Briefly describe the work you do.
My practice is rooted in photography and I am especially drawn towards utilizing analog film and handmade cameras to create imagined landscapes. Timeless aesthetics such as horizon lines, skyscapes, and mountains inspire me, and I often make images that question what it means to look into the distance. Using colorful dye to physically manipulate analog film, working with multiple exposures and/or light leaks, and building imperfect cameras out of discarded materials allows me to collaborate with light and space to create new kinds of landscape photographs. In graduate school I was building crude pinhole cameras out of mannequin heads as a metaphorical study of sight, and I enjoy the idea that the camera itself can be a conceptual player in the reception of an image.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
Some of the greatest moments in my childhood were spent driving cross-country with my family. I was small and couldn’t always see out of the window, and many of my memories were marked by snippets of mountaintops and endless squares of sky. These pieces of the environment have their own strange and wonderful minimal aesthetic, and remind me of how complex and unique each part of our world really is. Furthermore, I attended Catholic school from kindergarten to my senior year of high school, and I know that this chunk of time lent a sort of existential spirituality to my way of working. I remember thinking as a child about the terrifying yet amazing mystery of being real and alive, and knowing that I was a part of something bigger than I could possibly fathom. My fascination eventually found its outlet in photography; there is something inherently magical and mysterious about a piece of light sensitive material that can record an image of the world, despite our fleeting existence.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
A traditional studio is great for curatorial visits and sequencing images, but I create the most compelling work when I’m moving around in the environment. I hope to eventually set up a wet darkroom that will act as a home studio and educational space in which I can offer lessons to those interested in analog processing.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
For me, working as an independent artist also means working as a confident self-promoter, a focused writer, a diligent around-the-clock researcher, a seasoned optimist, and a person who has learned to be graceful at failing, yet propelled by success. The juggling of many jobs, odd hours, and random paychecks can be as rewarding and freeing as it is stressful, and I’m okay with that right now. I rarely ever know what is next with my career, and with that openness comes exciting possibilities.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I have been making photographs everyday for about nine years. Sometimes I focus on long-term conceptual projects, and sometimes I find joy in using my cell phone camera to make simple images of light moving through my home.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz five years ago with a BA in Art where I spent a lot of time making traditional color landscape photographs and black-and-white portraits. I wanted to go to graduate school to push my practice in new ways, and it was at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2012 that I began investigating how process can affect and elevate concept in a photographic image. I still love to walk around and make interesting images with my digital cameras, but they always feel like randomly beautiful one-offs. It’s usually the result of analog film manipulation and camera building that turns my imagery into cohesive bodies of conceptual work.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My Dad, an amazing teacher, writer, and landscape artist (although he probably wouldn’t call himself that), recently told me that my true talent shows up in the traditional photographs that I make of the world around me. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I love the open-ended possibilities present in abstraction and experimentation, and I’m always striving to find an intriguing balance between the legible and the mysterious. Rebecca Solnit’s book, “A Field Guide to Getting Lost,” helped me understand landscape and color in a deeply rich and highly emotional way. My undergraduate mentor, Ken Alley, and two of my graduate school mentors, Meghann Riepenhoff and Sean McFarland, all inspire me with their contemplative and poetic approach to landscape photography. I feel somehow connected to most contemporary photographers, and I have a lot of respect and admiration for those artists who spend their time creating meaningful conversations about life, people, and places. We are brave.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I love teaching because I can encourage students to engage with the world in a contemplative, mindful, and open way. I did a lot of journalism in high school and still love to write investigative pieces, theoretical essays, and art/film analyses. Writing feeds my visual art practice, and my art practice feeds my writing. It’s a beautiful and ever-growing cycle.
Caity Fares is a visual artist and educator living in Berkeley, CA. She uses digital and analog cameras to create traditional portraits and builds handmade cameras out of discarded materials to make experimental landscapes. Caity has exhibited work in the states and abroad, including at SOMArts, the Szkéné Theatre in Budapest, and the San Diego Art Institute: Museum of the Living Artist. Her photos have been published in Blur Magazine, Coast Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and F-Stop Magazine. Caity received her BA in Art from the University of California, Santa Cruz and recently completed her MFA in Photography at the San Francisco Art Institute.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.