Charlotte Cotton

Close-up magic – the kind of intimate, right-in-front-of-you sleight of hand that brings pure wonder and delight – is the inspiration for this book, which gathers the work and words of more than eighty artists operating in the related field of photographic magic. The idea that close-up magic has bearing on the critical mass of contemporary photographic art centers on their shared capacity to recalibrate established creative forms in ways that relate to our collective present: to conjure imaginative and open-ended experiences and trains of thought in the viewer. Magic in both realms in a multisensory experience that calls – instantaneously, and without our consciously knowing it – upon our capacity to script our own sense of visual reality. Charlotte Cotton, Photography is Magic

Charlotte Cotton’s writings and interviews and her book Photography is Magic, give me hope that my own photographic journey is not completely lost or at a dead end. When one has the desire to make photographs that cover unexpected landscapes that hint at impossible places and memories it can be a difficult terrain to navigate. A strangely controversial reception met with closed minds. Perhaps all mediums have this, but opinions can hinder more than the materials themselves.  I am greedy for Cotton’s openness. Her risk. Her unapologetic celebration of image makers using photography as it has always been used, as an experiment.  It was the experimentation of materials after-all that gave us this medium in the first place. Traditional alchemy is not different from Photoshop, but why is the later met with hostility?

If you watch the ways she interviews artists/photographers about their process of making, she asks questions as if she too is struggling to make sense of the genre that has chosen her.  And it is actually difficult to tell if she has a greater preference for pre and/or post digital image making. I am not sure it matters, but perhaps like all us who are drawn to the medium, we are after a surprise, regardless of the process of the making. To see something different. Maybe a place we have never been, or have been. The beauty in the mundane. A strange absurdity. Emotion. Raw candidness. A document of crumbling humanity. Photography stretched and formed into sculptures and fabrics and constructed into spaces setting the scene of a stage for the viewer to become the protagonist. Her encouragement to throw the rule book out, for both individuals and institutions, is inspiring.

A few of her interviews can be seen here:

Confounding Expectations: Aperture at The New School

Charlotte Cotton Lecture at California College of the Arts-CCA

Saatchi Gallery Talk: New Directions in Contemporary Photography

Public, Private, Secret: An Introduction from Charlotte Cotton