9/8/2009 - Snapdragon Interview with Dorothy O'Connor
Dorothy O’Connor is an Atlanta-based photographer with loads of talent
and charm. I saw her 8×10 black and white series earlier this year at
Composition Gallery and this photograph in a group show in New York –
one of my favorites.
Hello Dorothy! First off, I’d like to welcome you as the first guest
photographer for the Snapshots Spotlight series. It’s no surprise that
I picked you – I am absolutely in love with your work, and I happen to
think you’re one of the coolest ladies on the block.
Dorothy O’Connor: Thanks Man!
So tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you are from, how long
you have been taking pictures, and what led you down this path.
DO: I was born and raised in lovely Atlanta Georgia. I took my first photography class in the 8th
grade and continued taking photography classes in high school after
getting shipped off to boarding school in Maryland. I started as a
photo major in college but eventually felt burned out and frustrated
with the program and ended up graduating with a degree in English. I
went in different directions after college – not knowing what in the
hell I wanted to do. One of the jobs I had was working for a mobile
marketing company, which took me all over the country. At one point,
the truck I was driving broke down (which it constantly did) in a small
town in Northern California. Luckily the mechanic’s shop was about a
mile away from a little flea market – so I made the walk and found an
old 1960’s Polaroid camera. Over the next year – it kept me company and
got me obsessed with photography again. After several more years of
shitty unfulfilling jobs – I decided to go back to a commercial school
for photography here in Atlanta and have been working in some capacity
or other in the photography business ever since.
S: Tell us about your latest collection
have actually been working on three collections simultaneously for
about the past 5 -7 years or so (I think the Gemini in me needs the
The first project I began was photographing wedding dresses which I found at flea markets and thrift stores. I love making
the dresses come alive and exist on their own – without a person to
change its form or meaning. These dresses take many solitary hours to
style and capture just right – this project satisfies the part of my
nature that is meticulous and quiet, which craves concentrated alone
time. It is fulfilled by bringing an inanimate object to life.
second project began with the use of a friend’s borrowed 8×10 camera (I
have since bought my own). I guess it is sort of my take on the
landscape – which is odd because they all have a person in them. Most
of these “landscapes” began with an image in my head completely
obsessing me and driving me outdoors to find the perfect location in
which to photograph it. I think these pictures are purely about
illustrating emotions and also satisfying my need for adventure and
curiosity – which scouting the locations and putting my model in
somewhat compromising positions seems to quiet.
third project/collection began as a collaboration with my friend
Caroline – who is a prop and wardrobe stylist. I told her my idea and
she helped me to gather all of the props and together we built the set
in what is now my studio but then was my roofless garage. We have an
extremely similar aesthetic, which made working together easy and fun.
We loved the results so much we decided to do a small series based on
the elements – since the first shot was built around fire. Since then –
it has personally grown into so much more. This last project enables me
to completely create and sort of briefly live in my own imaginary world.
set making must be extremely involved. How often do you get inspired to
build a new set, and then once you have the idea, how long does it take
DO: Yes, the set making is
extremely involved! I usually get inspired to build a new set before I
have actually finished the current set I am working on. And sometimes –
more often than that. This last set took me six months to build
(Caroline’s life has gotten extremely busy over the last year –
therefore she is more involved in giving quality feedback and not
really in the set construction anymore) even if I have the time to
devote – the funds are another story. So basically – it’s a long slow
process on many levels.
S: Tell us about the tableau party you are planning for Atlanta Celebrates Photography.
idea actually came from Atlanta Celebrates Photography’s president
Louis Corrigan (whom I cant say enough wonderful things about). After
seeing the photograph of my last scene during the ACP portfolio review
last year – he asked if it was still in tact and mentioned what a cool
thing it would be to have a sort of tableau vivant party. After looking
up what in the hell that actually meant and after more harassment on
his part – we (he and my friends helped me put the whole thing
together) decided to do it. And he was right. People should experience
what I experience being in my scenes. I love the photographs from them
but they are such a completely different thing to see in reality. So –
as terrified as I was to invite people into my world (so to speak) and
my home too – we held the first Tableau party in my back yard and
studio. It turned out to be a really great experience and I loved the
entirely new dimension that it brought the project. So, once again
holding my breath and with Louis’ support, I am going to have a tableau
party/opening as part of ACP this year. I should go ahead and qualify
one point: please don’t expect to encounter a sober Dorothy at the
party – cause I will need a fair amount of alcohol to deal and I am
sure my model will too.
else we should know about you? Favorite leisure sport? Most regrettable
hairstyle? Best talent show performance?
have a treadmill in my house and I enjoy watching old episodes of Buffy
while I run, um, I had a tail in my early years of high school (I cant
believe I am admitting that) and my best talent show experience was
definitely a lip syncing, tennis racket guitar playing, synchronized
dance to Queen’s “we are the Champions” in the 2nd grade. It
was talent gold. Bonus fact: I cant ever relax at professional sporting
events because I am terrified that my face will appear on one of those
huge screens during the filming of goofy crowd antics.
you, Dorothy, for sharing with us. I can’t wait to attend your tableau
party and try to make the model crack up. Wishing you the best of luck
DO: Thanks for asking! I have
forewarned the model (one of my best friends) and even though she is
going to try to ignore you – I am thinking you will probably have some
success – although she might try to kill you afterwards.
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