Ellen Carey was born in 1952. Although an educator, art scholar and photographer,… artist is probably most applicable here. While her self professed experimental work, which spans several decades, does use the photographic process, it is at the edges of photography that she dwells. Her early work was not limited by the Polaroid camera, and camera-less photograms, but actually did employ 35mm, medium format and large format cameras. As an example, her mid 70’s project, “Black Hole in Space”, was produced on what most photographers would consider the “normal” silver gelatin media. But you can actually watch the progress of an artist finding her voice. She was included in the São Paulo Biennale, which also presented Cindy Sherman and Robert Mapplethorpe in the mid 8o’s.
Her stride probably started to realize itself at the time she began to work at the Polaroid 20 X 24 Studio. Her Neo-Geo, post-psychedelic “Self-Portraits” (1984-87) were created, quickly followed by her stacked photo-installations “Abstractions” (1988-95). Her pioneering breakthrough the “Pull” (1996) and “Rollback” (1997). Here, she investigates minimal and abstract images with Polaroid instant technology partnered with her innovovative concepts, often using only light, or sometimes none,… emphasizing the ‘zero’. Her photogram work is, of course, cameraless. Her main cameras and formats included the Polaroid SX-70 and using Polaroid PN film. Plus, of course, the 20 x 24 Polaroid camera. However, she also had the opportunity to work with the Polaroid 40 X 80 camera! Which, unfortunately, was soon after her use dismantled, and never reassembled.
Ellen Carey only uses the photographic medium in her work. She is obviously an artist and scholar first, and photographer, in the traditional sense, second. But much can be gleaned from her work that could supply inspiration for more ‘normal’ genres of photography. I would like to see more printed examples of her work, but I do love her inclusion in “The Polaroid Book“, along with artists such as David Hockney, Helmut Newton, Jeanloup Sieff, and Robert Rauschenberg. For anyone who loved Polaroid, that’s a ‘must have’ volume.
Ellen Carey Leaves Her Mark
Ellen Carey has been the subject of 53 one-person exhibitions in museums, alternative spaces, university, college and commercial galleries from 1978 to 2015. The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Real Art Ways, Lyman Allyn Art Museum, St. Joseph University, and ICP/NY. Her work has been seen in hundreds of group exhibitions, museums, alternative spaces, galleries and non-profits. Her work is in the permanent collections of over twenty photography and art museums, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, George Eastman House, Museum at the Chicago Art Institute, Fogg Museum at Harvard University, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, and more.
Check out her website link below for a true anthology, and enjoy her Vimeo interview, in which she pontificates on both the work and methodology.