Carlin Wing: Art and the squash court

by Nayeli Rodriguez

Last Thursday's Carpenter Center lecture by photographer Carlin Wing was probably the most upbeat so far of the VES department's series of talks with visiting faculty. A member of Harvard's Class of 2002 and a former student of professors Sharon Harper an Chris Killip (who gave the opening remarks), Wing's presentation had the feel of a happy homecoming, an impression that was enhanced by the energetic, cheerful nature of her work.

Wing's duel status as an internationally ranked squash player and a photographer whose work is exhibited worldwide (a 'secret double life' which, according to Killip, she began as an undergraduate) is clearly at play in her most recent set of works, "Hitting Walls." For this series, Wing photographed the courts of international squash tournaments, using long exposure times to capture the events from start to finish.

Two elements of this project struck me in particular. The first was the way in which Wing manages to capture the lively atmosphere of sporting events by removing the squash players from her photographs entirely. Due to the long exposure time she uses, the players' fast motion keeps them from being captured by her camera. Instead, her photographs focus on the overall spectacle of squash tournaments and the juxtaposition of the futuristic-looking courts and the stately-looking rooms in which they are held. In more than one of the photographs, the emblems of sponsors such as "Bear Stearns" and "JP Morgan" serve as eerie reminders of ephemerality:

Secondly, Wing's incorporation of video into the "Hitting Walls" project re-situates the action that is missing from her photographs and depicts Wing herself playing squash in multiple non-traditional settings. This video, like her others, underscores Wing's unique solution to incorporating motion into her still photographic practice--plus there's something fun and seemingly illicit about watching Wing bat squash balls in various rooms and parking lots, perhaps simply because its so clear she herself is having a blast.