Q&A: Caroline Tompkins


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? I was reading a lot Thich Nhat Hahn, Maharaji, and Ram Dass, but then I went to a 10-day silent meditation retreat and stopped all that. Now I just spend most days trying to be present. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? See: 2016 elections, rampant racism and sexism, mass destruction to the earth, vegan cheese. Are you aware of any conspiracies? One time an Uber driver, while driving, showed me a few videos on his phone of ‘experts’ describing how the moon is hollow (filled with alien bases of course) and that 9/11 was a hologram. What is it that interests you about photography? It’s nice to have pictures for when I run out of now. What is the worst thing about city life? Constantly seeing people struggling and knowing there’s little you can do about it. What part of the planet would you like to explore? There’s very few parts of the planet that I don’t want to explore. To answer the question though, I’m going to Montana in June and South Africa in September, and still working on the America east coast. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural?
The universe is too big for us to be the only ones, right? Also, it’s generally more fun to believe. Sometimes I get bummed thinking that civilizations may just be flashes in the dark – destroying themselves before the next one begins.

Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Psychology. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? The town I grew up in Ohio used to have a 60-foot tall Jesus viewable from the highway. I used to drive by with my mom as they were building it, every week another few feet added. Finally when it was finished, it showed Jesus’ torso with his hands pointed up to God – everyone called it ‘Touchdown Jesus’ for its resemblance to a referee pose in a football game. One day in the summer, it was struck by lightning and burnt down in the night – leaving only metal stakes where his arms were. There’s really only one sorta blurry picture of it burning on the internet. Google Touchdown Jesus you’ll find it. How often do you take other people’s advice? Daily. Describe a personal hell. Knowing you have things you need to do, but understanding there’s not enough time to accomplish them. On what occasion do you lie? When I feel like I have no other choice. When I feel like it will hurt the other the least. When it’s not worth telling the truth. Women are socialized to lie. What was the last crime you witnessed? A few hours ago, I tried to enter a country illegally so I guess the crime I witnessed was my own.

What is the best way to educate yourself? Really really care about it, and then you’ll figure out how to access it. What is the next book you want to read? Bluets by Maggie Nelson, Cool Men and the Second Sex by Susan Fraiman, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, more Deleuze. Ultimate camera? This is so extra to say, but I would love a digital Mamiya 7 with autofocus and ability to focus closer than a meter. Most used camera? iPhone for pictures that don’t end up being very important to me. Mamiya RZ67 for those that do. What object do you want? Desire is the first step into misery. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? My dad is from the 1950s, and he uses the internet more than I do. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? A few days ago I bookmarked a 4-week beginners guide to weight lifting. Describe a cheap thrill. The cookie I just ate on the plane. Pick an historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. That’s not why I care about pictures. Are impulses more important than consequences? Desire is the first step into misery. Which talent would you most like to have? Having the ability to make someone feel instantly comfortable. I’m working on it. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? Go back to America because I’m legally obligated to.

Caroline Tompkins — Website / Instagram