Q&A: Shane Lavalette


Shane Lavalette (b. 1987, Burlington, Vermont) is an American photographer, the founder and editor of the independent publishing house Lavalette, and the Director of Light Work, a non-profit photography organization based in Syracuse, New York. His photographs have been shown widely, including exhibitions at the High Museum of Art, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Aperture Gallery, Montserrat College of Art, The Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University, The Center for Photography at Woodstock, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Musée de l’Elysée, in addition to being held in private and public collections.

In 2010, Lavalette began a commissioned project for the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, contributing to their ongoing ‘Picturing the South’ series. The project invites artists to create a body of work that explores the ideas of the American South, including previous participation from Sally Mann, Emmet Gowin, Richard Misrach, Dawoud Bey, Alex Webb, Alec Soth, Martin Parr, and Kael Alford. The resulting work is One Sun, One Shadow, an examination of the relationship between traditional Southern music and the contemporary landscape. Lavalette’s documentation is poetic in it’s vision, we’re steered away from the trope of the southern music-(wo)man and into the land that shaped him, the landscape as music, where it was born, it’s history, it’s echo.

“Having grown up in the Northeast, it was primarily through traditional music—old time, blues, gospel, etc.—that I had formed a relationship with the South. With that in mind, the region’s rich musical history became the natural entry point for my work. I was not interested in making a documentary about Southern music today, but desired to explore the relationship between traditional music and the contemporary landscape through a more poetic lens. Moved by the themes and stories past down in songs, I let the music itself carry the pictures”.

One Sun, One Shadow is currently on show at Robert Morat Galerie in Hamburg and runs till July 30th, 2016.


Q&A with Shane Lavalette.

Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? Slow down. I’ve been trying to, anyway. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? The current state of American politics. What is it that interests you about photography? The practice of careful looking. What part of the planet would you like to explore? Everywhere I haven’t been. I’d really love to spend some time in Japan. What do you think is the most plausible explanation of the supernatural? The supernatural is not easily explained. If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be? I certainly admire the life of a number of great leaders, from Ghandi to MLK. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Astronomy. Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Food critic. Describe the most important photo you’ve seen. It’s difficult to choose one, but I’ve always loved Emmet Gowin’s photograph of the little girl holding eggs with her arms crossed. It’s so strange and beautiful. Perfect.

How often do you take other people’s advice? Regularly, with people close to me or whose opinions I value. Describe a personal hell. Monotony. What is the best way to educate yourself? Traveling and reading. What is the next book you want to read? By my bedside, I have Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. Ultimate camera? I don’t really have one; I like all kinds of cameras. Most used camera? Probably the Mamiya 7II. What object do you want? I want less objects! How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? A portal through which you can communicate and interact with people and ideas from around the world. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? Haha… I think so?

Describe a cheap thrill. A perfectly cooked egg. Pick an historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. It’s a little over 100 years ago now, but maybe the Wright Brother’s early flying experiments. Are impulses more important than consequences? No. Which talent would you most like to have? I’ve always loved cinema, and greatly respect the talents of filmmakers and directors. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? I’m in Zürich, Switzerland at the moment, where I’ve been working on a new project. This afternoon I have spent catching up on e-mails (including this one), and this evening I will have dinner with a friend. Tomorrow I plan to grab breakfast at a nearby café, and spend much of the day looking at and editing new images.

Shane Lavalette – From the series One Sun, One Shadow. See more at shanelavalette.com