An Interview with Photographer Carol Golemboski

August 6, 2021

Our curators asked photographer Carol Golemboski some questions about her Magic Show exhibition on view at Pictura til the end of August. Enjoy! 

Q: You’ve mentioned a particular interest in the magician’s assistant,”
what is it about this role /​persona that caught your attention, and how did it play out in your work?

A: I often think about the role of the traditional magician’s assistant, a job that’s
almost always given to a woman. Even though she’s instrumental to the
performance, and understands the mechanics of the tricks, she’s forever relegated
to a subservient position. She’s sawed in half, she’s mounted on a spinning target,
she’s almost always wearing a revealing costume, and for all practical purposes
she’s mute. I guess I sympathize with her situation. She’s never the star of the
show, but for that very reason she’s often the star of my photographs.

Q: You have worked in the darkroom for a long time, is there anything about this
project that changed your darkroom practice in unexpected ways?

A: Yes. I’ve accumulated a lot of old, expired photographic paper over the years and I 
started thinking about it in alternative ways during this project. Light-sensitive
paper naturally degrades over time. Due to age, temperature, and humidity, it
eventually becomes unusable for standard darkroom practice. The recent trend in
lumen printing and chemigrams led me to think about the untapped potential of
that paper. Some of my darkroom tricks” now involve making camera-less imagery,
like targets and magic wands, on papers that are so old they would ordinarily turn
black in the developer. Through using resists and manipulating the chemicals, I alter
the developing process to get the results I envision. It feels like pulling magic out of
materials that would have been destined for the trash bin.

Q: What have you been most surprised to learn about the world of magic as you have
delved into that universe?

A: Well, it’s sort of interesting that I’ve been studying magic props so I can make these
pictures, but I still know very little about how tricks are accomplished by an actual
magician. I have a small collection of vintage how-to” magic books. I’m inspired by
the diagrams, illustrations, and text, yet I’m not that much closer to understanding
how the illusions are performeD. I met a fantastic magician who was hired for the
opening of the exhibition at Pictura Gallery, and I was amazed by his sleight-of-hand
skills. In the end, I realized that I should probably stick to photographic tricks and
leave the magic tricks to the magicians!