Lara Kantardjian

Interview by Heidi Kuisma for ‘We Sink Ships

‘In Transit’ photography exhibition April 2010

25 participating photographers from around the world


What inspires you?

Life. Love. Leonard Cohen. A Leica. Analogue photography. Improvising on the piano.
Light; the black and white of night and day. The shades of the rainbow in a new season.

Do you think you have a certain style?

Certainly do; just look.

Orson Welles said: ‘A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.’
As a fine art photographer I strive for something like that.

What are your influences?

Many things speak to me and have the feel of a lover’s touch: the kind of visual poetry
created by great directors like Wong Kar-Wai, Andrei Tarkovsky, John Hillcoat, Krzysztof
Kieslowski, Wim Wenders, Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, Christoffer Boe. I could go on.
Then there is the sublime, melancholic and seductive music of Leonard Cohen, Dirty Three,
Keith Jarrett, Yann Tiersen and Astor Piazolla … to name a few.

The sheer power of the poetry of Homer, Milton, Shakespeare, Dante, Rilke, Lorca, and
Coleridge is so resonant that it informs my own creative outlook. Not all cheery stuff.

I am not influenced directly by any specific writer but certain lines, chapters or an entire body
of work, (The Bible for example) can leave a mark on me. I’d put the writings of Haruki
Murakami, Cormac McCarthy, Sam Shepard, Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, in that category.

Similarly, single images or the lifetime’s work of photographers I admire have resonated with me.
I’m thinking here of such people as Ralph Gibson, Robert Frank, Sally Mann, Ansel Adams,
Hunter S. Thompson, Jean Loup Sieff, Tarkovsky’s ‘Polaroids’ and the Magnum photographers
Bruce Davidson, Erich Hartmann, Cartier-Bresson.

Then there are specific work of art ‘The Raising of Lazarus’ by Caravaggio, Rothko’s late
maroon paintings, Gerhard Richter’s ‘Atlas,’ Anselm Kiefer’s ‘High Priestess’ Tapies’ gray
paintings and James Turrell’s red and blue light installations.

– all of these things speak to me.

How did you get into photography? What made you pick up a camera?

It was when I discovered a portrait photograph of a young man whom, at 11 years of age, I
became secretly infatuated with. I understood then the powerful psychological impact a
photograph could have. The photograph was unlike anything I had seen before. Infatuation
aside, I was transfixed by the intensity of the light and colour, the compositional style, the
shallow depth of focus, the detail, the film grain, the sombre yet sensual mood the image
captured. It is still vivid in my memory. That photograph changed my way of seeing. It set
my heart on replacing my Kodak Ektra 52 (110mm film) P&S compact with an SLR. And
with my first, a Zenith EM and Praktica MTL3, I felt a whole world had opened; standard
and wide angle manual focus lenses offered almost limitless creative and experimental
possibilities. I used both cameras right up to entering art college. Thereafter came
rangefinders, medium format and half-frame cameras, as well as dark room developing
process and the whole history of photography.

What does photography mean to you?

A great deal. You know, the depth of my soul kinda stuff.

As with my painting, photography is another means of self expression: to realize the images I
first see in my mind. Even after 30 years I still get excited by the process of putting rolls of
film through my cameras. (Cameras are more portable than canvasses and the process is more
immediate, so I have a lot more negatives at home then canvasses in my studio.)

Is there a story behind the photos you chose for In Transit?

Always. Each has its story. Some are poems; some are novels. They’re all part of the odyssey.