Dreaming In Pink w/ Carrie Cai
Dreaming In Pink
Q&A with Toronto-based Photographer, Carrie Cai.
Why did you start taking photos and making videos?
I started taking photos because of the internet! At the height of my Neopets days, graphic designing and running a personal/resource blog, I’d discovered websites like DeviantArt and Flickr where everyone was sharing their photography.
My dad had a little digital point-and-shoot and I had a lot of spare time, so I tried it out and really took to it, and I guess I just never stopped. I was trying to find a way to express myself -- I was never put into any lessons as a child because my parents couldn’t afford it, so my hobbies were mostly watching TV, reading, and listening to music.
Photography gave me something to do and allowed me to be creative in a way that was more tangible than digital design. I’ve always had an extremely vivid imagination, so the progression to video from photo felt natural and necessary. It’s always been about storytelling.
When did you realize that this was something you could do professionally?
When I was around 17, I answered a ModelMayhem posting for an assistant for a fashion shoot. She was a fashion and commercial photographer who lived around the High Park area (in the most spacious, beautiful loft space ever, above some shop which has all since been demolished and turned into a condo building, obviously) and after assisting her a few times and seeing the scope of her photo gigs and all the equipment she had, it was like, oh, okay, this is something people pay you to do! I had never been on a real set until then and she was a great mentor. I eventually started getting paid and published in a few things, so I guess that’s when you become sort of professional!
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m motivated by unique/intentional storytelling and strong (female) characters, so I’m especially inspired by movies and television, as well as music videos and literature. I think there’s something so special about stories that transcend their mediums, and I love taking it all in and finding ways to create something that’s all my own. I’m also really inspired by human existence/mortality, and definitely my Instagram feed.
How do you prepare for a shoot?
Make a bunch of lists -- I’m a chronic list maker. I make lists for lists, which is actually ridiculous but it helps me think and just brain dump. Whether I’m shooting photos or directing, it’s always collaborative, so communication is key. Checking in with the team, giving updates, asking questions, and being present and prepared for anything. I also try and get a good amount of sleep.
What’s the best shoot you’ve done and why?
I’m excited for recent and upcoming projects, but my favourite (though definitely not the best, production quality-wise) are three spec music videos I produced/directed/edited for my university thesis.
They’re two years old at this point, and all three videos are varying levels of production quality. But I love them SO much because somehow they exist. All three were filmed within a month, made possible with crew members (friends and friends of friends) that were ALL young women, and I had no idea how a music video set was supposed to run. I’d also never edited a music video before, and managed to do three.
It was so guerilla but somehow everyone seemed to believe in me, everyone worked for pizza, and it happened. The videos are extremely meaningful to me narratively, and I’m so thankful they were made. I couldn’t have done it without all the badass women and my video babes. It blows my mind and warms my heart!
Other than photography and video, what else are you into?
I wish our bodies didn’t need rest because I want to do so many things, but there just isn’t enough time (or money). I’ve always been into food and cooking, but ironically am not very experimental when I make meals for myself (I’ll watch hours of cooking videos on YouTube and actually try making maybe one recipe).
I just love learning about food and the idea of gathering around food, but in a fun, casual, and non-pretentious way. Going out to eat can get expensive! So I decided recently to create Amuse (@amusefoodco), a food collective and platform where I can share my food adventures and give space to my friends to share theirs -- I’m always super curious to know what everyone eats on a daily basis, amongst other things. “What I Eat In A Day” videos on YT tell me I’m not alone on this!
It’ll also be a space to channel some creative energies that I don’t always get to use (i.e. visual branding, collecting cute kitchenware), which I’m very excited for.
If you had a budget of $20,000 for a shoot, what would you do?
I’d finish writing the script for a short film I want to make and then make it (and pay people for their time and labour!!!) ;)
Do you have any advice for young girls who want to get into photography and video?
Never stop learning, be brave, and take up space!