Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Conversation with Candace Gottschalk

Kirsten and Olivia (with Knife) from Women with Knives © Candace Gottschalk

Candace Gottschalk is an observant and skilled storyteller. But what distinguishes Candace from other storytellers is her way of seeing the world. Her images reflect her unique sense of humor, her reflections on the many absurdities of life, while also capturing the fragile beauty inherent in perfect moments. We are pleased to present this conversation with one of our Nymphoto co-founders.

Mom (with Knife) from Women with Knives © Candace Gottschalk

Nana (with Knife) from Women with Knives © Candace Gottschalk

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.

Candace Gottschalk: I grew up in an affluent suburb of Chicago. When I was in eighth grade, my family packed up everything we owned and moved. Our new home was a block and a half away, on the same street - which indicates how insular my upbringing was. Everyone had lots of money but it was never discussed or realized. I was taught the importance of keeping my elbows off the dinner table, and to use the word glorious when describing a social event. I grew up learning to bring my food to my mouth, not my mouth to my food. If I did, I would get a squeeze under the table on my lower thigh, just above my knee. Table manners were very important.

This is not to say that I did not have an enjoyable childhood. I have wonderful memories: collecting field mice and housing them in a cardboard box amongst slices of Velveeta, eating freshly fallen snow with maple syrup, swimming so many hours that the chlorine smell became an additional layer of skin. I also have three siblings who enjoy discussing how dysfunctional our upbringing was, and laugh at our inability to truly escape it. There was a blanket of restraint, a lack of freedom that covered our town. Appearances were far more significant than honesty. I don't think I truly realized it then; I was just a child on an innocent quest for fun. Now that I am grown, however, and have more perspective, I am aware of the pervading consciousness that helped raise me.

After boarding school in Rhode Island, followed by college in Los Angeles, I attended NYU/ICP and received an MA in photography. I currently live in Brooklyn with my husband, Greg and my two-year old son, Jasper.

Mom with Mango © Candace Gottschalk

Mom with Sea Grape © Candace Gottschalk

NP: How did you discover photography?

CG: While not a photography student in high school, my friends and I were constantly taking pictures of one another. We would get the film developed and make collages on our dorm room walls. They were extremely precious and coveted; we were constantly stealing from one another, bragging about who had what picture, as if making a copy was out of the question. To this day, I have boxes and boxes of snapshots of my friends at my parent's house in Chicago. In college, I was an English and Comparative Literary Studies major. I always thought I would write. Then one summer, I took an intro to photography class. It made sense and felt right, partially because at the time, writing was becoming too heavy. Now, I can appreciate both image and text, and feel I can do both freely.

NP: What inspires you?

CG: Lots of things: my son, my memories, movies, books, other artists, feelings of déja vu, a color palette, the smell of the beach on a beautiful day. Living with a two year old is truly an eye-opening experience. Jasper finds interest in the mundane. He doesn't overlook a thing–not a stick, not a street sweeper, not a Q-tip, not a thing. I can honestly say that his incessant interest in life has encouraged me to find inspiration in things that I had outgrown, and grown to overlook. It's almost as if I am returning to childhood myself.

Mom with Eyes Closed © Candace Gottschalk

Hollyn Sitting © Candace Gottschalk

NP: How do your projects come about?

CG: My work usually begins with a childhood memory, an attempt to excavate some part of my past and family dynamic. I am a very nostalgic person–always daydreaming about the past, whether the memory emotes happiness or fear. I start by staging an image with a member from my family, usually my Mom, and go from there. There is a lot of trial and error, multiple re-shoots, time and ears. The process can be extremely personal and frustrating.

Hollyn Hiding © Candace Gottschalk

NP: What's next?

CG: In addition to redesigning my website...I have several ideas swirling around in my head; and hopefully, one will lend itself to an interesting body of work.

Olivia in Pool © Candace Gottschalk

NP: Thank You so much!!

To see more of Candace's work, please visit her website:

Candace's work is also on view at Sasha Wolf Gallery in two exhibitions Nymphoto Conversations: Volume 1 and Nymphoto Presents @ Sasha Wolf. If you are in New York, go check it out!


Sarah said...

Candace's work is amazing. (Or should I say glorious?). There's just something about her photographs that makes you want to stare at them all day. We actually have a few of her photos hanging in our apartment, and inevitably they're the first thing people comment on when they walk in; everyone loves them.

Can't wait for the relaunch of the new website!

Anonymous said...

Great interview Candace! I have loved your work from way back when. Who squeezed you??

Would love to see your piece in the NY show, more pics and background story.


Unknown said...

Candace - Your interview is beautifully written. I can imagine how inspiring Jasper would be.