The Shane Lavalette Mixtape
The name Shane Lavalette came on my radar when he was a still BFA student at Tufts University (in partnership with The School of the Museum of Fine Arts) in Boston. Shane set himself apart by creating an innovative publication, Lay Flat 01-Remain in Light. Presented as individual prints that were at the same time beautiful and unpretentious, this publication is one that I still share with students. Lay Flat continues as “a periodic journal devoted to contemporary photography in which each issue takes on a new theme and format”.
In 2009, Shane established Lavalette, an independent publishing house of limited edition photography books and multiples, in addition to the Lay Flat publications. His published works can be found throughout the world and purchased here and here.
In 2013, Shane was hired as the Director of Light Work, a non-profit organization in Syracuse, New York that supports support artists working in photography and digital imaging, through residencies, publications, exhibitions, and lab facilities. Founded in 1973, Light Work has a long established reputation of providing opportunities to artists allowing them to bring their work to a new level. In addition to the grant and residency programs, Light Work produces the excellent publication, Contact Sheet.
Shane also continues working on his own photography and opens his first solo exhibition on June 3rd in Europe, One Sun, One Shadow, at Robert Morat Galerie in Hamburg, Germany. Below are selected images from One Sun, One Shadow.
I was not alone in my excitement and appreciation of his early accomplishments and have watched his career expand into new arenas over the years. In 2013, Shane was awarded the Rising Star Award through the Griffin Museum’s Focus Awards program. Today he is an artist, curator, publisher and Director of Light Work and is a regular portfolio reviewer at events like PhotoNOLA in New Orleans, the Filter Festival of Photography in Chicago, Photolucida in Portland, or KaunasPhoto.
Shane’s 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. His editorial work has been published in various magazines, including The New York Times Magazine,The New Yorker, Newsweek, Esquire, Bloomberg Businessweek, Vice Magazine, The Wire, Wallpaper*, among others. He is currently based in Upstate New York.
And now, with great pleasure, the Shane Lavalette Mixtape!
Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to photography.
I grew up in Vermont and got interested in photography as a teenager, in part thanks to a photo class at my high school. I spent a lot of time in the black and white darkroom (we were very fortunate to have that) and looking at the handful of photobooks in the library there—Arbus, Evans, Strand, etc. I began a photoblog for sharing my early experiments with image-making then, and I started saving up what little money I had to buy photography books I would see online or in a used bookstore. This is when I started looking at color. Eggleston, Shore, Dijkstra, and so on from there. When it came time to consider what I might like to study in college, photography was the obvious choice.
What is your title and job description and tell us about a typical day?
First and foremost I’m a photographer and working artist, but that informs the other things I do. While in college in Boston I started a small independent publishing house and have continued to work on publishing projects with other artists through that. In 2011, I was fortunate to be offered a residency at Light Work in Syraucse, New York. In August, after a summer of travel working on a project, I spent a month at Light Work scanning and processing all of my film. The experience was transformative and my whole digital workflow changed after working with the staff in the lab. Around that time I heard of a position opening at Light Work, and took the opportunity to apply. I really didn’t expect it, but got the job and found myself moving to Syracuse a few months later, in October. It’s now been four years!
As the Director of Light Work, a typical day is not really a thing. Each month we have new artists visiting through our the residency program, and we regularly change exhibitions, are working on issues of Contact Sheet, and the lab facility is frequented by community members as well as used for printing jobs regionally, nationally, internationally. Every day is different and if you walk through the lab you see that in what prints are up on the viewing walls and what projects are going on in the space. While I am most passionate about curatorial/publishing projects and working with artists, I also spend quite a lot of time on grant writing and other administrative tasks that fuel our programs. Light Work provides a magic combination of time, space, money, and staff support to artists—it’s really the team effort of our great staff that makes it all possible.
What are some of your proudest achievements?
I’m proud of a lot of things that I’ve done with my own work, but I’m equally fulfilled by supporting other artists and seeing good things develop for them. I was reflecting on my time at Light Work thus far and realized that we’ve easily worked with over 75 artists through the residency and exhibition programs, just in the time I’ve been here (the number is over 500 if we’re talking about the history of the organization). Their experiences, like mine, are often very significant to them and I’ve seen countless examples of artists making great strides in their careers or personally during or following their residency. I live vicariously through those moments and feel a lot of pride when I see good things happening for the artists we’ve worked with. It’s a great feeling.
What do you look for when attending a portfolio review?
While I’m really interested in seeing and hearing about an artist’s work, a portfolio review is almost more suited to getting to know the artist, the person behind the images, and simply having a good conversation. You can see so much work online, but it doesn’t replace this kind of exchange.
Any advice for photographers coming to a review event?
I imagine it can be nerve racking, probably a bit like speed dating, but I would encourage artists to try to take a deep breath and just share things you care about. Know why you care about them, what’s compelling you to explore the subject of your work. That makes for a good conversation. Know what you are looking for at your review and why you are talking with a particular reviewer. Be open to expressing that to them. If you review with me I might even ask, What are your goals, and how might I be able to help? It doesn’t mean I can, but it’s good for everyone to lay all that out on the table. Speaking of the table, don’t bring prints that are the size of it. Reviewers can imagine images larger, so bring a portfolio that’s easy to look at together. Time goes by quickly. Focus on one or two projects at the most. There’s nothing worse than spending a review scrambling to get through five projects and not going into any depth with any of them.
What is something unexpected that we don’t know about you?
Here’s a nerdy confession… I was really into checkers when I was in elementary school. I would play it competitively after school in the library. It’s a really simple game, but I still have a soft spot for it. I think it transports me back to being five again.
And since this is a Mixtape, what is your favorite song, band, and do you dance?
Haha. You won’t often find me dancing in the wild, but I’m known to dance around the house. Favorite song or band is too hard, but let’s see… Lately the rotation has included Peggy Honeywell, Quilt, Angel Olsen, Wye Oak, Andrew Bird, Dan Auerbach, Courtney Barnett, Nils Frahm, Jack Rose, La Luz, Jose Gonzalez, Leon Bridges, and Rodrigo Amarante.
For part two of this Mixtape, Shane would like to share the newest call for Light Work’s Artist in Residency program.
To apply for a 2017 residency, visit http://lightwork.slideroom.com and follow the instructions. — DEADLINE: July 1, 2016 at 11:59pm ET
Light Work Artist-in-Residence Program
Each year Light Work invites 12-15 artists to participate in its residency program, including one artist co-sponsored by Autograph ABP and one artist in conjunction with the Urban Video Project (UVP). Artists selected for the residency program are invited to live in Syracuse for one month. They receive a $5,000 stipend, an apartment to stay in, a private digital studio, a private darkroom, and 24-hour access to our facility.
Participants in the residency program are expected to use their month to pursue their own projects: photographing in the area, scanning or printing for a specific project or book, and so on. Artists are not obligated to lecture at our facility, though we hope that the artists are friendly and accessible to local artists and students. Work by each Artist-in-Residence becomes a part of the Light Work Collection and is published in a special edition of Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual along with an essay commissioned by Light Work.
For information about our facilities, see www.lightwork.org/lab.
Application and Deadlines
Our international residency program is open to all artists working in photography or image-based media, from any country. While submissions are open throughout the year, our main selection committee review falls in late summer for early fall notifications. Applications must be submitted by the posted deadline. Applicants will receive an e-mail from SlideRoom confirming that we have received an application. Selected artists will be notified when the committee has finished reviews during the fall proceeding the residency year. Please be patient in this process. We will contact you should we need more information, and to notify you of your application status when the time comes.
If you would like to submit a physical application by mail (or necessary physical items to accompany your digital application), please see the online application for what to include and mail to:
316 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244
Please note: If you mail an application your materials will be discarded unless proper return posted is included.
A little more about Light Work:
Over 350 artists from every state and over fifteen countries have been selected to participate in its renowned Artist-in-Residence Program. The program exemplifies Light Work’s primary goal of supporting artists.
Light Work has published over 170 issues of Contact Sheet, plus over fifty exhibition catalogues for the Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery and a number of special project books. Contact Sheet is one of the longest-running art photography publications in the world that has showcased contemporary photographers since 1977. It features artists who have participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence and exhibition programs. Subscribers have access to the full digital archive of our publications.
Light Work’s multiple galleries have featured over 400 exhibitions. Four exhibitions are curated for its main gallery, the Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery, every year and are each accompanied by an issue of Light Work’s publication, Contact Sheet. Other exhibition venues include Light Work’s Hallway Gallery, the flat panel display, and the Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery.
Light Work Grants
Since inception in 1975, over 100 artists have been awarded Light Work Grants in Photography. This program was established to encourage the creation of new work and scholarship in Central New York. Each year Light Work awards three grants of $2,000 to local photographers, critics, or photo-historians as a way to acknowledge and support local talent.
Thank you Shane for all you do for photographers and photography!
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