Interview #77: Shaun Lucas
CUS: How did you get into photography?
Shaun Lucas: Mhm. Well I started off doing film and thought that I wanted to make movies when I got older. It was sometime around middle/high school that I was fascinated with still imagery. After that I got really into lighting and I think I just switched over to a new passion.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
SL: I went to the School of Visual Arts and majored in Photography. Before Art school I was self taught in photography by trying to figure out the lighting in pictures. Little did I know that was going to be a very useful skill later on in studio photography.
CUS: How did studying art at a post-secondary institution have an affect on your work?
SL: Art school definitely help evolve and influence my work drastically. By learning and studying other photographers and participating in intense critique courses I developed technically and most importantly conceptually. That's when I really started to shape my photographs into body of works.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/location have an affect on your photography?
SL: I am currently living in Brooklyn, NY in a studio apartment. My photography is heavily influenced by American culture, especially in the Midwest and South. I often find myself documenting ordinary suburban life through portraits of my family, friends, and strangers. I direct my attention to the conventional to embrace the typical American lifestyle and glorify the banal.
CUS: Tell us about your photographic process.
SL: A body of work begins with the idea and of what/where I want to shoot. I travel a lot to make my bodies of work- sometimes it's to family/friends and others to a specific city/location. Once there I explore and document my experiences and surroundings. During my stay my camera is always with me and I carry one bag with all my film and equipment. I typically stop and ask people for a portrait or shoot without their knowledge.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
SL: Haha. Let see I had egg casserole and Newman's Own pomegranate lemonade.
CUS: Who are the individuals in your photographs?
SL: The individuals in my work ranges from family, friends, and complete strangers. They all embody the American stereotype that I'm constantly “re-photographing” and approaching in a voyeuristic documentary light.
CUS: What makes a good image?
SL: I will have to say that it depends on the eye of the beholder. Although I think subjectivity and approach makes a good image, if the work can bring something new to the table, then it is a sure winner in my heart.
CUS: Where do you draw inspiration from?
SL: I draw inspiration from various American outlets such as reality TV, gun culture, and American all inclusive resorts. I find myself particularity inspired in how people render their environment around them as well as how that reflects there own being. I think that's why I tend to pair the living place with the person that I am photographing.
CUS: What is the motivation behind your image-making?
SL: To be honest my biggest motivation would be myself. I love working on a new body of work, shooting and getting my film developed are equally satisfying. Making photographs makes me happy so its a self-feeding system.
CUS: Tell us about the locations in your photographs.
SL: In this body of work, the locations are mixed between the suburban landscape of home and the forest. Some of the photographs are taken during hunting and staying a few days at a farm. Others are of a shooting range and housing developments.
CUS: What can you tell us about your project "Appalachee Church Rd"?
SL: So, the body of work came about after I had met Tyler who was originally from Auburn, Georgia and like every relationship there’s always a time to meet the family. Up to this point I had never been quite that deep in the South so I was a little anxious about what I was going to encounter. I decided that I wanted to photograph his family’s lives and develop a project based around them and their property. His family owns land in Auburn and we visited a family friend’s 500 acre farm in Crawfordville. The series became an investigation/documentation of their property and lives as well as a chance to integrate myself into the family.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography; photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…)
SL: Yes and No. I think with the rise of digital photography and technology has gotten a larger crowd of people interested in this medium. As digital cameras evolve and become more “consumer friendly” I think we have a lot more people taking “pictures”. When it comes to film vs digital it's simple: film will always win. But I can completely get down with a digital back. Photography and the Internet is a wonderful thing unless it becomes a type of “aesthetic." I feel there are people shooting and making work where its soul purpose is Tumblr. I mean, how many times do I see the all these photographers on Tumblr that all photograph in the same style and approach.
CUS: How do you differentiate “art” photography and “non-art” photography?
SL: Well I don't think I do. For example Charlie White did a body of work where he followed a teenage girl around for the day and took pictures on a point n shoot as if he was her best friend. Now if most people saw those pictures on some girls myspace or facebook they would probably not consider it as art. I think its all depends on the context and display of the work. Who is to say whats art photography and whats not.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in “the flesh” to be fully appreciated and experienced?
SL: I think the Internet is a great place to showcase work but I do love seeing actual prints. That's the one thing that the Interent lacks. You cannot see the actual size and or proper display of the work.
CUS: If you could say one thing to every contemporary photographer what would it be?
SL: I hope you still shoot film.
CUS: What are your plans for the summer?
SL: This summer I have plans to start my next body of work at an all inclusive couples resort in Pennsylvania. I also would like to visit my family in Los Angeles and escape the intense summer of New York City. My main goal is to also start a blog attached to my website where I share various works that don't typically relate to any body of work. Just me shooting cause I love to shoot.
CUS: Your favourite photographer?
SL: That's hard to single out just one but I would have to say Rineke Dijkstra.
CUS: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
SL: Charlie White for sure, we have a similar taste.
CUS: Your dream equipment?
SL: Mhm. I would love a Phase one camera and a Profoto air kit.
CUS: Your dream location to shoot?
SL: So there is this Canadian mall called West Edmonton that has a whole water park world that is indoors, and Id love to photograph the whole mall. One day..
CUS: What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?
SL: The biggest challenge I face after college is being able to travel to work on new bodies of work.
CUS: What was the last thing you dreamt about?
SL: I can't recall my latest dreams but I have been having dreams of going to the beach. Usually I am in a friend's car and we are driving to Rockaway beach in Brooklyn and I'm so excited. The thing is though I never actually get to the beach. Maybe I just need to go Rockaway soon.
CUS: What are some of your favourite books and films?
SL: Books: Horses Mouth, Camera Lucida, and the Masterpeice.
Films: Gummo, Doom Generation, Scream, Mean Girls, Jawbreaker, Boys Dont Cry, Welcome to Me
CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose and why?
SL: Haha Hands down, Miley Cyrus. I feel me and her would just have a lot of fun.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow photographers?
SL: Make work that truly means something to yourself and stay away from tumblr.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Allison Barnes, asks: What are the five nearest objects to you right now?
SL: Mamiya RZ, iMac, Vice magazine, blanket, and cup of jasmine tea.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
SL: Whats your favorite beer?