Oranbeg Inquires: Claudio NolascoWhere are you from/where are you currently residing?
I am originally from the Dominican Republic, but I have been living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1989. This summer, however, I will be moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
What is the work you are currently focusing on?
I’ve been working mostly on Yet Another Country, which is still in progress and the project from which Oranbeg Press used images for my entry to Interleaves. I’m also working on two other nascent projects, both being shot in New Mexico. I’ve been shooting there for a few years now with a couple of the images making it on to YAC, but now I’m focusing on New Mexico itself as the locus for the work. It’s a strange and amazing place and I can’t wait to see the influence it has on my photographs.
What is your opinion on the current state of photography, particularly on the photobook?
It’s an interesting time for photography, particularly as the prospect of self-publishing has become so much easier and the growth of small presses seems to have ballooned. It’s exciting to see the book form being explored so widely and the kind of risks that people are able to take. As always, the pendulum can and probably will swing away from the photobook form at some point, perhaps again with photographers taking a greater interest in the wall or, more likely, going full bore into presentations involving only the screen. However things end up, I like to think that roots are being put down and there will, in the end, be a more diverse ecosystem of publishers, authors and available books.
Favorite Photo Blog?
I have a few that constantly come up on my feed, in particular I pay attention to One year of books, I visit Flak Photoand MPDhas taken over my tumblr feed just from the sheer amount of images that are aggregated on his blog.
Oranbeg Inquires is a series of informal interviews with the artists that have participated in Oranbeg’s Interleaves, Books and NET exhibitions. Claudio has an interleaf and is in the book No, Nay, Never, No More.
Photographs are rather cool things on a wall. They don’t reach out and insist that you look at them like a big painting or a piece of sculpture would. And then of all the people who do look, how many really look? And of those who really look, how many see? Speaking very personally, I am delighted when anyone, anyone seems to have looked carefully enough at a photograph of mine to have some sense of what it’s about. and it doesn’t take much in the way of verbal response to get a sense of whether someone has really understood something. And every time that happens I’m just incredibly grateful. It just seems like more than I had any right to expect. I guess in a way you prepare yourself for the disappointment, the inevitable disappointment of doing all this work, putting all these things in front of people and they being sort of blank. You prepare yourself for that. And so when anyone seems as though they’ve really seen and understood something, it just feels like an incredible gift.
Meyers Ave, Goldfield, Nevada, 2012 from ‘Grays the Mountain Sends’
“This project combines portraits, landscapes, and still lifes in a series of photos that explores the lives of working people residing in small mountain towns and mining communities in the American West. Equipped with a large format view camera, and inspired by the poetry of Richard Hugo, I’ve aimed to hint at narratives and relay the experiences of strangers met in settings that spur my own emotions. Ultimately, this body of work is a meditation on small town life, the landscape, and more importantly, the inner landscapes of common men.”
When having someone sit or stand in front of a 4x5 camera, it requires a more conscious commitment. Your subject has to stay relatively still and not move. I often engage people in conversation before we make photographs, making sure that they are comfortable and relaxed within themselves, and we talk about no specific topic. I ask people to tell me their stories and they do. What the viewer does not see is the test Polaroids first made to check exposure, focus and technical issues. I’ll make approximately three Polaroids and develop them, sharing them with my subjects. This usually takes several minutes. If one is particularly good, I ask my subject if they would like for me to make a Polaroid just for them to keep. Usually, people want more than one. We study the backgrounds, compositions, eyes, lighting, etc. and discuss the direction to look, almost always right into the center of the lens. After making a couple of images, people settle and become more serious, even children. I tell people to be natural, look for their own reflection within the lens and hold steady. I rarely say, don’t do this or that, only when someone is acting stiff or too rigid, I might say, take a deep breath and relax. By the time I’m ready to expose film my subjects have overcome their own artificial, smiley personas and want themselves a more serious photograph.
“The photographs ask that we look deeper than the surface for what lies underneath; that complex part of our own personalities we often don’t see.“ Lydia Panas
Tomorrow night, the 24th of February, the photographer, Lydia Panas, will be speaking at the Allentown Art Museum to promote and sign copies of her recent monograph, The Mark of Abel. I had come across Ms. Panas’ work before, but was reminded to give it deeper consideration.
Looking at these portraits, what creates the alchemy between a photographer and her subjects? I don’t know, but when work is good, it’s recognizable and distinctive. Her subjects are neighbors, models, and family from the surrounding Pennsylvania area. Everyday people. Ms. Panas’ portraits reveal the subtleties. In these photographs, gestures, a body’s stance, the relations between the subjects–invite you to engage with these individuals staring right back at you. And when the depth-of-field and natural light are perfectly poised, the photographs are quite compelling. Ms. Panas, who also teaches, shows us that making great portraits requires something more indefinable than snapping a photo. Lane Nevares
“There was a dead bird in the broken front windows and I spent nearly two hours making a picture of it. In the process I set off the store alarm, which was surprising since the store had been empty for some time. While packing up to leave at about 3 a.m., I looked up, saw that the whole facade was lit by the store itself, cursed, and got back to work.”