When speaking recently with Carrie Thompson on a sultry August evening, one gets the idea that certain people - even artists - live a charmed life. While studying for her BFA in photography at CVA, Thompson interned for internationally acclaimed photographer Alec Soth in his Saint Paul studio where, among other duties, she archived all of his images. No small task. Soth noticed. Soon after she graduated from CVA in 2008, Soth hired her as his studio manager and digital printer. A dream come true for any young artist, indeed.
In addition to orchestrating many of the details of Soth’s “unbelievably busy” life over the last two years, Thompson has logged untold hours printing images for Soth’s 2010 exhibition at the Walker Art Center. “With all the work to do in the studio, it was like being in grad school but getting paid for it,” she comments. The position has also given her a bird’s-eye view of the global art world and a professional artist’s life in the fast lane. She has learned the ropes of the international museum and gallery business, shipping and insurance hassles, catalogue production, travel, teaching, and lecturing demands of a highly sought after artist. Her assessment? “I’m not sure I really want to be a famous photographer anymore. It’s such a sacrifice of one’s personal life.”
Fair enough, but Thompson is holding her own as a notable young artist. If working for Soth wasn’t enough, she was awarded a prestigious 2009-10 McKnight Foundation Artist Fellowship for Photographers, one of the youngest recipients to do so. The cash award has allowed her to continue making her own work, including her 2007-10 project I Hope We Go Together, a series of images that explore the lives of her grandparents who live in the small mining town of Nanty-glo, Pennsylvania. Narrative in scope, several of the I Hope color images sold at a recent exhibition at XYZ Gallery in South Minneapolis. An October 2009 trip to Japan inspired Goma, a nascent project to be realized in her studio.
Thompson credits CVA, and particularly her photography instructors Justin Newhall and John Marshall for asking tough questions and encouraging her to keep making work. Any chance her pace has slowed since Soth’s exhibition has opened? Nice idea, but not a chance. With the birth of her first child in October 2010, she has now thrown motherhood into the lively mix.