Susan Lapides: Crustaceans
There are two genres in photography that are personal favorites: projects about time and projects created as typologies. Photographer Susan Lapides deftly combines these two ways of working into a layered and poignant series, Crustaceans. The series started in 2006 when she photographed her daughter Xia at the age of ten (see above) and then in 2015, she expanded the series by photographing young women in her summer community of St. George in New Brunswick, Canada on an annual basis. These portraits capture a modernized Venus in the Clamshell pose against a watery backdrop where we witness the changing physicality and posture of her subjects. She challenges them to hold a live lobster as they present themselves to the camera–it’s in the subtle gestures of how they hold the crustacean that reveal parts of their personalities, changing as they grow older, and perhaps more self conscious.
Susan’s photographs will be on display on The Fence in Boston beginning in the fall.
Susan Lapides is a photographer, whose work focuses on people, culture, and place. An accomplished fine art photographer with a strong background in editorial assignments, Lapides is a sensitive and passionate visual storyteller. Her subjects range from portraits of girls holding lobsters to the fishing communities of New Brunswick, Canada.
As a professional photographer, she worked on assignment for many major clients, such as the New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Life, Time, Forbes, US News & World Report, Condé Nast Traveler, People, UNICEF, Harvard University Art Museums, Worcester Art Museum, and American Repertory Theater. Two of the highlights of her early professional career were photographing President Barack Obama, then the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review and Rose Kennedy on the occasion of her 91st birthday.
Lapides’ “Crustacean” series was the recipient of the Beth Block Foundation Honorarium from the Houston Center for Photography (HCP) in 2018. Portraits from this series were also exhibited at the Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, OR, the Los Angeles Center for Photography, The Curated Fridge in Boston, MA, the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO, and the Margaret Julia Cameron awards in Barcelona, Spain. Her portraits were also included in “Outspoken, Extended,” an invitational exhibit at the Rhode Island Center for Photography, that brought together the work of nine women photographers to explore and challenge ideas related to being and growing up female.
Lapides has shown her work widely. Her solo exhibitions include the Griffin Museum of Photography (Winchester, MA), Fidelity Investments Communication + Advertising (Boston, MA), Sunbury Shores Art Center and the Saint John Centre for the Arts (both in New Brunswick, Canada), and The Curated Fridge, (Somerville MA). Her photographs are held in private collections in the United States and Canada.
Lapides is a graduate of Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She resides in Boston, Massachusetts and St. George in New Brunswick, Canada.
The juxtaposition of a young girl and a prehistoric animal is both enigmatic and mythical – beauty meets the beast, but on her own terms this time. While the portrait of each girl shows a distinct individual, these images are united by a common theme: the tension between the future and the past. The girls are standing on the cusp of womanhood raising questions, about their future identity– who will they become? Ancient and venerable, the lobster was determined eons ago; it remains unchanged as the girls evolve into women.
The girls stand their ground with strength and handle the lobsters with determination: some cradle, some squirm, some raise it aloft triumphantly. The image of the lobster comes loaded with centuries of cultural tradition, from medieval bestiary books to decades of life in Eastern Canada’s rapidly changing fishing towns. Where once fishermen sold their catches across town, today they ship their lobsters halfway across the world; the town now tries to balance skyrocketing global demand against the increasing threats of ecological change and overfishing.
The pose in these portraits – a girl holding a lobster – also recalls the recent trend of “big catch” images on social media and dating apps of the digital age, in which men brandish their trophies. As the series builds and layers over multiple years, the portraits reveal the intimate process of growing up: learning to cope with strange, spiky, unpredictable situations, discovering how to hold on to the things that matter, and finding a voice.
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