Ally Caple (b. 1995, Connecticut) is a queer biracial photographer based in New York. A graduate of Purchase College, she received a BFA in Photography and BA in Arts Management in May 2017. Most recently, she attended the SPE National Conference in Philadelphia where she gave a keynote presentation with Giancarlo Montes Santangelo, Cristina Velásquez, and Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa; the lecture, titled On the Perils and Possibilities of Being Diverse: a Conversation, discussed her practice and the experience of diversity and its perils and possibilities within art education.

PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: The Body Unlearning Its Weight

2016 – present

© Ally Caple

© Ally Caple

When and where did The Body Unlearning Its Weight begin?

When I moved to Westchester, New York for college, I began nannying for a few different families in the area. Eventually I got permanently hired by a family halfway through my sophomore year. It didn’t take long for me to become comfortable with them and vice versa--they were kind, curious, and genuinely supportive of my photo education and we respected each other to the full extent. I photographed their home for awhile and eventually started to make portraits of their daughter, Sofia, who shows up often in the work. These images were being made in addition to and along with pictures of my younger cousins and little brother who I photograph a lot while home in rural Connecticut. 

At the start of my senior year in September 2016, I was asked what it meant for me to be making these pictures right now and was given the question: Who and what is at stake? I started thinking about my work under the context of the 2016 election and began visually comparing the way I was raised verses the lifestyles of children in a wealthy county like Westchester. Naturally, I began thinking about many more things like race, gender, and sexuality along with class, and made the jump into pursuing this project as my senior thesis work. 

Although I’ve since graduated and ended my nanny job after two and a half years, this work is still ongoing in terms of thinking, sequencing, and writing. I’ve been thinking more about my previous time spent in Connecticut and Westchester and what it means to be a nanny as a brown queer individual; my blackness and carrying for white children, maternalistic labor from a queer perspective, and comfort and discomfort in both spaces. A large part of this project has been acknowledging and allowing the conversations it ignites: the family I worked for and my own family are aware and familiar with my photographic work. Whether or not it’s understood entirely is less of my responsibility than being open to discussing it when asked.

Where do you see this project going?

My hope is that this project finds it’s final resting place in the form of a book. Text is an important component for context so I’m still working on figuring out what feels right, as well as sequencing in order to challenge assumptions. Aside from that, being able to share this work at SPE last month and talk about problems faced in art school as an artist of color was an incredible opportunity--I’d be down to do it again in a heartbeat.

What helps you sustain your current creative practice?

Since graduating, it’s been incredibly hard finding motivation and time to keep making and thinking every day. Living with photographers has been a positive asset, as well as trying my best to surround myself and start dialogues with other photographers, artists, writers, and creative minds. My nine-to-five location is at a landscape architecture firm where I do a lot of researching, editing, and digital formatting; it gives me the opportunity to focus on text-based work, forcing breaks from thinking about my personal practice and photography. (And I’m also so so grateful to be spending these hours around other hardworking creative individuals who are excited about the work they make.) I’m hugely inspired by pop and hip-hop music on the daily and am constantly listening. And it’s other little things like readings and podcasts on the subway and keeping/catching up with old professors that really push me to execute my ideas regardless of how long it takes me.

What’s next for you?

Along with getting The Body... to a place where it feels right, I’m currently working on a collaboration with a handful of other Purchase photographers. We’re in the process of curating and designing a postcard pack that will be released through an upcoming publishing project by Christopher Postlewaite and Casey Michael Robertson. I’m also working on a much smaller, more personal photo-text collab with a good friend of mine and amazing writer, Jaclyn Griffith. A goal is to continue my education some day, whether it’s a MFA in Photography or a degree in, I don’t know, animal science or something… maybe both.

What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?

All of the names I mentioned for sure! Especially Giancarlo and Cristina as they are close to my heart and continue to challenge me greatly. There are so many others… a few who have been heavily circulating my brain recently are Elle Perez, Daria Kobayshi Ritch, Sam Contis, Camila Falquez, Walker Pickering… and I just bought new books by Guillaume Simoneau, Zora J. Murff, Michael Cardinali, and Kristine Potter at AIPAD… list goes on.