Artist Conversations: Carin Smolinski on Living the Dream – Then and Now

Artist Conversations: Carin Smolinski on Living the Dream – Then and Now

Ever wondered how far some people are willing to go to “Live the Dream” in Whistler? As Carin Smolinski has found, people may be willing to live anywhere to make that dream happen.

Almost a decade after her first installment of photographs capturing images of the unique and often creative living situations of Whistler locals – from squatter houses and overcrowded bedrooms, to closets and campers – Carin is back with an update! The first series of photos was shot in 2010 and exhibited in 2011 and now the updated 2018 version will be showcased alongside the originals, complete with surveys that include information about pay and rent rates, occupations, and number of roommates.

We talked to Carin to get the inside scoop on her work, her new exhibit, and a glimpse into the art opening of Living the Dream – Then and Now, which will be happening on the evening before Whistler’s municipal election!

Photography: Carin Smolinski

Can you give us the 60-second elevator pitch on Carin Smolinksi, the photographer?
I am a people photographer at heart. I love to capture people in their natural environments that tell stories. My first love is travel photography, but mostly spend my time photographing families in the Sea to Sky (which I also love). “Living the Dream”is my personal photo project that I absolutely adore documenting and growing the collection!


What was the impetus for bringing together “Living the Dream” Then and Now? What do you hope people take away from it?
I think it’s just hysterical that people have been living in saunas since the 70s, in 2010, and still today… it’s part of the whistler experience when people first arrive.


It’s been a decade since the last installment. What led you to put together a follow up? What do you see as the biggest change between then and now?
It is an ongoing project for me, so I drop in and out of it, and I am always looking for creative living spaces to photograph! The biggest change that I have seen is that there is no change! No seriously, the biggest change is that it is actually just common place now for people to live in their van, RV, and tiny home. When I first started it was somewhat unique, now I actually have to turn people away who contact me that live in their van because there’s just too many.


You’ve met and talked to A LOT of people over the last decade in bringing the project together. What is your biggest takeaway from these experiences? Are there any stories in particular that have stuck with you?
So here’s the thing: when I started the project, it was right before the Olympics and there was a serious housing crisis. I had a loose notion that it would be an exposé on slum landlords or a political statement… My actual takeaway is that it’s none of those things. That was my narrative but not my subjects’. The last question that I ask everybody on the form that they fill out is “are you living the dream?” 95% of the answers are among the “hell yeah! ” variety. It is almost like a right of passage – ask anybody what the first place they lived in Whistler was, and guaranteed there will be a great story behind it! It’s where people meet lifelong friends, get stories to tell their grandchildren, stories to freak their parents out…


Whistler’s municipal election is the day after the art opening for “Living the Dream” – Then and Now. Was this intentional? What, if anything, do you hope comes out of this show in terms of the election?
It was intentional in the planning because it is a hot topic. It would be wonderful to see a huge increase in affordable employee housing and, even more so, affordable family living, but if nobody lived in crawlspaces anymore, who would I photograph?


We can hardly wait for the art opening! Can you give us a bit of a glimpse into what the evening holds for us?
It’s gonna be a great evening! Arts Whistler has curated lots of fun events that will include some wicked-funny short films, a little talk from me, and an interactive piece collecting people’s stories of the craziest place they’ve lived in. I’m also super excited to do an installation piece where I will be re-creating a Whistler living room in The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre with my design company Whisteria Design & Rentals (shameless plug I know!). Come on out to the opening, it’s gonna be a great night!


What’s the most creative living situation you’ve ever found yourself in the name of “living the dream”?
Me? Well, I was one of the subjects in 2010. I was living in a 90 sq ft, 100-year-old cabin on Alta Lake with wood fire heating and moss for insulation between the logs with my 2 young children. I had to carry everything and the children in on toboggans and pull out the garbage that way as well. It was quite an adventure, and created the most phenomenal memories.

What is your favourite thing to photograph?


Do you have any tips for photographers who are just starting out?
Only shoot what excites you, don’t try to shoot the way you think people want you to. I spent too many years trying to emulate glossy technically-perfect travel photographs, but now realize that the photographs that I took that evoked reaction from people were never those photographs, but the ones that I felt passionate about and loved taking. Oh and also learn the technical… it’s important.


If you could recommend some other artists’ Instagram feeds for people to check out, who would they be and why?
@photoquestadventures because their photos make me long to be out in this big beautiful world capturing people and beauty! And because Mirjam and Najat are my friends and I wish I was there with them! Total photo envy!

Living the Dream – Then and Now will be on exhibit at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre from October 18 to November 13, 2018. Stop by and check out this free show, and join us for the art opening on October 19 at 7pm. 

Whether you’re new to town, or you’re a long-term local, you don’t miss this event. The evening will feature remarks from Carin, comments from Whistler Community Services Society, as well as a selection of hilarious and insightful short films on housing from the 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown. Come for a drink and a chat about housing in Whistler – the hottest issue in town, on the night before the municipal election!

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