Charlotte Woolf

Charlotte Woolf (b. Greenwich 1990) is an interdisciplinary artist and educator with a focus on photography raised in Charlotte, North Carolina and based in NYC. She received her BA in Studio Art and Women’s & Gender Studies from Kenyon College and her MFA at SUNY-Purchase College. Charlotte has worked as a photographer around the United States, including Chicago, IL, Park City, UT, Charlotte, NC, and New York, NY. She has been an artist in residence at ACRE (Chicago, IL/Steuben, WI) and SOMA Summer (Mexico, DF). In summer 2019 she will attend the Wassaic Project. She has shown work in Chicago (ACRE Projects, Johalla Projects) and New York City (AIR Gallery, Local Projects, Equity Gallery). In 2018, she received an Honorable Mention for the LENSCRATCH Student Prize and participated in For Freedoms 50 State Initiative billboard project. Charlotte is currently an Adjunct Professor at SUNY-Purchase

More Water Under the Bridge

The subject on my mind is: when great men fall, what is left behind? What will happen when the men who ruled the world are gone? Enter my work … In our contemporary version of culture wars, I examine the rubble of my family’s construction company which was an industry giant in the 1900s and went defunct in 2003. From my perspective as a queer woman who grew up with traditional values in North Carolina, I know what it’s like to not fit in, putting on a mask to play the part – I am critical of existing social norms. My interests in gender, power, and infrastructure has lead me to be a photographer, combining my photographs with archival sources, video and objects related to my family’s legacy in construction.

When my father passed away in 2014, his final piece of advice was to “let more water run under the bridge.” My father was a civil engineer, working between New York and North Carolina for over thirty years. Cryptic as it was, this has stuck with me as I have moved through the waves of grief and onward in my life finding meaning . Like a detective looking for clues, I have found the symbols in my life to place meaning on the advice through my work: making photographs and digging in the archive.

Elements of my photographs include superfluous patterns ranging from floral wallpaper to kaleidoscopic prints designed from the family archival video footage. I encapsulate light through layers of glass and windows of the buildings that my ancestors built in their current use. The women of the family, despite keeping up appearances, look distraught and alone, living in the aftermath of the triumphs and failure of the patriarchs since passed.

In my photography, I am a seeking mystical solutions to unanswered questions about my life and family, a history just out of reach. I am searching for clues, following the light towards symbols (circles, flowers, books, chairs, hands) and connecting the dots. My questions become more complicated as I reach the center and realize there may never be an answer to death and decay. In a way, these questions link together like stars in a constellation. You can’t see the whole sky at once. In Eduardo Cadava’s Words of Light, Cadava aligns Walter Benjamin’s oeuvre with the history of photography, writing, “Photography is a mode of bereavement. It speaks to us of mortification. Even though it still remains to be thought, the essential relation between death and language flashes up before us in the photographic image.” Cadava continues” The history of photography can be said to begin with an interpretation of the stars.” Thus, in my work I often am looking through translucent layers, like a magnifying glass, window, mirror, and even water. Shooting through the camera lens adds another layer of glass, all creating distance between myself and the narrative as I rewrite my own interpretations of the family story by examining what remains.

To view more of Charlotte Woolf’s work please visit their website.