"Let’s push the boundaries a little bit here about what you guys think normal is."
For over a decade, photographer Catherine Opie has used the power of her lens to create visibility for queer subcultures existing on society's fringes. Her raw and honest photographs challenge viewers to reevaluate notions of sexuality and societal norms. Her groundbreaking work has adorned gallery walls worldwide, including The Guggenheim in New York and The Photographer's Gallery in London.
At the age of 9, Opie decided to become a social documentary photographer after studying the work of Lewis Hine. Inspired by Hine's use of photography as a means to effect social change around child labor, Opie pursued her passion for documenting the world with her camera. At 18, she left her home in Sandusky, Ohio, to study at the San Francisco Art Institute where she received a BFA in 1985. She earned an MFA from California Institute of the Arts three years later.
In 1995, Opie's career gained momentum after her provocative portraits of gay fringe groups appeared at the Whitney Biennial, one of the world’s leading art shows. Images of pierced, tattooed and leather-clad members of Opie's inner circle were presented to the public in a bold and unapologetic fashion. "Looking at her pictures can be uncomfortable," observed The New York Times, "not because of their confrontational content but because they reveal as much about the beholder as the beheld."
In addition to documenting sexual minority communities, Opie photographs landscapes and architecture. In her exhibit "Freeways" (1994-95) she explores the intricacies of Los Angeles's highway system. In "Mini-malls" (1997-98), she reveals the rich ethnic diversity of Southern California's shopping centers. Combining both landscape and portraiture in her series "Domestic," Opie traveled nationwide photographing lesbian couples living together.
Opie is a professor of photography at UCLA. She has received various awards, including the Washington University Freud Fellowship in 1999 and the Larry Aldrich Award in 2004. In 2006, she was awarded the prestigious United States Artist Fellowship.
In an exhibit catalog interview, Opie reflects, "I have represented this country and this culture. And I’m glad that there is a queer, out, dyke artist that’s being called an American photographer."
- "Catherine Opie." GuggenheimMuseum.org. 6 July 2010.
- "Catherine Opie on Artnet." Artnet - The Art World Online. 6 July 2010.
- Sheets, Hilarie M. "Home Views, Bound by Ice or Leather.” 19 May 2010
- “Catherine Opie, American Photographer.” The New York Times. 19 May 2010.
- "UCLA Faculty." UCLA Department of Art. 19 May 2010.
- Wilton, Kris. "Catherine Opie.” ARTINFO. 19 May 2010.
Books of Catherine Opie’s Photography
Catherine Opie’s Social Network