Interview with Photographer Bryce Lankard
As I sat down with Bryce Lankard at Open Eye Café, he described the photography classes he is currently teaching at The ArtsCenter and I was fortunate to get a glimpse of how he has learned to see the world around him. He shared what themes fuel his artwork and revealed aspects of his teaching approach.
Bryce is passionate about photography because it is so accessible yet holds endless possibilities. In our interview, he described it as “the most democratic medium available.” His advice to new students is actually to take away things they are used to when they shoot in order to continue learning. When I think of my own picture taking, his advice suggests refraining from using the flash when I normally would or framing a picture in a way that is different from my usual approach. Bryce encourages his students to be fully present in the moment and even suggests changing which eye they shoot the lens of the camera with.
One of the highlights of his career has been the inclusion of his work in shows with two of his personal all-time photography heroes: Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Frank. Bryce has also curated in Europe and worked with several photography magazines and non-profits. He went to UNC and remembers that the only photography class that he could find as an undergraduate student was offered at The ArtsCenter. Ironically, he is now teaching the very same course that he took thirty years ago. This course is called "Defining Your Style and Vision: A Portfolio Class." He is also teaching two other photography classes which include a Toy Camera Workshop and a class about Cyanotypes.
In general, Bryce tends to use a documentary approach in his work and has done a lot of street photography. His photographic style has been described as "very contemporary yet timeless." Images become more meaningful for Bryce when there is evidence of the human interaction with the landscape and he strives to reveal a sense of empathy and compassion for his subjects. He shoots what he doesn’t know and uses his camera to discover the unknown and anything that is foreign to him. For him, all photos are accurate but perhaps only part of the truth. He loves to take road trips off the beaten track and despite of all of his international traveling, he most enjoys the "quirky eccentricities" of the American South.
His career has included interviews with people from all walks of life, including inmates on death row. The camera has essentially taken him to people and given him access to places he never would have been able to go otherwise.
He has also worked a lot with the theme of loss and was able to photograph Europeans' reactions to 9/11 because he happened to be in Eastern Europe during that time. Expanding on this theme of loss, Bryce told me about his "Land of Dreams" project which is a photographic chronicle of life in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. He has documented the social landscape of New Orleans for over 20 years.
After speaking with Bryce, I could see how he he has been able to use photography to document the fleeting moment by moment story of life.
By Kate Tennison