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‬‬Ramos: thank you for joining me

 

Schneider:  ‪absolutely!

‬‬

Ramos:  ‪so tell me a bit about your current residency

 

Schneider:  ‪Right now I'm at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY. It's an old residency – there are only 12 artists and writers here now, very quiet.‬‬

 

Ramos: i feel like it is related to this piece

 

Schneider:  ‪Yes, definitely. Yaddo has long been a haven for writers – there are rooms in the main guest nick-named after the famous writers who have spent time there, like the Sylvia Plath room.

‬‬

Ramos:  ‪and you mentioned in a previous exchange that there were mandatory quiet times‬‬

 

Schneider:  ‪Yes, quiet hours are around the clock, save for 4-10pm, which includes the group dinner. It's different from other residencies I've been to, where there's more of an open-door understanding.

 

I like it, though – there is no pressure to be anywhere but your studio, alone and thinking. So rare!‬‬

 

Ramos:  ‪completely aligned and perfect successor of the Reading Women project - as if you are now experiencing everything you filmed and photographed

 

 

 

 

Carrie Schneider

Reading Women, 2014

Felecia reading Malala Yousafzai (I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, 2013)

Schneider:  ‪Ha! That is definitely the ideal – not always the case. But certainly, making my Reading Women project grew out of the desire of wanting to have those rare moments of deep concentration that one can experience while reading (or writing, or making art, etc.)‬‬

 

Ramos:  ‪the portraits in Reading Woman capture a sense of quiet, calmness, serenity, peace, and although the lighting, the context, the comfort of the reader all plays into it... perhaps simply watching someone read has that effect on the psyche

‬‬

Schneider:  ‪Totally. There is something really intimate about watching another person read. Asking people to let me be in the room with them while they read for two hours was a real luxury ‬‬

 

‪The way I think about what is happening internally, though, is sort of the opposite of peacefulness – I'm interested in how the sitter is engaged in something potentially powerful, transformative, strange. In a way that is barely visible, or belied by the stillness somehow.‬‬

 

Ramos:  ‪did you ever film yourself reading?‬‬

 

Schneider:  ‪I did, actually, film myself reading – but I won't include it as part of the project. I wanted to first see if it would be a horrible thing to ask a person to do: to sit and read for two hours. Doing it myself, in my own studio, was a test to see if it would even work – I found myself really relishing that time.‬‬

 

Ramos:  ‪so after experiencing both, that is being the reader, feeling the transformation with you, and simultaneously capturing yourself transform... you set out to acquire other's transformation

‬‬

the transformation is so subtle and elegant you almost have to be aware that transformation is what you are looking for

 

‪i wonder if there is a way to compress that experience‬‬

 

Schneider:  ‪That's an interesting way of thinking about it – I was most curious about finding moments of deep immersion, which are rare in our culture.

 

The reason I asked people to sit for so long – two hours – was to give them the time to become immersed in the text, but to also get used to the somewhat unnatural scenario of me also being in the room pointing two cameras at them (as quietly as possible). Eventually losing awareness of me, the camera, and their pose.

‬‬

Ramos:  ‪so there are two things (1) deep immersion and (2) transformation‬‬

 

i can identify deeply with the latter

 

after i finish a book i am a different person

 

even after two hours of reading

 

and if there was a way to capture that, it would be phenomenal

 

and you do

 

however time is a constraint

 

Schneider:  ‪I love what you're saying – and if I'm understanding you correctly, yes, it ends up being all about time. I don't know if it's possible to condense this experience without factoring in time.‬‬

 

Ramos:  ‪capturing the essence of immersion was very successful and that's done, that's the piece as we know it‬‬

 

‪and it's beautiful and makes me, the viewer, feel a sense of complete satisfaction and comfort from the reader just sitting there... which is fascinating because without the book, sitting there would feel perhaps anxious or awkward

‬‬

without knowing i am also traveling the pages, because the reader is so immersed

 

Schneider:  ‪Completely. The motif of the reader has long been a subject in portraiture – think of Mary Cassatt's work, for example. At the time she was painting, 140 years or more ago, depicting a woman reading was one of the few genres available for women artists. It's a way to see someone in a natural, unguarded state.

 

‬‬

Mary Cassatt

Woman Reading in a Garden, 1880

 

Ramos:  ‪right, through photography you did that successfully

‬‬

now about this concept of transformation

 

that could be interesting moving forward - for me - if only for the sake of this conversation

 

how would you capture this transformation more successfully, more calculatingly

 

this has a lot of consequences

 

Schneider:  ‪I was just reading an excerpt from a Virginia Woolf text last night – she was trying to describe what thinking looked like. And she likened it to watching a fisherwoman.

 

There isn't much to see externally – an intellectually transformative experience just looks like stillness.

‬‬

Unless maybe something is revealed when we're watching really closely – it's possible to see "micro-expressions" as Deleuze called them in Cinema One, talking about the close-up, or affection-image, the face.‬‬

 

‪I'm curious what other kinds of transformation you are interested in seeing, and how there might be risks involved to find them.

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Ramos:  ‪there are many ways to focus, many lenses

‬‬

as artist we have the freedom to distort or crop as much as we'd like in order to bring something of interest to the surface

 

just like you decided to use a camera to capture the subtleties of reading, to have the viewer focus on a sense of immersion

‬‬

there are more extremes methods of distortion that would exaggerate the sense of transformation

 

micro-expression is definitely one of them

 

speeding up the time might be another

 

capturing the excitement of the summary after a reading

 

measuring and mapping the emotional trajectory of the reader

 

cropping features of the reading, which might be related to the micro-expression

 

juxtaposing or collaging features of the reader

 

i'm not entirely sure

 

but i wouldn't loose the elegance and intimacy you have acquired already

 

all that is very powerful and should not be lost

 

but there is room to experiment and get dirty before deciding on a final product

 

Schneider:  ‪Ha! That's great. These are all fascinating ideas – and I think, in my work, I usually err on the side of naturalism, or flat-footedness really.

 

I love the idea of capturing something transformative, even magical, but with really simple methods, and obvious means/processes.

 

So not to enhance the experience theatrically, but to let it unfold as we might stumble upon it in the world.‬‬