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I Can Disappear in Several Ways
Welcome to the world of photographer Cari Wayman.
by Fiel Estrella • photos by Cari Wayman
If there is one thing that’s important in making it as a photographer, it’s having originality, style and your own schtick. For 24-year-old Illinois-based Cari Ann Wayman, that means visiting various abandoned places all across America and masterfully giving meaning and beauty to pieces of life long gone (either away or elsewhere or simply gone gone) and possessions already forgotten—there’s always wonder to find in peeling wallpaper, broken toys, old photos and dilapidated surroundings. Her haunting, whimsical pictures seem to recapture lost youth and the joys of going through life at a lazy pace; que sera, sera, and all that. They make you feel like you have all the time in the world, surrounded by things that have had better years. Plus, we always enjoy a good mystery and classic Rear Window/Found magazine-esque nosy business. That’s definitely an unique way to look at life (both yours and somebody else’s) and to discover more about it.
Read on to see what Cari has to say about her work, the places she goes, the creepy and interesting stuff she finds, and what her other fixations are.
When did you start dabbling in photography?
When I was in high school, I would take pictures for source imagery for drawings and paintings, but I didn’t really get into photography exclusively until I was 19 or 20. I was burned out on drawings and painting and I wanted to try something else.
How did the idea of shooting at abandoned places come about?
I found an abandoned building for the first time when I was 13 years old, and after it burned down, I wanted to find more to explore. It just made sense to take pictures of the things I saw. I grew up in a somewhat rural area of the Midwest of the United States, so there were a lot of abandoned buildings around.
How do you find the places in which you shoot, and how do you travel to them?
Just by driving around, looking in the right locations, searching online, tips from friends who are interested in the same thing. Again, I think where I live has a lot to do with it. There are so many around here.
What are the locations with the most interesting histories?
Oh, there are so many. Every house has its own stories. That’s what I love most about them. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but I made a Youtube video of a Victorian-era photo album I found in an abandoned house.
A long time ago I discovered an abandoned house with a giant blood stain on the wall. It looked like a murder scene, but I never found out the whole story. I don’t really like to talk about it too much.
Abandoned buildings usually have some of the strangest, most beautiful items left behind, as well as graffiti and messages on the walls or in the general area. Do you ever imagine what sort of stories have taken place in them?
Oh, yeah, definitely. Like I said, that’s my favorite thing. Abandoned houses are like treasure boxes; you never know what you’ll find. It’s always interesting if I can speak to someone who knows something about the house, what happened there, and why it was abandoned.
When people think “abandoned place,” they usually associate it with negativity and think it means they should stay far, far away. Your photography manages to bring out the wonder and whimsy in the situation, but does it ever get creepy for you when you shoot?
Sure! I am most scared of being caught and arrested. But there is always a chance there’s a scary person inside, or a wild animal, or poisonous bugs, or toxic mold, or unstable flooring. But it’s worth all of the potential danger to me.
What has been your favorite location so far?
There was an abandoned amusement park with a ferris wheel and rollercoasters and everything (that also may have had lions and tigers still living inside somewhere—they were taken care of though, so don’t worry!). An old farmhouse with beautiful red velvet wallpaper. The first houses I found when I was a teenager will always be important to me. I spent so much time with those and they feel like a part of my life, growing up, and all that.
After a shoot, do you ever leave anything behind as a symbol that you were there?
I used to write messages, but I have not done that lately.
What are some places you’d love to be able to shoot in but have never had the chance to?
Pripyat, in the Ukraine, Gunkanjima, in Japan, numerous locations in the Northeast of America, so many beautiful abandoned places in Belgium, Bodie, California—so many places!
If the abandoned places ever lose their charm (or when you’ve visited all of them, although new places are always bound to pop up every once in a while) what sort of photographic style are you planning to do next? Any general goals this 2013?
Gosh, I’m not sure. I have a hard time believing they’ll ever lose their charm, but I’m attracted to anything with an Americana sort of feel, backroads and rusty things and old farms and carnivals and diners and small towns, so I’d like to drive around the USA for months and months if I could ever get the money. I would like to explore other parts of the world too. I guess I know what I like and what sort of pictures I’m interested in making. It might not be the most innovative or ground-breaking thing in the world, but I’m not really going for that. I do what I love, and I’m not planning on adopting a new style or anything. I want to keep doing what I do and get better at it, and explore deeper the subjects I’m connected to. I have some goals, sure, but they’re not very rigid and if I get there, then you’ll see!
What are some of your fixations right now (movies, music, books, projects, etc)?
Lolita, the book and the movies, always. Brigitte Bardot, desolate winter landscapes, running away and joining the carnival, picking scabs, Springsteen, Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier, Anthony Bourdain, Route 66, Pokemon, roller discos, moving away from the city. Um, things like that!
What are your rules to live by when it comes to photography?
Do what you love and fuck the rest.