Meet Cait Oppermann and Yael Malka, a talented young NYC couple who both happen to be some of the most interesting up-and-coming photographers on our radar right now, and whose biggest inspiration is often...each other. Developing work together and also independently, we were curious about the overlap: we asked Cait and Yael to photograph each other throughout their daily lives, giving us a glimpse at their individual photography styles as well as a peek at their work, routines, and surroundings. In between, we caught up with them about how they met, what they're working on, and how "knowing what the other one is thinking," is the key to their creative collaboration.
How did you meet?
Cait: We met as photo students at Pratt Institute and both ended up in the same black and white class Sophomore year. Even though we knew each other and had several classes together, we didn’t actually become close friends until senior year when we became roommates. Yael was the first totally successful roommate in a long string of terrible roommates.
Where are you both from?
Yael: I grew up in the Bronx, in the same neighborhood my mom grew up in—literally up the block from her old building. When I was six, my family and I moved to Israel, where my dad is from, and after about two years ended up coming back to the Bronx. I lived there until attending Pratt and moving to Brooklyn in 2008.
Cait: I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City. I come from a family that doesn’t call themselves artists but definitely are. My mom is a brilliant writer and my dad is a brilliant creative person and designer. I moved to New York a week after graduating high school and have been here ever since.
How do you work together?
Cait: I think our history of working together starts around the time we were roommates and were working on our theses at the same time. Our shows were one week apart and we experienced a lot of the same deadlines and ended up spending a lot of time together talking about our work. The first major project we worked on together was our book Sea Blueswhich we funded mostly through a Kickstarter. The book consisted of photos we took while backpacking together for seventy days across Europe, Turkey, and Morocco.
Yael: After making Sea Blues, we had the itch to continue working in books so we made a smaller book with self-portraits we took in each bed, couch, or floor we slept on while being in places other than our home. Throughout this time, we were also establishing a photo company together in which we do commercial work. That’s really just for money but it’s still so nice to have Cait around, especially when it’s a boring job. We’re really good at knowing what the other one is thinking and being a step ahead. It’s great to have someone who is looking out for you.
What is the process like of working on a project together?
Cait: We actually almost always divide up the work evenly in that one person isn’t always dominating one aspect of the project. That said, Yael is a bit of a task master and keeps the project going when I feel like watching shows on Netflix.
Yael: Although we work really well together, we have different preferences in terms of our aesthetic so that can get in the way sometimes but it’s just a matter of stepping back and having a dialogue about it. And the disagreements usually lead to an intriguing idea in the end. We usually work together on our projects all the time. In terms of books we’re both sitting at the computer editing and sequencing together and in terms of shooting we’re talking about ideas and passing the camera back and forth. It’s a very equal process.
How do each of your photographic styles compliment each other — Yael, can you speak to what Cait's work brings to the table visually and vice versa?
Yael: While we were working on Sea Blues, I had to photograph in a completely different way than I was used to. Cait really helped me feel less self conscious about learning this new approach. I was used to the studio prior to Sea Blues, which was all shot outside, just shooting what was in front of us or creating some sort of intervention. Working in that way was hard starting off but by the middle of the trip it felt totally natural. I tend to bring my studio ideas out into the world with me so it definitely has a different feel than Cait’s work. Cait’s work has a softer, subtler side to it while mine a bit more heavy-handed so it was really nice to see those side by side in the book.
What are your differences in photographic style and what you're drawn to capturing?
Cait: I’m drawn to photographing things that catch me off guard. Sometimes that’s a color, sometimes an idea, and other times it’s just an image that’s been in my head for a little while. That said, I shoot the most when I’m in a place that’s totally foreign to me. Shooting in New York is really hard because it’s difficult to not take a “New York picture” and get excited by something I see everyday.
Yael: Lately I’ve been shooting both in the studio and outside. I’m drawn to creating a setup and then fragmenting and layering it in some sort of abstracted way. I’ve been going outside of the studio to places like the beach and the botanical gardens to get some sort of sublime feeling happening in the images. We have completely different styles and whereas I work more in a series, Cait has a different approach. She’s also working on a million different things at once and I just don’t have that ability. Besides photographing, she makes drawings, furniture, and ceramics.
What about personality-wise and in your relationship — can you speak to the other's traits that create balance in your partnership?
Yael: Cait is so funny so working together is really fun because I’m laughing a lot and it breaks the seriousness of working really hard. She is definitely a little OCD and a hypochondriac and I never think about that stuff so it’s hard to understand why she’s freaking out so much sometimes. Even though she’s very easily distracted, she’s such a hard worker and always extremely supportive. I would definitely describe Cait as an introvert but she’s very charming in social situations.
Cait: Yael is much more social than I am and somehow very, very sensitive. In my mind, those two traits don’t normally go hand in hand, but with Yael they do. She’s one of the hardest workers I know, which helps a lot when it comes to making sure I’m also focusing on my work. Like I mentioned earlier, I succumb to Netflix a lot and Yael is much stronger when it comes to resisting the urge to pick the couch over the studio. She’s also an incredibly loyal friend, not just to me, but to a lot of people. She’s someone who actively plays a role in a friendship in that she makes an effort to keep up with people. And miraculously, it’s because she actually cares.
What you are each working on now?
Yael: I’m currently working on a new-ish body of work in which I’m layering and fragmenting different objects, landscapes, and materials. Using the studio as my platform as well as the natural world most recently, I’m arranging and rearranging creating motion and layering. Working with an analog film camera ensures that aspects of the final photograph are left up to chance and enables me to test the boundaries within the medium. I am working on creating an impossible space that the camera makes possible through building information and am in turn denying the viewer an unobstructed image.
Cait: I’ve got my hands in a couple of projects. I’m working on two books, which I’m really excited about. I tend to work on a lot of projects at once, which keeps me interested in what I’m doing but means that it also takes longer to really see where each project is going. I’m currently working on a couple of photo pieces where I’m integrating some of the techniques I’ve been working out in some drawings that I’ve been making over the last year. I’m also plotting out some still lifes, as well as continuing to make furniture alongside my photo practice. Everything I’m doing is related in some tangential way and I’m looking forward to some of those parallels becoming more and more clear as each project continues to develop and more work is amassed along the way.