Monday, September 1, 2014

Clay Lipsky’s Five Favorite: Photos of Artistic Growth

1. When I first got into photography I shot anything and everything, but was always interested in capturing those magic moments when subject and environment came together at just the right instance. This photo was taken early one morning in the south of France. I was jet lagged, wandering about and saw this man starting to get in the water. I had to run in order to get the desired alignment and only captured one image like this. For me it’s an example of that desired synergy of vision and timing, but looking at it later the photo also spoke to me conceptually as the idea of man versus world. The idea of how mankind effects/ is affected by and navigates the world around us. It is this theme that would ultimately come to be the underlying root of my art as I progressed to become a more conceptual photographer.

2. Initially I was apprehensive about shooting people and found the rural abandon of the desert a stimulating landscape to explore and sharpen my skills. Luckily I live in Los Angeles, not far for the Mojave desert, a vast expanse littered with artifacts and oddities. This photograph represents an evolution of my approach where after years of exploration I was now motivated to create consistent bodies of work, in this case a typology of desert views. The series “Landescapes” documents the thumbprint of man on the natural landscape and hints at stories of broken dreams and the desire to flee urban trappings. By this time my photography had also begun to evolve technically, in this case incorporating the use of flash in order to balance interior & exterior exposure values. The end effect for me was a somewhat surreal perspective where all was in focus and the outside world hung like a painting on sagging walls. I soon realized that my choice of camera and technique were equally important as the subject in order to form a particular style that elevated the image and the overall feeling.

3. As I grew more experienced so did my curiosity about other photographic mediums. Since I never formally studied photography, I began to put myself through the paces by exploring the pros and cons of various types of cameras and films. Shooting Polaroids enabled me to achieve vastly different looks while also embracing the imperfections and happy accidents of film. My work had always employed symbolism but using this format helped create more painterly looks that enabled my new-found focus of creating fictional narratives. In my series “Fading Light” I enjoyed the resulting surreal, poetic images so much that I wondered if I was really a photographer or just a lazy painter. I still enjoy shooting Polaroids for the simplicity of the process and their unexpected results. It provides a nice alternative to digital, where once the photo is taken there is no more processing to be done. Additionally, the lack of manual camera functions taught me that sometimes it’s best to give up control and see what happens.

4. This image was taken along the surreal shores of the Salton Sea, a man made lake in Southern California that used to be a thriving resort area but has now succumbed to the slow decay of time. I came across the scene while shooting images for “Seaside” a self published photo book. I had been to this location before, but this was a new and temporary addition (that is gone now). It reminds me of how truth can be stranger than fiction, the world is constantly in flux and it pays to perpetually explore. This was shot on a vintage Hasselblad film camera which provides impeccable quality, but I was nervous that the image might not come out because of accidents that can happen in camera, with exposure, transit or developing. Everything worked out but from that point on I always brought a digital camera with me "just in case" something went wrong, especially with scenes as surreal as this.

5. The final image comes as a result of a cultural exchange I did in Cuba and a series entitled “Havana Noir.” Documentary street photography was a new endeavor for me, but like many others I was inspired by the unique surroundings and was curious to explore this classic realm of photography. Armed only with a camera, some poor high school Spanish and comfortable shoes I wandered deep into the streets of Havana. I stumbled across this scene that was so rife with culture and community I knew I had to make something of it. Once I befriended the father figure of the group with my broken, but sincere, Spanish I was able to take mix of journalistic and environmental portraits. It was in this situation where I realized my new passion for photography had enabled me to evolve as an artist and a person, drawing me out of my comfort zone into situations I could never imagine. This type of work in still not my focus, but continually reminds me of the magic of Cuba and its people as well as the universal power of photography to inform, entertain, empower and enable cross cultural connections.

Clay Lipsky is a fine art photographer and Emmy Award winning graphic designer based in Los Angeles. His photos have been exhibited in various group shows, including those at the Annenberg Space for Photography, Lishui Photo Festival (China), Pink Art Fair Seoul (Korea), Ballarat Foto Bienalle (Australia), Square au carré (France), Impossible Project Spaces in NYC & Warsaw, Poland as well as The Smithsonian's National Atomic Testing Museum. Clay has been published internationally in print and online, most notably with Esquire Russia, Wired Italia, Fraction, Square, Diffusion, i-ref, Daily News (UK), Shots & um[laut] Magazines. Clay is also an avid self publisher with over twelve titles to his name and serves as Art Director for the photoblog Lenscratch.

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