Carolyn Drake works on long term photo-based projects seeking to interrogate dominant historical narratives and creatively reimagine them. Her practice embraces collaboration and has in recent years melded photography with sewing, collage, and sculpture. She is interested in collapsing the traditional divide between author and subject, the real and the imaginary, challenging entrenched binaries.
Drake was born in California and studied Media/Culture and History in the early 1990s at Brown University. Following her graduation from Brown, in 1994, Drake moved to New York and worked as a interactive designer for many years before departing to engage with the physical world through photography.
Between 2007 and 2013, Drake traveled frequently to Central Asia from her base in Istanbul to work on two long term projects. Two Rivers (2013) explores the connections between ecology, culture and political power along the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. Wild Pigeon (2014) is an amalgam of photographs, drawings, and embroideries made in collaboration with Uyghurs in western China.
This work was aquired by the SFMOMA in 2018 and presented in a six month solo exhibition at the museum. In Internat (2014-17), Drake worked with young women in an ex Soviet orphanage to create photographs and paintings that point beyond the walls of the institution and its gender expectations. This work was followed by Knit Club (TBW Books, 2020), which emerged from her collaboration with an enigmatic group of women in Mississippi loosely calling themselves "Knit Club,” and was shortlisted for the Paris Photo Aperture Book of the Year and Lucie Photo Book Awards.
Drake now lives in California and is currently developing self-reflective projects close to home. Her latest work, Isolation Therapy, was on view at SFMOMA’s show Close to Home: Creativity in Crisis. Her work has been supported by a Guggenheim fellowship, the Anamorphosis Prize book prize, Peter S Reed Foundation, Lightwork, the Do Good Fund, the Lange Taylor prize, Magnum Foundation, Pulitzer Center, and a Fulbright fellowship. She is a member of Magnum Photos.