Monday, May 6, 2013

Clay Lipsky

Clay Lipsky is a fine art photographer based in Los Angeles, California. His photos have been exhibited in various shows including those at the Annenberg Space for Photography, MOPLA and The Impossible Project Spaces in NYC & Warsaw, Poland. Clay has also been published internationally in print and online, most notably with Esquire Russia, Wired Italia, LibĂ©ration (France), Yahoo! Germany, Fraction, Square, Diffusion, F-Stop, PH and Shots Magazines. He had his own "Ten" series through Jennifer Schwartz Gallery and North Light Press will be publishing an edition of his photos through their 11+1 book series. Additionally, Clay is also an avid self-publisher with several titles that exhibit as part of the Indie Photobook Library. 

View more of his work here

Ashley Kauschinger:
Can you talk about how your series In Dark Light began? 

Clay Lipsky: In Dark Light is a special project for me on many levels. It was born out of the desire to do something more than traditional landscape photography while on a two week trip around Iceland, but grew into a passion project that pushed me to grow creatively and personally. I have always been drawn to surreal landscapes and instinctively knew I needed to witness the epic sights of Iceland. Initially I had a vision of this shadowy figure on a journey, a man out of time and out of place but it was just a fleeting image in my mind. Iceland's terrain is already surreal but I thought if I had a character, a protagonist, to help create conflict and tell a story I could hopefully elevate the surroundings into a dreamscape. This direction also was in sync with much of my work that deals with the human spirit and the concept of man vs. world. I have never done self portraits before but the situation demanded it. The baron isolation I encountered there helped me confront my inhibitions of being on camera and simultaneously pushed me to become a performer. My concept was initially unproven, but luckily my first photo test there showed this was a path worth pursuing. The resulting adventure and images became more personal as I found myself surrounded by overwhelming isolation and realized that I was the man out of place and had brought my own personal burdens with me. Ultimately, the project has grown to include other photos and locations, but my time in Iceland helped solidify the core essence of the project. I followed my eye and I guess ultimately my heart. The inherent darkness of the images was not just an aesthetic decision, but a natural inclination that emerged during my time there. When I was presented with the beauty of lush green hills, waterfalls and rainbows I ironically found solemn isolation and cinematic noir. This showed me that there is something internally that causes me to shoot that way and are motivations I would investigate more after the fact.

AK: Is it difficult to openly make work about depression and loss? It is hard to know how much to personally reveal about yourself? 

CL: Initially I did not want the project to be so personal. Instead I wanted to opt for a more poetic slant that was ambiguous and let the viewer make their own interpretations. None of my other work exposes such personal issues, so this too was a new experience for me. I am relatively new to the world of fine art photography and it has been a learning experience and one of art therapy that is ever evolving. Once I sat back and examined the photos, the more I found my real self in there. Ultimately I took a chance and wrote a statement that was very personal, but I think it helps put the series in context and also serves to bring the often taboo subject of depression to light. It is something I have struggled with and it quite obviously influences my work. These are self-portraits, but it's not just about my path. This is about the journey of the individual and using the landscape as metaphor for life's adversity. I do want people to find their own meanings in the images because I believe that most of the concepts expressed are rather universal. 

AK: You speak in your statement about going through loss "under no religious or visceral compass". Do you think that photography is guiding you somehow? What have you learned about yourself through this work? 

CL: Photography is definitely guiding me, more so than I even realize. The process is a series of choices...what to shoot, how to shoot, what to include, what to ignore. There are motivations behind those decisions and some run deeper than others. I have found that I am a complicated mix of melancholy, nostalgia, optimism and somber strength.

AK: How do you find these amazing locations? Do they hold emotional importance to you?

I like exploring the obscure corners of the world. Sometimes it takes flying to an island in the middle of the ocean or driving hundreds of miles into the desert. Interesting collisions happen at the fringe of society and at nature’s divides. For me, I often find a landscape as more than a singular feeling. I see the less obvious stories such as a lone tree fighting to stand against the elements or a canyon formed by a tenacious river that has slowly eroded its walls. Those elements become my characters in those moments. Once you minimize the distractions, you can find the hidden relationships.

AK: You are known for self publishing. What is this process like? What advice do you have for other photographers? 

CL: I enjoy self publishing because it puts photography into a new dynamic. The juxtaposition of images spawns a dialogue whose message is greater than any single image. The editing and sequencing of a book is also akin to writing a song, with highs and lows and ultimately a finish (and a song people may or may not like). The medium also brings photography to a more intimate place with the viewer versus hanging on a wall. We live in an amazing time where there are a wealth of self-publishing tools and I encourage people to make books just for themselves. It is a process that gets the creative wheels turning in terms of content, story, design and presentation.

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