Clare Welsh

Clare Welsh is a writer, illustrator, and photographer living in New Orleans, LA. Her work has appeared in McSweeney's, Salt, Nailed, and Offbeat Magazine. 

Website: clarewelsh.format.com

Instagram: @clarewelsh


How did your interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?

My style is a chameleon; it changes depending on the subject or the needs of a particular project.  I was a painter before I was a photographer, and I think that shows in the way I layer exposures and use editing software.  I’m also a poet, and think that the double exposure works in a photograph the way a metaphor works in a poem.  In both cases, you’re conflating two ideas or images, making a connection.  This is why I love the double exposure.  The process feels like poetry.  

How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?

I think an artist can have a beautifully reciprocal relationship with their surroundings.   I live in a tourist economy, and sometimes tension arises when visual storytellers portray only one facet of that.  However,  “Does this image show the real New Orleans?” is an absurd question; it’s all real.  I think some better questions are “Who or what needs to be seen at this time?  How do they want to be seen?  What am I adding to this narrative?  How do my subjects benefit from my work?”

These questions are most important when it comes to documentary, but I also think of them when I’m working on fine art.  For me, keeping a generous, compassionate eye is paramount.  I want to be like if Walt Whitman if he had a camera.  The word “exposure” implies vulnerability.  When we expose our subjects—whether they’re people, places or animals—it’s good to respect that vulnerability.

How do you choose your subjects?

Sometimes they choose me.  I have an idea in my head, and it won’t leave me alone until I’ve creatively realized it, put it out into the world.  I have an overflow of love for my friends and family, so I photograph them constantly.  Most of my work is an expression of love.  Even when I’m approaching difficult subjects—I have a series about memory loss and substance abuse—I’m moved to make the art as a means of bringing peace, closure, or validation.  

Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?

As someone who writes poetry in tandem with photography, Rebecca Norris Webb has been one of my biggest inspirations.  Her book My Dakota shows how images and poems can speak directly to our emotional brains without relying too much on literal situations. Because I began as a concert photographer and still enjoy photographing live music, Linda McCartney is another woman whose work has been instructive. She transcends the easy magazine shot and illuminates a vibrant, candid world: musicians as people, not icons. I also pull inspiration from whatever I’m reading, listening to, or watching at the time. My brain is a sponge.

Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of? 

I work in a gallery for my “day job.”  Being in that scene, surrounded by people who think and care about art, has been beneficial for me.  I have a few great friends in New Orleans, people whose commitment to their craft—whether it’s photography, art, or music—uplifts me.  They say you’re the sum of the five people you hang out with the most, and I think this is true.  My peers expect the best from me, because they know I’m capable of it.  

Do you feel creatively satisfied?

Never.  I’ll be at this for the rest of my life.