Interview with Shane Lavalette, Juror’s Pick, 2011 Daylight/CDS Photo Awards Work-in-Process Prize

Interview with Shane Lavalette

Juror’s Pick (Whitney Johnson), Daylight/CDS Photo Awards Work-in-Process Prize

What captivates you most about the South?

The musical history of the South is so rich and complex, it made for a natural point of departure for this body of work. I’m captivated by the stories passed down in song, and how these relate to the landscape today.

How conscious were you of the time of day when you made photographs for this series? Would you return to a particular scene on another day in order to capture it in a certain quality of light?

I deliberately worked on this project in the summers, as the heat and sun began to play an important role in the work. There were a few instances where I re-photographed a scene to find the moment I was looking for, but most of the time I allowed myself to keep moving.

How would you describe the role of African American society in your photographs for this project?

Many of the musical traditions I’m taking inspiration from—gospel and blues, for example—stem from African American culture. These songs reflect a deep sense of human struggle, something that became central in a lot of my images and the project in general.

Did your impression of the South change while you worked on this project?

Certainly. Before working on this project I had traveled very little in the South; now I have a meaningful relationship with just about every part of it. I really fell in love with the region, and I hope on some level that comes through in the photographs.

Read more about Shane Lavalette’s work

CDS undergraduate student Tabria Williford conducted this interview as part of the “Multimedia Documentary” class in the fall of 2011.

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