S+C Interviews is back! This time I’m totally pumped to have spent some time with NYC-based photographer Meg Wachter. I fell madly in love with her photo project “Dumped”, which has received some major and well-earned buzz. Turns out Meg is as rad as her need to douse people with breakfast cereal and take pictures of it, and she was kind enough to send some equally excellent out-takes from the “Dumped” shoot and some other remarkable and personal images as she shares her thoughts on “sploshing”, fake blood, and Björk…
Me: Tell me a bit about your background. How did you discover photography?
Meg: I discovered photography in high school and used the darkroom as a means of escaping my social awkwardness — I also admittedly had a crush on a boy at the time in my class. We only had one or two levels of photo classes, so I attended a photography workshop at local college over the summer for gifted and talented students. That was also my first exposure to retouching that I can remember.
As a senior in high school, I applied to Ohio University’s prestigious school of photojournalism and was rejected (in all honesty I didn’t know, at the time, the difference between photojournalism and commercial photography.) I still attended O.U. anyway and reapplied my sophomore year to their school of visual communications as a commercial photo major. I was accepted and managed to finagle my way out of having to attend a 5th year of schooling by taking classes for my program before I was even accepted. My whole background in photo has basically revolved around the theme of me making things happen for myself, despite major obstacles. I still don’t like being told what I cannot do.
Me: Let’s talk a bit about your series “Dumped.” How did the idea come to you?
Meg: I think Dumped was induced by a dream. I keep scraps of paper next to my bed when crazy thoughts need to be accounted for.
Me: What’s the process like for shooting “Dumped”? How do you recruit the “dumpees” and how many dumpings does it usually take for you to find the perfect shot?
Meg: The subjects in this series were my ever-willing friends. I promised them food and booze and a hot shower and they obligingly humored me. This series is proof of one of the many reasons I love photography and the things you can talk people into doing for the sake of a photo. There was only one “take” per person as it is messy business. I’d say about 50 frames per “dump” which happened in mere seconds.
Me: I’d like to permanently volunteer to be a dumpee anytime you need one. What would you dump on me… and is there a shower in your studio?
Meg: Most of the participants chose what they wanted to have dumped on them—as long as it was in the realm of being liquidy. A couple things I wish we would have done that day were fake blood (a la the movie “Carrie”) or goldfish & water.
And, yes, I have a shower.
I was planning on doing a 2nd round of Dumped, but ultimately decided against it (for now), for fear of being pigeonholed or too gimmicky. I also recently learned from a friend (who is a sex blogger) that these photos are huge in the fetish community of “sploshing.” This explains the incredible amount of traffic my website has been received and my having gone over my allotted bandwidth as of late. The internet is an incredible place…
Me: The thing that strikes me most about it is how absolutely happy everyone looks. What is it about capturing that moment of joyous shock that appeals to you?
Meg: The thing was that everyone asked me how he or she should react. I had no idea how everyone would respond and told them that I thought they just would react. I think the novelty of how random and unusual the whole ordeal was what contributed to the fun of it. The moment of reaction is what interested me, I suppose.
Me: In your series “Beautiful Decay” you document abandoned and dilapidated spaces. Like the title of the series hints toward, what is it about this decay that you find beautiful?
Meg: The abandoned school in question in this series had SO MUCH amazing furniture and books that were just left. It looked as if they had had a fire drill in the 80s and never came back. I was able to liberate 2 huge boxes of turn-of-the-century antique glass slides that are absolutely beautiful. (I’ve started scanning them and have attached a few of my favorites.)
It’s a battle between being appalled at how we, as Americans, lay things to waste and how disposable we view everything in our lives. On the flip side of this, it was amazing to see how quickly nature has taken over—and that is what I find beautiful. Another example of this is beautifully executed in the movie directed by Alfonso Cuarón, “Children of Men.”
Me: This is a pretty broad question, but I want to throw open the door and see what pops into your mind first. What inspires you?
Meg: Right now I am super inspired by the past. Right now I am reading a ton of historical fiction—specifically about Brooklyn (where I currently live) and Coney Island (which I’ve obsessively documented until it’s tragic demise this year.) I love the layers of this city and you can see it everywhere, but I am more interested right now in the actual stories behind the buildings, etc. I am planning on going to the NYC Department of Records soon to peruse their collection of Tax Photographs.
Me: If you could go anywhere in the world right now, without worrying about cost or family or personal commitments, where would it be and why?
Meg: Probably Japan. Because I’ve always had an interest in their pop culture and love the dichotomy of super modern versus super old in such a small amount of space.
Me: Aside from the work you’ve already done, if you could photograph any person or thing, past or present, real or imaginary, what would it be and why?
Meg: Björk. Hands down. I am inspired by her music as much as I am her collaborations with other musicians and artists alike. She seems completely open to the entire creative processes.
Me: If you could have anyone, living or dead, be a subject for “Dumped” who would it be and what would you dump on them?
Meg: Björk again. Because I’d love to photograph her anyway and because I think she’d do willingly do it. I’d probably dump some sort of sparkly paint on her…but I’d be more curious to see what she would suggest.
Me: Of all your work, do you have a favourite shot? If so, will you tell me what it is?
Meg: I have a favorite first shot. I must have been a junior in high school, with a roll of tri-x, and my dad’s canon from the 70s. My best friend at the time, Andrew, and I were driving around a state park in my hometown (of Akron, Ohio) and got out to walk around a creek. I remember the instant of focusing on him as the clouds parted and that ray of light falling on him exactly. It was serendipitous and magical and could possibly be the moment I knew I wanted to do photography for the rest of my life.
All Images © Courtesy of Meg Wachter