Lydia Panas’ (www.lydiapanas.com) photographs have been exhibited widely. Her work has garnered many prestigious awards and featured in periodicals such as the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Photo District News and Popular Photography. Her work is held in numerous public and private collections including the Brooklyn Museum; The Bronx Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Allentown Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; The Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; The Sheldon Museum, and Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai among others. She has degrees from Boston College, School of Visual Arts and New York University/ International Center of Photography. Panas is the recipient of a Whitney Museum Independent Study Fellowship and a CFEVA Fellowship. Her first monograph The Mark of Abel (Kehrer Verlag), was named a Photo District News Book of 2012, as well as a best coffee table book by the Daily Beast. Her second book Falling From Grace was released in 2016. She lives and works in Pennsylvania and New York.
LACP Interviews Lydia Panas
LACP asks Lydia Panas ten questions about her background, career in and beliefs about photography.
Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?
Lydia Panas: I am a fine art photographer. I use a camera because it is a form of communication that works well for me. I might have been a painter, a writer, a dancer if through any of those mediums I was able to express clearly what I needed to say. It is not about the medium for me but about the process and the results. I am more influenced by painting, literature, music, and how the mind works than by photographs, but I use the camera to say what I need to say.
LACP: How long have you been shooting?
LP: I have been shooting for about twenty-five years. As soon as I realized how directly the camera spoke for me, I dove in.
LACP: Where did you get your training?
LP: I received an undergraduate degree in psychology and literature at Boston College. I went back to school for photography at the Art Institute of Boston, finishing at School of Visual Arts with a second degree. I did a Whitney Museum Independent Study Fellowship, and then graduate school at New York University /International Center of Photography, a joint program at the time. That was my official training; interestingly, I feel self- taught. I suppose I always had to learn things my own way.
LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?
LP: As soon as I realized it was a direct means of communication for me. It was visceral and direct. I am one of those people who only wants to do things I am connected to. The camera found its way into my heart and is still giving.
LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?
LP: I’ve felt discouraged at times, but these periods seem to re-energize my work. I think it is common to feel this way periodically.
LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?
LP: I suppose I have sacrificed having any free time. There is always something to do. But I love that.
LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?
LP: Every day I work on something that fascinates me. I decide on the questions and then learn from them. I have the chance to focus on something daily that teaches me about myself and subsequently about life. I can’t imagine doing anything else
LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?
LP: A class on portraiture.
LACP: What do you love most about teaching?
LP: I love it when my students realize how much they have to say and that they can express themselves in their very own way. I love it when my students realize how important it is to understand themselves and what is most important to them, and how amazing it feels when they learn that they can do it. I love how it gives people confidence, joy, satisfaction, and even a kind of grounding
LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?
LP: Do it your way. Look, listen, learn, ask, ask again. Trust yourself, but make sure it comes from your heart.