Carla Anderson was born on October 20, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was awarded a BFA in photography from the Center for Creative Studies (now the College for Creative Studies) in Detroit (1976), and an MFA in photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art (1978). She has received the Calumet Emerging Photographers Award by The Friends of Photography (2000), as well as the Artists in the Public Schools Grant (1982) and two Creative Artists Grants (1984 and 1987) from the Michigan Council for the Arts. Her work is in the collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Historical Museum, Kalamazoo Art Institute, and the Library of Congress. 

Artist Statement

My practice usually takes the form of projects, some of which last for years. Within these groupings there are relationships between images. As I search for ways to sequence my work I look for visual clues that bring individual images into the whole. The diptychs derive from this approach. These pairings are bound together by several elements which include: the quality of the light, color, perspective, and in some cases location. They become another way to perceive the landscape.

My work has always been about place. With the vernacular architecture, signage, and outsider art, the locations were specific. For the title of each photograph I used the address which added to the specificity. As I moved into the landscape, I employed the same type of written identification, but the precise location became ambiguous. In those early landscapes I was seeking my place within it. Some of these were familiar places to anyone who has traveled or has seen representations of them. My problem became how to approach these places in a way that made them unfamiliar. I began by looking for locations that were barren of any recognizable landmarks. As I once again moved into more familiar visual territory I started to extract pieces of them so that the photograph was made up of details rather than an overview. I employed this technique because I wanted a known place to be seen with fresh eyes. I still utilized the same style of written identification, however it became impossible to determine where the image was made.

I often search for places that speak of the earth in the process of reforming itself. In some instances, these processes are barely perceptible, while in others, the explosive nature of these re-formations is quite evident. A temporal quality infuses these landscapes. The rapid receding of the glaciers, and the alterations to the landscape being produced by more frequent and violent storms have accelerated these natural processes. The geographical features of the region, and their relationship to the light, color, and atmosphere serve as a starting point from which my work begins. I have become increasingly responsive to the interplay between the various elements within a confined area. These characteristics often include light, color, steam, water, texture, and pattern. There are times that I wait for the light and a stillness in the surroundings to manifest themselves. At other times I incorporate motion which creates a result that cannot be predicted.

Using a large format camera on a tripod enables me to alter the relationship between the foreground and background. In some images they appear to be compressing against each other. Sometimes the scale of the foreground is out of proportion to what lies beyond. The use of these devices has the result of making the size of various elements difficult to determine. I employ 4” x 5” sheet film because the particular material I use has a long tonal range and is capable of rendering color in a subtle manner. When I am photographing my experience of these places is one of being rooted to the earth while simultaneously letting go into light and color. The earth as a foundational constant becomes illusionary.

The site of these pictures frequently exposes evidence of what was once a very different landscape. The collision of the past with the present is part of the allure of these places. Time becomes an element with which to reckon. While the physical place becomes the grounding of our lives, the qualities of our experiences are born from the atmospheric. The color and shape of light, temperature, water, among other factors, transforms these places and our vision of them. I use the factual written information to pull the viewer back to the ground. However, its literal nature reveals little. These place locators provide only a general notion as to where these pictures were made. Taken out of context they reveal nothing of the look and feel of the place. As indicators the words only generally point the way. It is the transformative quality of the light along with the physical characteristics of the landscape that makes these spots magical.