An Interview with Carrie Mae Weems
I first met Carrie Mae Weems in 1976. I was teaching a photography class at the Studio Museum in Harlem, which was then located in a large second-floor loft space above a Kentucky Fried Chicken on 125th Street and Fifth Avenue. On the first day of class as a few students straggled in, a seemingly shy woman with big, expressive eyes, introduced herself, “Hi, my name is Carrie. Do you think I could be a photographer?” she asked, holding her Leica camera in her hand. That began what has now been thirty-three years of friendship and camaraderie with one of the most brilliant people I know.
From the very beginning, Carrie Mae Weems has had a sharp intelligence that was looking for a way into the world. From her early documentary photographs to the more expansive and materially varied recent works, she has consistently set out to visually define the world on her own terms and to redefine for all of us the nature of the world that we are in. After all these years I still anticipate her work with a fresh sense of wonderment, knowing that her restless search for the deeper meaning of things will yield a continuing rich trove of objects and images. On a Sunday morning in May I called from my home in Chicago to reconnect with my dear friend while she was traveling in Seville, Spain.
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Dawoud Bey is a professor of photography at Columbia College in Chicago.
Carrie Mae Weems is a photographer who lives and works in Syracuse, New York.