Interview with Audrey Gatewood

Entering her sophomore year at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Audrey Gatewood already has a distinct voice present in her photography. With the majority of her work shot with black and white 35mm film, her photos depict quiet, fleeting moments of the people around her. Gatewood spoke to Cadillac Ranch Dressing about many things including the Baltimore School of the Arts, her valued time working at UMBC's Special Collections, and her love for writing.

We're honored to have Audrey Gatewood featured on CRD!

All photos by Audrey Gatewood
Interview by Josh Sinn

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Where were you born and where do you currently call home?

I was born, raised and currently live in Baltimore, Maryland.

For high school, you went to the Baltimore School for the Arts and focused on the theater production curriculum. What was it like going to BSA?

The power of the school, I think, is in the respect students have for each other. Even if you didn’t like someone personally, you turn to their artwork or see them on stage and can respect them. That's what makes the school unique; that respect that comes from getting to see your peers heartfelt work. There is also a really intense and colorful environment that’s created because everyone is getting to come of age through their art. So it’s interesting, you have all these feelings that are raw and new, and everyone at the school is being taught to channel those into art, together. It is really a great place in my opinion.

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How did photography come about?

The summer before 9th grade I was constantly bored out of my mind. I mean it was painful. I had a camera and had somehow acquired a tripod. So I started taking “conceptual” self portraits. Looking back on them now, oh man, they are awful. Very embarrassing. But I got hooked. That work somehow segued into the work I do now, and here we are.

How long have you been shooting photos now?

I’ve been shooting for maybe four years now.

Arriving at UMBC, you decided to major in interdisciplinary studies, essentially creating your own major of social documentary photography. Why did you choose to go that route rather than the typical photography major?

I wanted to widen the range of my knowledge. This major will require me to take more academic classes than a photography major. For photography, I feel like formal learning will only help me so much. No one needs to push me to do photography, I’ll always be holding my camera and learning through practice this way. The other subjects I want to learn about, I’d like more pushing from a teacher, so I thought the change was for the best.

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Working at UMBC’s Special Collections, you must see quite a lot of impressive work by some of the most renowned photographers of the last century. Who are some of your photographic influences?

Working at special collections has just been excellent, having access to so many different artists work. It feels like some sort of photo-book-playground to me. I’d really like to achieve something that's gentle and timeless like Sally Mann's photos, with the character of Graciela Iturbide's photos and the weight of Sebastiao Salgado’s work. Oh, and the composition of Alex Webb, haha. I have a lot of work to do.

"No one needs to push me to do photography, I’ll always be holding my camera and learning through practice this way."

Much of your work is shot on black and white 35mm. What draws you to it?

I find it takes away the concept of time to some extent.  Black and white film is so classic, it removes the distraction of technology and hones your focus to the content of the photo. Does that make sense? It's just a different aesthetic. There is a certain softness to it that is hard to mimic with digital, mostly in the way the highlights glow. On a separate note, being in the darkroom lets me spend time with my images in a hands-on way, again, something you just don't get with Photoshop.

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Your photos often depict young adults in natural or calm situations: teens laying on the beach, intimate couples, friends relaxing on porches. What attracts you to these moments?

Moments of stillness, clarity, tenderness, so on, are where I find beauty. I find the world so fast-paced, to be able to stop time and make things still for a second is the gift photography gives us. Maybe that's a clichéd statement but I mean it. These pictures aren’t necessarily taken during an overall relaxing day, or even an overall hour, they’re taken during fleeting moments of meditation. Those are the moments I like. I don’t want every moment to be serene or anything, that’d be boring, but I like to try and capture the little hints of a suspended moment or of self reflection in others. 

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Do you ever set out to go shooting or is most of your work shot from your own experiences?

Photography makes me get out and do things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Would I usually go with my friends to, for instance, a skate park? No, I don’t skate, but I will definitely go if I can bring my camera. I don’t go out shooting per se, I follow my friends or acquaintances and shoot what they’re doing. So I’m shooting from experience, but it's an experience I may not have had if I didn’t have a camera.

"I find the world so fast-paced, to be able to stop time and make things still for a second is the gift photography gives us."

You’ve also started doing a series of interviews alongside photos of the interviewees. How did this come about?

This just came about from my own curiosity and nosiness, haha. For instance, my friend Lexei recently had a baby. When she was pregnant, I had so many questions about what she was feeling and specifics of her situation. Photography gives me that license to say ‘Hey, can I come take some pictures of you and ask you a thousand questions about yourself,’ you know? I’ve done a few other interviews besides Lexei’s, but I took them off the internet because they were pretty old and I know I can do better. I love interviewing almost as much as taking the pictures. It’s such a privilege to get to have someone open up to you.


Is writing something you’d like to incorporate more with your photography?

Oh, definitely. The context from writing can add so much weight to a series. I’m really looking forward to doing more series with text.

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Any plans in the works for future projects?

Oh yeah, I have a lot going on right now. I’m at a really fun turning point. I just started a great internship with City Paper in Baltimore which is pushing me in ways I really need to be pushed. I have a few series I’m just starting now. I’ll be working with the refugee center doing a photo series, and on the opposite end of the spectrum I’m also working with a snowball stand. Its going to be a transformative summer.