we move a lot – and it’s something I really enjoy – Traveling is very important to me, even though it becomes difficult to find places that are undiscovered. I also have a passion for cinema and literature.
PH Do you have any regrets with regards to your photography especially when starting out? What would you do differently?
CM Deciding on sizes for my work was a complicated process for me. The same image in a different size can make a drastically different impression.
PH What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
CM Edit. Edit. Edit more.
PH What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
CM Find your style. A lot of photographers tend to put too much emphasis on technique. While it is obviously important, I think finding your signature style, what will define you as an artist is critical. Take a lot of photos and study them with a critical eye: is there a subject that comes back often? Do you tend to shoot close ups vs wide angles? Find what you enjoy shooting and are good at shooting and go deeper on that style, refining it over and over.
PH What is something unexpected that we don’t know about you?
CM I lead 2 very distinctly different lives, which can be slightly schizophrenic sometimes. I am a Fine Art Photographer as well as an Early Stage Startup Investor – I have invested in over 150 tech startups to date and was nominated “Angel Investor of The Year” in 2017. Many people in the art world don’t know about my work as an investor and people in the startup world have no idea that I am a “pretty serious” photographer.
PH If someone reading this interview and seeing your accompanying photographs wants to purchase a print: how may they do so?
CM My photographs are sold through galleries in the US and Europe, and my gallery representation can be found on my website www.carinemagescas.com. There is also a contact form if people want to drop me a line (always nice to get!).
The photographs Carine has selected to share with us can be found in our gallery room: Carine Magescas
Thank you for visiting,