Monday, January 28, 2013

Lydia Panas

Lydia Panas is an award-winning photographer whose work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and abroad, and has won numerous awards. She was one of nine International Discoveries, Houston Fotofest in 2007. Her work is included in numerous collections, including Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Brooklyn Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. Lydia has degrees from Boston College, the School of Visual Arts, New York University/International Center of Photography, as well as an Independent Study Fellowship from the Whitney Museum of American Art. Lydia has taught photography at a number of institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, Lafayette, Muhlenberg and Moravian Colleges, Kutztown University, The Maine Media Workshops, The Vermont College MFA program, and the Baum School of Art/Lehigh Carbon Community College.

Lydia will be giving a Photographer's Lecture at the ICP on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tickets can be purchased here

Veiw more of Lydia's work here

Ashley Kauschinger: In your process of portraiture, you ask your subject to answer the questions: 

What do you long for?
What do you regret?
What are you afraid of?

Why these questions? What do you feel they reveal about your subjects? What are your answers to these questions? 

Lydia Panas: I started asking these questions in 2011. I’m really interested in what people feel, what they think about and how they are affected by what happens to them.  These questions speak to the fundamental aspects of who we are as humans.  They tell a lot about someone. If you understand what you long for and what you regret you know something important about yourself. Originally I heard the first two, What do you long for? and  What do you regret?  in an interview with the writer David Grossman, who asked them before he wrote his beautiful book To the End of the Land, which is about love, death, families, relationships, connections and conflict.

Fear is also a concept I am interested in.  I worked with it before in a video installation piece.  During the 2004 presidential election when fear was used as a political issue, I video-taped fifty people and asked them nineteen questions about what they were afraid of.  The project is intimate and revealing.  It is more about how people speak to their fears than what they are specifically afraid of.   I’m interested in how honestly people are willing to look at themselves and in art that speaks to essential areas of the self.

With these three questions, What do you long for? What do you regret? and What are you afraid of? I ask my models to email their answers after the shoot.  Often they send them much later.  Their insights add an additional layer to the images. One curator described them as secrets that we get to see.

Making a great picture requires trust and it requires love.  I feel very close to someone when I take pictures. We have to trust each other. These questions require that trust goes one step further.I was touched by the models’ honesty, especially since I did not know most of them well. I continue to ask these questions whenever I photograph someone. I continue to ask them of myself as well.

My longings and fears are remnants from my early years.
I long for unconditional love.  I’m still afraid of being left alone or of abandonment.
I regret how long it took me to believe in myself.

AK: In The Mark of Abel you transitioned from photographing your family to working with other families. What brought on your decision to venture out of your own family tree? What did you learn about yourself and your family from photographing others?

LP: I photographed my own family for years. I love to photograph them. The best aspect of taking pictures of someone is how long you get to look at them. I always feel more comfortable asking family members to pose than friends or strangers, but as they have little interest, I had to go outside the family. 

Photographing people I don’t know as well, is a challenge. The unknown that is part of portraiture is both unsettling and exciting.  I am always afraid that I won’t see anything, that I will disappoint both the model and myself. However, it’s a good challenge and the tension it poses is some of what you see in the images. When I do things that are out of my comfort zone, I feel more satisfied.  

The Mark of Abel was a transitional project. I started the project without a theme and after numerous shoots, I realized how interested I was in family relationships, how family members react to one another in the most subtle ways, and most importantly, how much I was able to see when I looked through the lens.

Making photographs helps me understand things about myself.  It helps me organize the world and keep things in perspective. It gives me comfort to translate what I feel and see, and continues to amaze me that I can see these things on paper. Making photographs gives me focus and meaning. I am grateful to have this in my life. 

AK: You recently had a monograph, The Mark of Abel, published by Kehrer Verlag. Can you speak about your experience, artistically and monetarily in creating this book? 

LP: Making a book is a rewarding experience.  In the case of The Mark of Abel, it was the culmination of years of work on a project that always felt like a narrative.  I wanted early on to see this work in a book. The narrative can be accessed through the sequencing of the photographs and by two excellent essays, which are very different from one another, and touch upon distinct aspects of the work. The critic and writer, George Slade, wrote a piercing essay about how I work photographically.  The author, Maile Meloy wrote lovingly about familial experience and how it teaches us to live. The book has been received well. It depicts relationships as a continuum. Individually the images are of specific people.  Together, they speak to the complexities of the human condition.

Working with Kehrer was a great experience.  They are organized and timely. The schedule was arranged ahead of time and we stayed on target.  I worked with their designer, Katharina Stumpf, who was a good listener and sent me designs with my aims in mind.  She was great to work with. Books are a good exercise in editing and sequencing. They are also a good way to finalize a project.  They can help lay a project to rest. Monetary reward is not part of the equation. In most cases you have to raise funds, but through book sales, limited edition / print sets and the sale of prints due to interest in the book, you can recoup most of it.

A book, however can bring more attention to the work and it is a permanent and physical reminder of the project and all it entailed.  It was an especially rewarding experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment