Kara Birnbaum is a visual artist specializing in analog photography and fine art inkjet printing. She is interested in how her experiences of an unstable sense of home has impacted the way she interacts with her surroundings. Birnbaum graduated in 2018 with a BFA in Photography from Pratt institute in New York, NY. Birnbaum’s photographs have been shown nationally in New York and Hawaii . She has worked with organizations such as The Brooklyn Museum and Maine Media Workshops. She currently lives and works in Birmingham, Michigan.
The Blue Horizon
I exist in a place that has no name and no physical location. This place is made up of my memories, with the walls built by the wishes and dread my experiences have given me. My desires have me reaching for something that my suspicions make unattainable. It is always visible but forever in the distance. This place looks exactly like Earth but it is invisible to everyone but myself. Although other beings are attached to these memories that create the foundation, depersonalizing them allows me to have my own sense of identity. Detaching from specific characters has allowed the seamless creation. It is constantly being built but there is no room for renovation. It’s empty existence allows me to reflect on my memories from the outside. This allows me to look deeper into how each life occurrence has shaped me as a person. I carry it on my shoulders and try to pretend it doesn't exist sometimes. However, it is always there and if I avoid it for too long it consumes me harder. This place is an individual comforting, hiding spot. This place is what I call The Blue Horizon.
Below, Kara answered a few questions about her series and photography practice!
Why did you choose photography over other artistic mediums?
I grew up surrounded by photography. My mom is a photographer and we had a studio and a darkroom in my childhood home so you could say I was born into it. I used to have the dream of following in my mom’s footsteps but as I grew older I started finding my own path and vision. Memories have always been a large part of inspiring my work and photographs are the best way to find and recreate memories I believe.
How did this series start for you creatively?
This specific leg started with a push from my teacher to take a visit to the town that I grew up in which I had been avoiding. After that everything started to come together about how I was feeling about home and my surroundings. After that I compared everything else I shot in multiple different states to those and there were obvious connections. I like to say that this whole project really started about two years ago when I started photographing my grandparents and their belongings. I was originally inspired to do this since my grandfather has Parkinson’s disease. Ever since then it has felt like a natural flow from one thing to the next slowly turning the camera towards myself (literally as well as figuratively) instead of focusing on the relationships around me.
What reflections have you come to after finishing this series? If you are still working on the series, what revelations have come up while creating the series?
I think that this series will always be in progress. This series has really helped me deal with a lot of things that have been thrown my way and I think that it is the type of project that will always do that for me. It is the perfect mindset for me to be in when working towards something or moving past something it is therapeutic in a way.
Who is your favorite photographer and why?
This is such a big question. I have always loved Larry Sultan. His project Pictures From Home was one of the first projects I looked at that really inspired me and it has ever since then.
Are there any books, movies, magazines or podcasts that you would recommend people to check out?
I recently bought the Joel Sternfeld book Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America. I suggest anything and everything of his. I have also been listening to a podcast about dream analysis called The Dream Show with Jane Teresa Anderson.
Lastly, what artists are currently inspiring you?
Since I just graduated college a few weeks ago the artists that have really been inspiring me have been my fellow classmates that I got to spend four years with. Watching their work evolve as mine is has really been a great push and having us all go through similar things has been keeping me going. We have all come so far and I am so proud of all of us.