An Interview with Christine Back

Christine Back is an exhibiting artist in Imminent Existence, Photolucida‘s Critical Mass TOP 50 (2022). On view at the PCNW gallery from March 30 – June 4, 2023.

Christine Back (b. 1965, Cape May Court House, NJ; lives in Montclair, NJ)

Joe, 2005 & 2018

Gelatin silver prints (diptych)

Medium format film capture, edition 1 of 3 

Each image 10 x 10 inches; framed to 17 ¾ x 29 inches

$3500 (for purchase inquiry, please contact Erin at

Please tell us about yourself and which part of the world you currently reside.

I have been teaching high school photography for 25 years. I was born and raised at the Jersey shore but now live in a New Jersey suburb just outside of New York City.

When did you first discover your love of photography?

I fell in love with the way a lens describes the human form long before I picked up a camera. I recall admiring a photo in some music magazine when I was 19 and it finally dawned on me that the image was the result of an exchange between a person in front of a camera and another behind one. 

Tell us about your piece and the body of work it is from.

This diptych is of Joe, one of my students taken in 2005 and again in 2018. I started teaching high school photography in my early thirties. Back in the early ‘00’s, I shot portraits of my students for a grad class I was taking and kept it up for a few years. 

By 2018, it had gotten very challenging to get my student’s attention away from their screens. I decided to rephotograph my old students in hopes of remembering the teacher I used to be. The first ten alumni were all too happy to come back. They stayed for hours remembering the other kids in their class and relaying how much  learning photography had meant to them. 

When the lockdown happened, everything about school stopped working completely. We truly hit bottom and were free to try anything that might possibly get kids to do anything at all. Now, three years later, after much trial and error, my students are present again. I have also begun to rephotograph my old students again and hope to welcome the remaining two hundred in my archive.

Is it your intention to have your artwork bring attention to any current social issues? 

(Not sure if this counts but I believe it to be an issue and my constant effort to fight it show up in my work)

Over emphasis on technology is depriving students of much needed interaction with teachers and peers. A current student recently said to me that she was saddened by how little the younger teachers interact with them and how they seem constantly in fear of saying something that could cost them their job. She wondered how often a teacher thinks of something life changing she needs to hear but then decides it best to keep it to themselves. 

Who / what are your biggest influences?

Judith Joy Ross, Milton Rogovin, Diane Arbus, Larry Fink, Mary Ellen Mark, Susan Meiseles

“Behind the Lens” – Do you have any interesting or funny facts about the creation of your piece?

This student, Joe, went on to earn his degree in photography from SVA. His mother would send me banana bread when she knew I would have to stay late to set up an art show.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other Posts You Might Like...