Here at LensCulture, we have the great opportunity to speak with artists and specialists directly about their projects, creative processes and personal histories. As photography enthusiasts, we know so much more goes into a body of work than the decisive click of a shutter and selection and sequencing of final photos. Countless twists of fate factor into a set of images, from what compelled someone to work with the medium of photography in the first place, to the reasons they decide to alter — or not alter — the images they create.
This past year, we were lucky enough to have some very stimulating conversations with specialists from all over the world, who were kind enough to open up about their past, present, and what they hope for in their future as artists. From the influence of family histories to childhood obsessions with luminous light, these were the interviews that inspired us the most this year, and had us pause and consider the many ways photography finds its way into the lives of us all.
If you missed any of these conversations when they were first published, we hope you enjoy discovering them for the first time through this end-of-year selection. And if you’ve already had the chance to read any of these, we hope you enjoy revisiting them with us as we look back on the many ways people contemplated photography in 2018!
Chasing Light Through Color: A Conversation with Liz Nielsen
Cat Lachowskyj speaks to photographic artist Liz Nielsen about what prompted her to put her camera down in favor of a chemical- and darkroom-focused approach to image-making. In this interview, Nielson also speaks about her lifelong connection with color and light, how she developed the scientific knowledge for creating her impressive work, and the imagined worlds and connections that she hopes viewers discover in each of her pieces.
While working as a valet at a Veterans Affairs Hospital, M L Casteel created a series that uses photographs of car interiors to illustrate the psychological repercussions of war. In this interview, Coralie Kraft speaks to Casteel about the psychology of personal space, and how the photographer initially conceived the series as a portrait project.
City of Gardens
In this feature on artist duo Viacheslav Poliakov & Elena Subach, Sophie Wright highlights the photographers’ collaborative process, and how Subach’s focus on people perfectly melds with Poliakov’s interest in photographing spaces and DIY structures. Bringing these approaches together, the pair encounters their surroundings intuitively, taking it day by day. “Every day we asked ourselves: what is unique about this place? What we can tell about the foreign country we do not know much about?” says Subach. “Our dialogue was the most important part of this project.”
Manufactured Beauty and Default Photographs
By analyzing deceptive images of fantastical environments, artist Ana Samoylova questions how much we actually know about our own surroundings and natural landscapes. In this interview, Samoylova discusses how she uses photography to commentate on our relationship to the medium, the origins of her interest in sublime environments, and why it’s important to develop artistic projects about issues without defaulting to standard documentary stylings.
The Story Behind the “Cat Person” Photo Published By The New Yorker
In this interview with Coralie Kraft, photographer Elinor Carucci gives us a behind-the-scenes look at shooting the now-infamous commission for Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat Person.” Throughout their conversation, Carucci illustrates questions about control, consent, sex, and male/female interaction, and the challenges of photographing such a tense encounter.
Where We Belong
When Alejandra Carles-Tolra first encountered the Jane Austen Pineapple Appreciation Society, she was intrigued by the draw of the past. What was it about Jane Austen’s world, with its old-fashioned concepts of femininity, that captured the imagination of 21st century women? In this interview, Carles-Tolra talks about how the she developed a body of work that explores themes of belonging, femininity and escapism at the core of this close-knit sisterhood.
Sally Mann Deconstructs the South in “A Thousand Crossings”
A major exhibition of Sally Mann’s work, titled A Thousand Crossings, was on view this year at the Peabody Essex Museum in the US. It included more than 100 of Mann’s photographs, many of which had never been exhibited or published. Coralie Kraft had the chance to sit down with Sarah Kennel, one of the exhibition’s curators, for a generous conversation about the important contemporary resonance of Mann’s new work, her fascination with death, and much more.
Satisfactory Glitches: Tracing the Inspiration Behind Feng Li’s “White Night”
In an endless stream of absurd moments frozen by the flash of his camera, Feng Li has a knack for capturing the darker, peculiar side of the mundane events that surround him. While in Arles this summer, Cat Lachowskyj sat down with the artist and his frequent collaborator Thomas Sauvin to speak about the photographer’s recognizably peculiar methods and creative process. As Sauvin translated between Mandarin and English, the three discussed how Feng Li first became interested in photography, what it’s like continuing his series outside of his hometown, and what compelled him to start making images of the awkward glitches in between regular poses.
Go Home, Polish
Earlier this year, Michael Iwanowski left his home in Cardiff and walked 1800 km across Europe to his hometown of Mokrzeszów in Poland. Travelling through Wales then England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and the Czech Republic before finally reaching Poland, the project offers an intimate counterpoint to the dominant media portrayals of the European situation. In this interview, Sophie Wright speaks to Iwanowski about the power of walking, how his perception of his own identity shifted during his journey, and the value of personal narratives in times of uncertainty.
The Splitting of the Chrysalis and the Slow Unfolding of the Wings
For photographer Yorgos Yatromanolakis, the concept of metamorphosis represents a personal evolution, paralleling his own life changes during a period of intense darkness. After the 2008 Greek riots, the photographer found himself in a state of existential confusion, and turned to photography to visualize those emotions, helping him emerge from his own emotional chrysalis. In this interview, Yatromanolakis talks to Cat Lachowskyj about the inspiration behind his work, his use of lighting and shadowy color schemes, the importance of art in healing, and the parallels between photography and poetry.
In Search of Inspiration: Lessons from 20 Years of Arles’ Voies Off Festival
In this interview, longtime Voies Off festival director Christophe Laloi speaks to Alexander Strecker about what it takes to pursue your passion, without compromise, while defining your own terms of success. It’s a heartfelt interview, packed with precious insights on sustaining creativity. Laloi traces the history of Voies Off while offering invaluable advice about how to balance passion with professionalism in pursuing and sustaining a career in the arts.
During this year’s Unseen Amsterdam, Cat Lachowskyj interviewed Pixy Liao who, for the past twelve years, has documented her long-term relationship with her much-younger boyfriend Moro. The images symbolize her initial dominance over Moro, and how this has evolved into something more balanced over time. Throughout their conversation, Pixy also speaks about why she moved to Memphis to pursue photography, how the tone of her images has changed with time, and the importance of pursuing questionable topics in art.
On Photography and Storytelling
From working in stock libraries to writing about photography for the Financial Times via a multitude of other professional roles, Francis Hodgson’s career spans the vast terrain of photography. As this territory ceaselessly expands and mutates, Hodgson’s belief in the power of the photograph holds steady. In this interview, Hodgson talks about his beginnings in photography, and what makes a photograph stand out amidst the flood of images that we encounter on a daily basis.
Will My Mannequin Be Home When I Return
For photographer Arko Datto, nighttime offers the perfect space to create hallucinatory narratives about raw social and political issues. His current work to addresses the political climates in India, Malaysia and Indonesia, and in this interview, Datto speaks about the importance of visual narratives, what compelled him to embrace an overly-saturated aesthetic, and the delicate balance that comes with pursuing political commentary while simultaneously rejecting stereotypes.
Known for his slow-burning chronicles of rural America, Raymond Meeks turned his attention to Furlong and its intrepid summer dwellers in his most recent book Halfstory Halflife. Everyday experiences and rituals, simple and carefree in their nature, gain a weight and significance through his lens, as the bodies fall somewhere beyond the threshold of youth and into adulthood. In this interview, Meeks speaks about his enduring relationship to the book form, navigating the charged dynamics of Furlong and the intricacies of longterm projects.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to also check out our list of Favorite Photobooks from 2018, jam-packed with surprising selections by specialists from all over the world!