Thursday, 17 September 2009

Lydia Panas

All images © Lydia Panas

I´ve been meaning to post something about Lydia Panas and her fantastic photography for a while now but it was not until the other day when a friend told me about her current exhibition called Private Spaces at Foundation Yours Gallery in Walsaw, Poland, that my memory was jogged.

Lydia Panas's photography centres around portraits which are subtle and delicate but full of emotional depth at the same time. The portraits depict primarily the artist's relatives and friends.

The photographer turns her attention to young people entangled in the complex process of growing up and maturing. Her fascination with the transition period between childhood and adulthood and related problems with self-definition is what distinguishes Panas's work from other artists. The kids depicted in her photos resemble shapeless but extremely plastic forms, impressionable and unstable. The plasticity concerns both the kids' emotions raised in the search for self-identity and for a secure place within the realm of relationships with other people so potently visible in her work. However, if one takes a closer look at the images, the seemingly normal group portraits of family and friends turn out to be engaging psychological portraits. One can notice attempts at domination of some family members expressed by their bold presence in the foreground or the play-safe attitude visible in others who tend to stay further away and avoid looking into the camera. Some of the poses must have been assumed subconsciously, while others result from conscious testing of the different aspects of their identity. Both approaches are aimed at defining oneself in a given situation.

The state of suspension associated with immaturity and adulthood is captured by Panas in her work in a subtle yet unmistakable way. Her work is saturated with emotions and the sensitivity of the people portrayed.

The subjects photographed against a forest background were abstracted from their regular environment which only emphasises their vulnerability and the personal invisible dependence. Assuming the right pose is in such circumstances the essential thing to do and it is far easier to do there than in their natural environment. In the case of Panas's work photography is a means of examining the relationships which people may become involved in and the roles people assumed to build or maintain a personality.

Lydia Panas is an American photographer. Her work has been exhibited many times to date, primarily in the United States. In 2007, Panas was invited by curators of the Houston's to take part in a International Discoveries, a prestigious exhibition. That same year another American photography festival, Photolucida, selected her for the finals of their book design competition. Many-time recipient of grants awarded by various foundations supporting the arts, such as the Puffin Foundation, John Anson Kittredge and Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Grants. Panas holds two degrees, one from The School of Visual Arts at Boston College and the other from New York University/International Center of Photography. She also completed an individual course of study at New York's Whitney Museum.

She has delivered lectures at many renowned institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, Lafayette College and at Maine Photographic Workshops. Panas's work may be found in many art collections, including the Zendai Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Maine Media Workshops and Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania.