Tuesday, 9 September 2008
A Woman With The Right Shot
(Photo thanks to www.pipercarter.com)
Piper Carter is a woman of many distinctions: the first black female photographer for British Elle, technician, artist and a storyteller. The quality of Carter’s pictures suggests she’s been a photographer all her life, but the truth is she’s only been shooting for 16 years.
For most photographers, such a late start would doom a career, but not Carter. She first picked up the camera as a junior at Howard University majoring in dance and musical theatre. She became bored with the major and decided she wanted a change. Carter explains, “my friend said, ‘Hey let’s flip a coin’ and he flipped a coin and it was heads and that decided I was going to study photography.”
Carter suggests flipping a coin to determine her studies is just another unexpected happening that characterizes her life. She believes in balance, give and take and of course— Murphy’s Law, what can go wrong will go wrong—which further characterizes Carter’s life. She breaks down much of her career with this theory:
“Photography, in general, is very much like Murphy’s Law, you gotta be flexible, because things happen. You might have a shoot planned and you wanted to go on location, and then for some reason you can’t. Or [the weather reports will say] it’s not gonna rain for five days, but then it starts raining. The insurance doesn’t come through so you can’t shoot for as long as you wanted, you wanted to shoot from high up, but the model is afraid of heights…it’s all these things and it’s always something...you gotta be flexible.”
As flexible as Carter is she is personally attached to her work, and for that she won’t bend. According to Carter she doesn’t shoot a picture for the hell of it. She says each shot comes from within, comes from her body. Carter describes her first photograph at 21-years-old as a birth of a child, and even a rush, a high that she is still chasing today.
From then on she pursues her passion and succeeds to make her name into a brand. She was on VH1’s “The Shot,” and is heavily involved with her own private projects. Carter balances her work between art, math, and the science that is behind photography while getting an interesting shot with creative lighting and a story she’s trying to tell.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMAGE?
“My first image was some friends of mine sitting on a bench, they were just sitting there and I saw them and I said, ‘Oh that’s a great photograph right there’ but now I look back I go, ‘Oh man!’ It wasn’t as great as I thought it was [laughs]. At the time it was pretty advanced for a beginner to notice something like that.”
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
“I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. That was in the 80’s, the height of the crack era. I ran to and from school everyday [laughs].”
DID YOU GET IN TO TROUBLE?
“Not me, I was a good girl. I was what you would call a ‘cool nerd.’ I was captain of the cheer team, class president, and National Honor Society. I wasn’t a street kid. In Detroit there’s only two kinds of kids in the street: he’s either running the street or he’s dead. I definitely wasn’t the one running the streets, definitely didn’t want to be dead—so I kept my butt in the house! [laughs].”
WEREN’T YOU AN ACTRESS AT ONE TIME? “WILLMA” RIGHT?
“As a kid— Yea, that was me— as a kid. I used to act and dance, but I decided, I really wanted to do this photography and film thing, it’s my passion.
DO YOU HAVE ANY INFLUENCES?
“Steve Klein, he’s my main influence. I love his work; he’s incredible. I also love The Northern Renaissance, I love the light and style; I’ll probably have to give that up to Vermeer. I have different influences for what shoot I’m doing and the story I want to portray.
I SEE A DIFFERENT CHARACTER AND STORY INSIDE EACH OF YOUR IMAGES, WHERE DO YOU GET THESE STORIES AND IDEAS?
“I’m very much a story teller, my stories are not necessarily linear with a starting point or an ending point, but there is the evidence of a story there. I usually think of the story first [before I shoot] like who is she, what is she doing, where is she from, what season is it, what colors do I want?
YOU SAID YOU’RE STILL CHASING THAT RUSH, THAT HIGH. DO YOU GET IT EACH TIME YOU SHOOT?
“Yeah definitely, every time I close the shutter.”
DO YOU GET BETTER HIGHS AND RUSHES OR ARE YOU STILL CHASING IT?
“It’s a little of both. I’ll have an awesome shoot where everything works. Then sometimes it just sucks— everything went wrong and it’s not like I wanted. This just means I have to get back on the horse and do the thing again.”
ARE YOU ANY DIFFERENT WITH A CAMERA AROUND YOUR NECK?
“I am, I get really quiet. I’m really fun and bubbly [usually]— but I get really serious, and intensely focused. Some people say I’m a little mean, but I’m still crackin’ jokes, I’m not aggressive with the camera, I’m more of the type of photographer who wants a little more from the model. If I gotta bend a little that’s fine they have to too, either way we’ll get a good picture. It’s like a dance.”
DO YOU CONDISER THE MODEL AN ARTIST?
“Definitely, the model is an equal contributor. Every person there is an equal contributor and you need all those elements. It’s like a stew— you need all those elements to make it taste good. Without one you got too much of the other.”
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR MIND RIGHT IN THIS BUSINESS?
“Sometimes I get sucked in too. I meditate, I talk to my friends, I talk to my mom and grandmother, they’ll keep you right on point. I watch Oprah, she’ll keep you lined up [laughs]. I read a lot of spiritual books, if I’m not reading a technical manual, which I’m a huge fan of.”
DO YOU HAVE A SHOT THAT BEST REFLECTS WHO YOU ARE?
“Actually I have a couple, but they reflected who I was at that time. And they also reflect certain qualities that are still true about me now, but I think right now I’m changing and developing new work and I would like for my work to go, not necessarily a different direction, but, I think I want to do work that’s a little more abstract. So I’m working on a little more abstract concepts at this point. I don’t necessarily have work that reflects where I am going.”
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DO YOU DO?
“Right now I’m working on this idea for Wonder Woman as a Jihadist. I’m doing a lot of research about that, I don’t know what the final image will be, at the end she might not even be a Jihadist, that’s just what I’m starting with now. I’ve been doing research about women wearing hijab, and women covered in 3/4’s, things like that. What I’m doing now is checking out what her costume will be. That’s what I mean when I said I want to do more abstract. This is more towards my personal work, not my fashion work.”
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
“Making images honestly, just the idea of making great images, and seeing great images. When I see amazing images, it inspires me and motivates me, to go out there and DO.”
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR LIFE?
“One thing that I was proud of for a long, long time was being able to shoot Erykah Badu. I think she’s so incredible. She was really sweet and giving with herself. When it came to shooting she had a great attitude and I got a great picture out of it [published in Spin Magazine]. She respects you as an artist.”
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM JOB? OR ARE YOU LIVING IT?
“I am in my dream job now. I’m only at the beginning though. I’m not at the pinnacle, but I’m happy. I haven’t reached my material success yet. I’d love to shoot for Visionaire magazine. I’d love to shoot for Italian Vogue. I’d love to shoot for W. If I could do a Gucci campaign or Valentino, that’s where I’d love to be and where I see myself. On my own I’ve done a lot of underground designers, but this year I think I want to shoot mainstream.”
ANYTHING ELSE? MORE ABSTRACT POROJECTS?
“Other things I’m doing are portfolios for models and ‘look-books’ for designers. And also I’m doing video as well. I make videos for designers’ shows and I also started doing what I call web-based ‘fashion film.’ I’m not doing the film in the traditional sense with interviews; I’m doing something more creative. It’s like a magazine editorial in Italian Vogue— a twenty page spread of dresses, coats, boots whatever, I’m doing that just as a video. It’s a little more creative and abstract. No talking, no dialogue, there are no stories, and it’s not linear [featured on YouTube]. You just see a girl running through the forest, she’s got a dress on with no shoes, or we’re walking to a house and opening the door, just abstract moments where each piece goes together but not in the sense of a traditional story.”
There she is: Piper Carter, a well-balanced artist with a serious technical side to her. For, in her words, “It’s a mathematical job…photography in general is all about math and science.” Piper’s pictures are balanced stories that evoke the looker’s mind and eyes. Laden with light, confidence, and intellect her shots urge one to stare and think.
Piper has just finished her first campaign for Vanilla Star Jeans featuring Nastia Liukin USA Olympic Gold medalist; which will be on buses in NYC, and in most teen magazines like Teen Vogue. She also just finished an editorial in Trace Magazine featuring the model Georgi. She expects to re-launch her brand as beauty and fashion photography in September and has been working in NYC, L.A., Philadelphia and Detroit. To get the real thing go to her website: www.pipercarter.com , she has a FaceBook and myspace account with more of her photographs and videos to check out.
Link to Carter's website: www.pipercarter.com
To see where this article was published go to: www.ilovebeeing.com/beeing_profile.html