Premiere: "tell me what i want to hear" by Photographer Rachel Cabitt
Today, we’re teaming up with NYC photographer Rachel Cabitt to premiere her latest project, a film entitled “tell me what i want to hear”. Centering on a series of dark, lo-fi shots overlaid with a dreamy voiceover, the mysteriously edited film explores a complex relationship all the while using NYC as a dynamic backdrop. Featured on our Milk IGTV channel, the film is our first ever artist collaboration through the platform.
“‘tell me what i want to hear’ is a visual poem that lives between a distant memory and a dream,” Cabitt says. “Collaging together Super 8 footage and recorded conversation, a narrative is formed that offers to question the state of the relationship between subject and filmmaker. While it exists, bits and pieces are omitted, leaving the audience to wonder who in fact is telling the story and what has exactly happened.”
Milk sat down with Cabitt to delve deep on her experience shooting film, and to explore the complicated notions around love and emotion that she presents in her project. Read on to get a glimpse into Rachel’s creative process, how she chooses her subjects, and how NYC has irrevocably influenced her as a creative.
What inspires you as a filmmaker?
I don’t really consider myself a filmmaker, more as a photographer. But as an artist/person in general, I’m really drawn to color and night time and how they interact together.
How do you choose your subjects? It feels like you might have a personal relationship with the subject of “tell me what I want to hear”, it feels very intimate. Can you delve into that?
The majority of my subjects are my close friends, people who I feel most connected with, and the same goes for the subject of this film. The subject and I had a very honest and open relationship with each other. He relied heavily on me emotionally and I was there for him. But vice versa, it wasn’t reciprocated. I wanted more out of our relationship than he did.
“tell me what i want to hear” allowed for a very cathartic turning point in our relationship. The making of it was very collaborative, but the end product wasn’t something I expected. It spilled out of me and when it was done I felt so much lighter. When I showed him the final piece, our relationship somewhat fell apart. It was my truth- and in a way it taught him something about himself that he wasn’t quite sure how to confront.
This footage is almost a year old now, so looking back on it is all very nostalgic. We’re still friends, but don’t talk as much. It still hurts a little bit to watch but it also makes me sentimental for taking long walks with a person in New York and getting to know them.
Many shots in the film include NYC as your backdrop. How does NYC influence your work?
I don’t think my work would be the same if I didn’t live in New York. Its twenty-four-seven clock evokes a certain spontaneity that I think is hard to find anywhere else. It caters to being young and reckless, and that’s what I try to capture in my work- this side of you that opens up at night, whether it’s to a person, a dance floor, or an empty street with a running fire hydrant.
What made you decide to shoot on Super 8 film? Or just with film in general as opposed to digital?
I don’t want to be that woman who got into film because of a boy, but in this case it’s the truth. I had been watching Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Look Back” and really wanted to shoot on film. The subject had his grandfather’s Super 8 camera just sitting in a styrofoam box in his closet, not sure if it even worked. He said if I could fix it, I could use it. “tell me what i want to hear” is technically a result of experimenting with this camera. The camera weirdly linked us together.
When it comes to my photography, I for the majority of the time shoot on film. I’m always shooting in the dark, wide open, on a slow shutter speed, really pushing to see what film can do. So when it came to doing video, Super 8 was a natural transition. What I like about Super 8, is that it still feels like photography to me, so I didn’t feel out of my element. The first draft of “tell me what i want to hear” was only Super 8, but including iPhone footage a year later makes it truly feel full circle for me, collaging all sorts of memories together.
What upcoming projects do you have coming up for the rest of 2018?
I had my first solo show for my first zine, “I Like You Better At Night” back in April. It featured an excerpt of my personal work shot over the past year while going out at night with my 35mm camera. I’m currently building up a fuller body of work that relates to the zine as well as shooting more Super 8 now that I have my own camera. My goal is to blend both mediums together to create something even more self reflective. I also plan to take more long walks with people.
Stay tuned to Milk for more project premieres by artists we love.