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What Photographer Catherine Opie Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: Getty

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and the electric toothbrush. We asked photographer Catherine Opie — whose work is featured in a new coffee-table book from Phaidon — about the black T-shirts, chef’s knife, and birding camera she can’t live without.

I was wearing other T-shirts that started to get holes in them. They were expensive and disintegrating. So then I went to Buck Mason, whose T-shirts are half the price. I love the cotton they use and I love the way these fit. They’re cut well enough that if I put a sport jacket over one, it can be somewhat formal. I have stacks of them in my closet. I kind of wear a uniform of jeans and a black T-shirt. Once in a while, it’s a gray T-shirt.

My wife and I are big cooks. We cook most of our meals at home. The weight of this knife is great. I like to do a lot of chopping and try to work the cutting board pretty quickly. It isn’t too long — it’s kind of the perfect length. It feels so good in your hand. I also like how it has a beautiful design and handle. I got it about five years ago. The handles on the knives I used to get would break down, so I finally was like, “I’m going for it and buying the higher-end knife.”

I’m a big-bottomed girl. I don’t mind saying it: Everybody who knows me knows that I have a fairly large body. A weird thing with some jean brands is that their larger women’s sizes are bedazzled. Like Ralph Lauren and other brands have weird buttons and beads. I don’t know why they think we want them that way. I just want a pair of jeans that look like Levi 501s — even Levis bedazzles its larger women’s jeans. Dapper Boi’s slim-straight jeans are good for my butch identity. They fit like 501s and are kind of the perfect jean for a larger body.

I have sensitive eyes. They are always kind of weepy. A friend who lives in Germany told me about this lotion; I was in Munich doing work for BMW and complaining about how dry it is in California and how lotion and stuff like that bugs me. That was about 30 years ago, and I’ve been using this ever since. It’s the only thing that doesn’t make my eyes weep or cause a bad reaction. The scent is also really nice.

These were recommended by another friend of mine whom I’ve photographed a lot. I always wore New Balance shoes, but I was having heel pain for years. She said, “Have you ever tried switching your shoes?” Within three months of switching to Kuru, my heel pain went away. Now I’ve got everybody buying them. The Atom is one of three or four pairs I have. I stand by the company.

I primarily bought men’s underwear until I found TomboyX. This is a boxer brief that’s made for a woman’s body. They’re perfect because a men’s boxer brief doesn’t fit a woman’s body quite the same way. Again, the brand figured something out for us butches.

This has a really high SPF and, like the Dr. Hauschka lotion, it doesn’t drive me crazy when I put it on my face. I’m pretty pale and it preserves my skin when I’m in the sun. It’s very strong and it moisturizes, too.

I call this my car camera because it lives in my car, so I can use it if there’s something going on or I see something. It’s considered a bridge camera, and what I love about it is that the lenses are interchangeable and it has a high-end pixel rate. The sensors are really nice on it, but the most important thing is the lens goes all the way to 600 millimeters. It feels good in the hand, not heavy. It’s great for hiking — I’ve got mine on one of those sling straps so I can put it around my shoulder. It’s also my bird camera: We have an all-glass house and we put bird seed around the trees and rocks outside. With this, I get fantastic close-up pictures of birds — those haven’t ever been shown.

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What Photographer Catherine Opie Can’t Live Without