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August 28, 2014

Still Lives: Dana Lixenberg

The Interior and Exterior Worlds of the Dutch Photographer

Dana Lixenberg transports you to a series of evocative yet distinct locales in today’s third and final instalment of our Still Lives photography series. The Dutch artist is based in New York and has shot everyone from Puff Daddy to Carly Simon for such publications as The New Yorker and Time magazine. Yet she is increasingly renowned for her long-term projects such as Imperial Courts, which began as a commission on the aftermath of the Los Angeles Watts riots in 1993 and spans over 20 years. “To me, what’s really interesting is all the layers that reveal themselves when I spend time somewhere,” explains Lixenberg. “I don’t like doing too much production before hand. With these projects, I often can’t plan too much. I have to be present.”

What first brought you to photography?
Dana Lixenberg: I remember the first roll I took when I was an au pair in New York; I took my first evening photography class and I still have the pictures. It was kind of love and first sight for me. It made so much sense, as I was quite adventurous from an early age and traveled a lot, but I was always someone who couldn’t fully jump into things: I always had one foot out, an observer. Somehow finding photography, I discovered a reason to look at the world and process what I saw. It was very exciting.

Are there any photographers who informed your personal style?

DL: When I started photography, people like Bill Brandt made a huge impression. When I saw Diane Arbus’ work for the first time, it really hit the spot. Also the German photographer, August Sander, and Helmut Newton’s portraiture is very inspiring. I’m also really inspired by filmmakers such as Robert Altman and [Michaelangelo] Antonioni. But just meeting a person can be just as inspiring or more so than [looking at] photographs.  

Your work is very site-specific. How do you find the places?
DL: I often first encounter a place because of a commission; that’s why, even though I do a lot less editorial work than in the 1990s, I am still open to do certain assignments because they lead me to unexpected places.

Has there been a particular project that has resonated with you the most?
DL: Imperial Courts is the one I feel most connected to. Over the years, there’s been a lot of tragedy. It’s a very intense place and it’s a very tight-knit community. I’ve been going there since 1993 and it’s the same people who live there now, though some have died, some are in jail and a couple of people have moved away. It also represents a pivotal project in my career as it led to all my work for American publications.

A lot of your personal projects revisit people and places that you photographed years ago. What draws you to return and recapture?
DL: Once I feel connected to a space, I think that’s it. I realize I only choose projects that take place in a confined area, a specific area. I like certain limitations.

Dana Lixenberg's Polaroid portrait workshop takes place during Foam Amsterdam's Foto Week on September 13. Some new work will be premiered at the Unseen Photo Fair, also in Amsterdam, from September 17 through 21.

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Spotlight

Jean Pigozzi’s World

The Jet-Setting Collector Reveals His Downtime Moments with Iconic Personalities

Steve Jobs kicking back in his Birkenstocks, Diane von Furstenberg sipping a beer in Venice and the private dinners of ‘the supers’ are all uncovered in Jean Pigozzi’s secret stash of photographs. My World is a fly-on-the-wall visual journal from the art lover, collector and entrepreneur, showing at Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art from next week. “It’s an insight into my life over the last 30 years,” muses Pigozzi, who studied film and photography at Harvard, and whose work features in the permanent collections of MoMA and Centre Pompidou. Curated by Chinese photographer and director Alexi Tan, the 250-snapshot exhibition—that includes the philanthropist's take on this year’s Oscars party—is Pigozzi’s first in China. “Jean's body of work chronicles a certain part of popular—not just celebrity— culture through his own unique background,” says Tan. “And since there has been growing curiosity in China, his photos can give them a different perspective of the world they are so intrigued by.”

What’s the secret to a good party?
Jean Pigozzi:
A great residence can help bring interesting people together but the most important thing is to be a fun, generous and caring host—that’s what makes a good party, more than expensive wine or extravagant food.

What memories emerged from looking at your photography archives?
JP:
I met Diane [von Furstenberg] in a nightclub in Paris when she was 20 and I was 17. How can you not love being with some of the most beautiful women in the world?

Where do you store your photos?
JP:
In nice boxes.

How would you describe your world in three words?   
JP:
Exciting, always evolving.

What’s on the agenda for your time in Beijing?  
JP:
Go see contemporary art.

My World runs from March 14 through 24 at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing.

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Spotlight

Raymond Depardon: Journal de France

Take to the Coast With the Acclaimed Gallic Documentarian

“He told me he longed to make a film from the unseen footage he carefully stores in the basement—his first steps with a camera, his early TV reporting jobs, outtakes, and snatches of his memory,” says Claudine Nougaret, the wife and sound engineer of the celebrated French director and photo-journalist, Raymond Depardon. The short excerpt of Nougaret’s Journal De France sees Depardon capture the calm of a small seaside town in Pas-de-Calais on the English Channel during a journey around the country. The road trip acts as an autobiography of the man and his nation as he shoots cafés, factories, tabacs with his large-format camera. Complementing Depardon’s archive footage of Jean-Luc Godard and Nelson Mandela are clips from his 1981, César Award-winning Reporters, and La Captive du Désert, nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival.

Journal De France screens in selected UK and Ireland cinemas from January 31.

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