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Interview with Ian Lewandowski

By December 13, 2019Uncategorized

Interview by Julia Cipriano

OPENING: Saturday, 12/14/19 from 6-9 pm at The Java Project

Question: In your artist’s statement, you mention that most of the photos in this exhibition came from portrait test shots taken on an old Polaroid. Can you talk a bit about the process of deciding to use these shots instead of the portraits you would have presumably taken with a different camera–or did you wind up taking those as well? 

I use a large-format view camera fairly exclusively. This camera also accommodates the Polaroid back, which is how I made most of the pieces in the show. Normally I take them on film on the same camera. In general, the view camera process is one of painstaking labor and minute detail, even to make one picture. The Polaroid process produces one unique print, a contradiction to photography’s characteristic reproducibility. In its heyday this feature made it a convenient process for making test shots in photo studios, among other purposes. In a way, the singular quality of the Polaroid breaks that promise of the reproducible, reliable image, a notion to which I admittedly adhere when making my work. I want to acknowledge and engage with these logistical features of my medium, and let them inform its content.

Question: Which images in the series speak to you most–the portraits or images that depict the location?

The two certainly inform and rely on one another. If the portraits, the small and precarious pictures of people, are to be read as figures inhabiting one universe, then the “Community Board” pictures might be read as guideposts or contact points. I don’t know whether some “speak” to me more than others. They’re definitely always speaking to each other. If anything the sequence (something that changes each time I consider a group of my pictures together) has been a way to translate dialogues among the pictures.   


Question: Do you always work with a Polaroid at some point in your process? 

I’ve worked with sheet film for many years, but the large format Polaroids are a fairly new process. Unfortunately, their use is predicated upon their availability and viability, as the material is no longer produced, and the remaining stock is aging fast. I think these facts must be present in the pictures made on them.

Question: How would you describe your process? Do you tend to work in the same way with each project? 

I make long-term, long-winded bodies of photographs. Knowing when I’m done is a weak spot of mine. I never really control when the work is done, it sort of tells me when it’s exhausted its point and said everything it’s wanted to say. It’s hard for me to say I work on “projects”, mostly because I don’t feel I have a lot of control over the direction or trajectory of the work. A few key elements remain the same across bodies of work, with some variation. For instance, I always work with a similar kind of camera, and may even make fairly similar pictures over a period of years, but my concerns or priorities I bring to the event of making the pictures change over time. For example, after starting to make the Polaroids, I started shooting with more black and white film, something I really didn’t see myself doing. I like this element of the work, it has its own agenda to which I some reason feel compelled to comply.


Question: What informed your choice to use the Ice Palace as the subject of this series, and how did you initially find the connection between Fire Island and Polaroid’s bankruptcy?

Ice Palace, which in reality is the name of a gay nightclub on Fire Island, also has a lyrical quality to me in thinking about a couple different things: the notion of vsafety for queer people in the United States, and the legacy-making qualities of photography. These are, as is the case I think for photographers and their subject matter, everyday quotidian concerns of mine. To me thinking about a mythological “ice palace” is an extraordinarily productive means for considering these concerns. It’s a grandiose, albeit temporary, structure built on shifting ground, one that is constantly destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed again, rebuilt again in perpetuity. 

About Ori Geva

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