Carolyn Drake studied Media/Culture and History in the 1990s at Brown University, where she became interested in the ways that history and reality are purposefully shaped and revised over time, and in the ways that artists can interrupt and shift these narratives. She worked for multimedia companies in New York after graduating from college, but left her office job at the age of 30 to engage with the physical world through photography.
In 2006, she moved to Ukraine, where spent a year using the camera to cross cultural partitions in a country seeking national unity. She returned after the Euromaidan Revolution in 2014 to track down individuals she had photographed as young girls a decade earlier. The book Internat (2017) is the result of reconnecting with these now-grown women, whose imaginations and minds developed in seclusion.
Based in Istanbul between 2007 and 2013, Carolyn traveled frequently to Central Asia to work on two long term photography projects. The first, “Two Rivers,” is a poetic exploration of the shifting borders, histories, and life systems between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. The interconnectedness of ecology, culture and political power come to view in a territory on the edge of global attention.
The second Central Asia project is an amalgem of photographs, drawings, and embroideries made in collaboration with Uyghurs in western China. Framed between passages from Nurmuhemmet Yasin's contraband story "Wild Pigeon," the book puts forth a counter narrative about China's western frontier, Islam, and the freedoms associated with modernity.
Carolyn returned to the US in 2014 and is now based in Vallejo, California. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, the Lange Taylor Prize, a Fulbright fellowship, and the Anamorphosis prize, among other awards. Her work is collected in the SFMOMA, the Library of Congress, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. She is an associate at Magnum Photos.