Labs New Artists is a collective annual exhibition at Red Hook Labs, featuring international photographers unrepresented by galleries or agencies. At its second edition, Labs New Artists has already established itself as one of the most exciting occasions for spotting brilliant photographers and projects. A huge congratulations to our producer Maria Lokke, who was featured as one of their emerging international talents.
Labs New Artists II – Maria Lokke
From Vogue Italia:
How did your interest in photography start?
I had an interest in cameras starting as a kid. When I was in first grade or so I used my mom’s point-and-shoot camera to take pictures of my pet guinea pig all dressed up in scenes I made out of dollhouse furniture, lol. I eventually took a darkroom class in middle school, my friends and I would take pictures of each other at K-Mart or TMZ style pics of the cute upperclassmen we had crushes on and make very cringeworthy collages for each other’s lockers.
How did you develop your style and aesthetics?
Although I got an early start in middle school and high school photo class, I dropped off in college, focusing on art history and painting. I wasn’t really drawn back into photography until after school, when I got a job working in The New Yorker’s photo department as an assistant. I think it’s a combination of those two things, a background in painting and a solid exposure to a pretty rigorous editorial approach to photography that informs how I think about taking pictures now.
How much are you trying to convey a message with your images?
I’m not really trying to convey any specific message. There are certain themes that are interesting to me that I sometimes look for in things and people. I think the fact that pictures can contain messages is very interesting to me, but I lose interest when things start to get too reductive.
You are also an editor and a curator: how these experiences influenced your artistic practice?
Definitely a huge influence. As a photo editor – maybe you can relate – I’ve spent many daylight hours on gettyimages.com or the like searching for pictures. I’m fascinated by these image databases, my time spent combing through stock photography has had a massive impact on my work. I’m really interested in the labor involved in photo editing, the work behind producing or finding the right image to convey an idea or mood. And moreover, the work we ask pictures to do. Similarly, my time spent working with all kinds of different photographers, editors, and photo directors has been an education for me. I’ve been lucky to work with some really incredibly smart and talented people over the years, who have taught me so much – technically, critically, philosophically, about what goes into making pictures and how they are used.
What would you say are the main themes of your work?
I’m interested in the throwaway nature of the authorless stock image, a copy with value but without a clear source. I love thinking about these image collections as indexes of pre-formed visual thoughts-for-hire. How some of these pictures came to be is fascinating to me, like that classic image of a “hacker”, a dude wearing a hoodie in shadow at a laptop. Many many people made that image, over and over again, there are probably three thousand versions of it on Getty, why? This idea, that some “ideal” image could be found or made for a certain purpose, and is constantly sought and re-sought, is a current theme I’m drawn to. I’m interested in the thin line between commercial and editorial photography, the catalogue aesthetic, and the double nature of a photo as both necessary tool and disposable object feeding a ceaseless news and seasonal commerce cycle.
What emerging photographers you admire? Who are your masters?
Masters would include Deanna Lawson, Tina Barney, Torbjorn Rodland, Christopher Williams, Roe Ethridge, Paul Outerbridge, Nan Goldin, I just read a great essay on Julia Margaret Cameron by Janet Malcolm that I’ve been thinking a lot about. Janet Malcolm is amazing – she’s not a photographer but her writing on photography has been really inspiring to me lately. Also David LaChappelle, William Wegman! Not sure if I’d call them emerging, but some really inspiring young photographers for me: Buck Ellison, Eva O’Leary, David Brandon Geeting, Charlie Engman, Brea Souders, Sarah Cwynar, Chris Maggio, Damien Maloney, Eric Ruby, Caroline Tompkins…there are lot here.
What interests you most in a photograph?
Ha! I wish I could articulate this better. I think the thing I like the most about photography is it’s capacity to surprise and feel new, despite the incredible quantity of images out there.