Caroline Tompkins: Thanks for talking to me! As a woman, I think money is interesting. It’s been funny to work in a corporate environment, and see how my natural inclination is to be passive towards it. I mean, I feel like my male co-workers are maybe more comfortable talking about it, especially with getting a raise. They’ll have been there less time than I have and be like, “I think I’m going to ask for a raise, soon” and I’m like, “Wait what? You can do that?”
Emily Keegin: I feel the same way. I think it’s about self-worth. And committing to a higher price, for yourself. That sounds like prostitution, but, well, maybe it is. Which is to say… You should definitely ask for a raise! (laughs) I think it’s especially hard when you have to ask for a raise to a male superior. I don’t know why. It’s like asking Daddy for money or something. Anyway…
CT: I want to start this conversation by knowing more about your relationship to money. Do you think about it a lot?
EK: I think about it. All the time. And I have a very complicated relationship with money. I feel broke all the time. Even when I’m making money, I feel like it won’t last. And, partially at least, it comes from the years between graduating college and having a steady job and how difficult it was to get to a place where I could feel comfortable… Also, I have a pretty apocalyptic view of the world. (laughs) And I feel the same way about money. And in the creative field, you’re constantly doing things for free. So it also feels like there’s no sense that there’ll be another paying job coming down the line. Do you know what I mean?
CT: Totally – and when you’re graded on performance, you feel like, “Well, I fucked that one up, so they’ll never hire me again! Maybe this is it!” (laughs)
EK: Yes! Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, but I think a lot about aging out, like, “Am I still desirable?” In this field, what’s exciting is the new trend, the new thing and everyone is trying to stay as contemporary as possible… Youth is given some weight in that calculus. And as I get older, I think “Am I going to age out of desirability?” Maybe I’ve just looked at too many anti-aging wrinkles creams! (laughs) The industry is also changing and shrinking so, what was an obvious career path when I started fifteen years ago is now… Who knows! This is getting depressing.
CT: I’m sorry you thought it wasn’t going to be depressing! (laughs) I feel the same, obviously. It feels scary not knowing older people in the field. Maybe it’s different for photographers.…
EK: No, I think it’s the same… I’m worried for young photographers who are finding incredible success. Their aesthetic is really hot and I’m terrified that in fifteen years, that aesthetic might no longer be cool. And then they have to rethink their craft in a quick and marketable way.
CT: I definitely worry for people who have a super niche aesthetic.
EK: Yes, but there are also people who have been doing the same things for years and who keep on doing the same things and there might be like, five years where they go out of style and they’re not popular, and then they’ll be back! Because everything is cyclical. I can think on the top of my head of a few people who went out of style for a few years but now, I see them working again, doing the same thing they were doing before, and they’re cool again…
CT: It might be a reason to diversify. The security of being a photo editor is hard to bargain with.
EK: Oh my god, yes, same!