A Photographer Conveys the “Emotional Experience of Being There”

From the Tour de France to Black Lives Matter protests, Caroline Yang captures moments of determination, loss, and hope

After the unexpected death of her father, Caroline Yang, J95, picked up the camera he left behind and took her first photography class. At the time she was 25 and working as an advertising account executive, and the decision changed the course of her life. “I absolutely fell in love with photography," she says. “For the first time in my life, I felt I had found my place.”

black and white portrait of Caroline Yang

When Caroline Yang took a photography class in her 20s, she says, “For the first time in my life, I felt I had found my place.” Photo: Courtney Perry

Now a documentary photographer based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Yang regularly works on high-profile assignments for The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other national outlets. She also makes room for her own artistic exploration, most recently by creating multiple exposures as another method for storytelling and self-expression. By overlaying and blending photographs, her images convey the complexities of identity, loss, and hope.

Some of Yang's projects have included photographing the Tour de France, documenting a local ballet company, and covering the social justice movement in the Twin Cities. Brent Lewis, a photo editor at The New York Times and cofounder of Diversify Photo, a group working to bring visibility to photographers of color, admires the compassion Yang brings to her work, especially portraits. “She turns them into collaborative experiences, making sure that the person is being seen in a manner that emphasizes their strength, power, and true self,” he says.

The selected images that follow—with descriptions in Yang’s own words—showcase the range of her work.

Cyclist Jan Ullrich during the tour de France in 2004

German rider Jan Ullrich (Team T-Mobile) attempts to catch Lance Armstrong and Ivan Basso on Plateau de Beille on July 17, 2004, during Stage 13 of the 2004 Tour de France. Covering the Tour de France was an extraordinary experience I will never forget. What started as an unlikely dream evolved into a three-year project, two of which I spent working with Sports Illustrated and many other sponsors. Photo: Caroline Yang

 

The Pelaton enter the alps during the Tour de France, 2006.

The peloton enters the Alps and begins to ascend the Col du Tourmalet on July 13, 2006, during Stage 11 of the 2006 Tour de France. The Tour becomes a different race once it enters the mountains, and logistics become much more difficult for the press corps. For photographers, the mountains offer breathtaking views, but severely restrict ways of accessing the race itself. Photo: Caroline Yang

 

Ballerinas perform on a rooftop in Minneapolis

Ballerinas perform on a rooftop in Minneapolis on July 29, 2019. In 2013 I started a documentary project on a young, professional ballet company in St. Paul. My time with these dancers allowed me the space to explore and hone my photography skills and taught me the power of building connection with my subjects. Photo: Caroline Yang

 

Boxer Dalton Outlaw and ballerina Anna Roehr perform

Boxer Dalton Outlaw and ballerina Anna Roehr perform during a dress rehearsal at Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul on April 15, 2018. The ballet project took an unexpected turn when the dancers began a collaboration with boxers in a neighboring studio. Their partnership began as a weekly exchange of classes, and culminated in a stunning, joint performance of athleticism and grace. Photo: Caroline Yang

 

protestors occupied the street outside the Minnesota governor's mansio

Following the killing of Philando Castile by police officer Jeronimo Yanez, protestors occupied the street outside the Minnesota governor's mansion for two weeks. On this day, a young woman uses her phone to document the forced removal of protestors from the site in St. Paul on July 26, 2016. Photo: Caroline Yang

 

Two friends console each other during a protest against the police killing of Philando Castile in St. Paul

Two friends console each other during a protest against the police killing of Philando Castile in St. Paul on July 24, 2016. While moments like this are rarely shown in news coverage, I witnessed expressions of love among grieving community members on a daily basis.

Photo: Caroline Yang

 

Hundreds of people fill George Floyd Square on April 20, 2021

Hundreds of people fill George Floyd Square on April 20, 2021, to celebrate the guilty verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. For over a year I watched my city rage, mourn, and wait. At George Floyd Square that night, you could feel everyone take a long, deep breath. Photo: Caroline Yang

 

Image of multiple exposures to show alternative approach to storytelling

While covering a march for Breonna Taylor in Minneapolis on June 26, 2020, I used multiple exposures as an alternative approach to storytelling. I focused less on showing what happened, and instead worked to convey the emotional experience of being there by layering photographs of scenes, colors, and shapes. This image was selected for Women Photograph's Year in Pictures, 2020. Photo: Caroline Yang

 

Lead singer Jesus Ortiz of the California-based Mexican American band Fuerza Regida

Lead singer Jesus Ortiz of the California-based Mexican American band Fuerza Regida performs at a Minneapolis bar on July 17, 2021. I was commissioned by The New York Times to photograph the return to live performances after over a year of cancelled shows and isolation due to the pandemic. The experience impacted all my senses, and I tried to reflect that in this multiple exposure. Photo: Caroline Yang

 

multiple exposure image of a woman's shadow and birds flying in the background

Maya Angelou said, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” During the chaos of the pandemic, I delved into my archive of images and used multiple exposures as an expression of my own experience. This image was accepted into
Communication Arts Photography Annual 63 and American Photography 38. Photo: Caroline Yang

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