oval portraits


Deana Lawson

Q: What is your inspiration?

A: Vintage nudes, Sun Ra, Nostrand Ave., sexy mothers, juke joints, cousins, leather bound family albums, gnarled wigs, Dana Lawson, purple, The Grizzly Man, M.J., oval portraits, Arthur Jaffa, thrift shops, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, acrylic nails, weaves on pavement, Aaron Gilbert, the A train, Tell My Horse, typewriters, Notorious B.I.G., fried fish, and lace curtains.

Q: What is the unifying thread in your work?

A: I see photographs as visual testimonies. Familial relationships, sexuality, and life cycles are repeated motifs. I’m also interested in black aesthetics and how that is described in a picture. Some people are good storytellers because they have a knack for describing details in words and the narrator adds his or her own unique performance to the telling. I try to do that in pictures. Formally the images are unified by a clear directorial voice. The subject’s pose, lighting, and environment are all carefully considered.

Q: Many of your photographs feel very intimate. What is your connection to your subjects and how do you get them to let you in?

A: Most of the subjects were initially strangers. I’m drawn to seemingly “ordinary” individuals who I might pass while shopping in downtown Brooklyn, or whom I observe on the subway train. This is the person, the woman, who I want to use as my muse. Many subjects have expressed that because I am a woman they have felt comfortable posing for my camera. I am always honored and appreciative to be let in. I understand it is a privilege.