Honey Lazar uses her camera to hold those she loves close. Photography can tell a story, but it can also remind us of the life lessons we have learned, and those people that have taught us.
Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work and words of Honey Lazar.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
“We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life.” “How Not to Be Alone”, The New York Times, Jonathan Safran Foer
Everyone has at least one story to tell. I went to art school at 40, leaving a long career in social work to pursue a dream and a different way of listening to those stories.
I get excited every time I lift my camera and focus. I can’t wait to see a story evolve.
How did you get started photography?
My dad was a photographer, painter, illustrator, and filmmaker. He photographed our family, the famous, and led his own advertising agency. He died when I was 3, but his pictures and movies kept him alive. I picked up a camera to document everyone and everything in my life as a way to keep memories close at hand and immortalize everyone. If I took your picture, you would never leave me.
Which photographers and other artist work do admire?
If you guessed that the first photographer/artist I admire would be my dad, you were right. He photographed Charles Lindbergh when he landed in New York and Marlene Dietrich selling war bonds in Ohio, but his true love was photographing my “toe headed” mother and two older sisters.
I admire Mary Ellen Mark. She is a generous teacher who strives to help each of her students do their best. I am indebted for her praise and her criticism. There are so many photographers whose work has inspired me and whom I admire. The famous ones are; Andre Kertesz, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Robert Frank, Duane Michals, Imogen Cunnigham, and the Starn Twins. Closer to home are many amazing men and women in Cleveland, my home, and those I have met at FotoFest, Filter Photo, Santa Fe Workshops, and even on Facebook!
There is so much talent at all of our fingertips now, and it is exciting.
And what about their work inspires you?
To list everything that inspires me would take up too much space! I confess that I am drawn to black-and-white imagery most of all especially work that is created on film. I didn’t mention Bill Schwab, but his work is dreamy. I love work that transports, tweaks my imagination, and/or is instantly mesmerizing. I’d say “unforgettable,” but my memory is less reliable than it was.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you overtime?
Where to begin! A mental slideshow began the second I read this question, so I will answer with the first image that came to mind, and that is Imogen Cunnigham’s, “The Unmade Bed.” When I was thinking of leaving social work, I began a library ritual of checking out photo books. Hers was one of the first books I borrowed, and the impressions she left linger to this day.
If no one saw your work, would you still create it?
With the Internet, it is hard to imagine a world where “no one” would see my work. If you are talking about curators, jurists, and such, I worked for many years without being “seen” in a public venue. I have been making pictures since I was 13, installed a darkroom at 25, and my audience was my family and friends! Nice.
Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day of photography is for you.
Because I am interested in stories, my work is project driven and takes years to finish. Today is going to be a perfect day, because I work with a beautiful young photographer, Tanya Shteinfeld, and I will make portraits of her for “Picture of the Day,” a project she and I initiated a year ago. My Hasselblad is loaded with Tri-X; the light meter is handy. The light today is just right. Perfect Day!
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
This question could just as easily be about all challenges I face. Believing in myself is a challenge whether in raising my sons, being a social worker, or for the last
With the rapid changes in how people make and view a photograph, how do you view this time in the history of photography?
I view it with excitement! Technology gives us so many options, but making a great photograph remains hard no matter how advanced Photoshop becomes! I love all the new possibilities.
How do you over come a creative block?
I don’t think I have ever had one. I am always “creating” something, and one thing leads to another from creating a handmade card to the intensity of designing a book. Inspiration is everywhere!
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
I did a project called, “The Portable Universe” which used a common behavior, the carrying of things, to bind women’s lives without prejudice. From cradle-to-grave, women rarely leave the house empty-handed. They pack a portable universe of things to face the known and the unknown. All women. . . immigrants, exiles, educated, uneducated, old, young, fat, thin. . . . I photographed women all over the world and the things they carried in their bras, laundry bags, and walkers. The first thing women carry is a baby, and the last image in the series was what a woman brought to her daughter’s grave each Christmas.
My art IS the way I see the world. Unique, beautiful, loving, and wondrous.
Please tell us about your new book,”Loving Aunt Ruth”.
When my eldest sister moved to be closer to her daughters, granddaughters, and our other sister, I had a prescient need to get to know Aunt Ruth, the last of our family in the area. Aunt Ruth and I loved each other, but we were not as close as I wanted us to be.
I asked Aunt Ruth if I could photograph her, and she said, “Of course, you can. I will have a tea party and invite all of my friends.” And that’s how it all began. . . .with a party. Photography opened a door for us to grow closer, and we fell in love. Her unconditional love born on film filled a space in both of our lives. We developed a gentle rhythm of photographing with lots of conversations. . . tears too. And food. Lots of food.
I took hundreds of pictures during the three years I photographed Aunt Ruth, but when I put the camera down to listen, something unexpected and magical happened. I learned the guideposts to growing older that I didn’t even know I would need. I asked Aunt Ruth questions about my family, aging, keeping friends, religion, love, and how she stayed determined in the face of loss. Her answer changed my life.
“First, I accept that life isn’t easy. I have my faith. . . but I have a will to live, and that will come from loving people.”
Aunt Ruth made every decision through the lens of love. She prepared extra food “just in case” someone she knew might need a delivered meal. She stocked bathroom shelves with first aid supplies for neighbors, because why not? She said, “yes” to my desire to take her picture, because her heart wouldn’t let her refuse. She saw everyone as worthy, and believed each of us could make a difference. She made one in my life.
The book took over seven years to complete. Gary Chassman, Verve Editions, helped me every step of the way from design to publication. I worked with a team of terrifically talented young women who brought lighting skills, Photoshop savvy, and design prowess to this endeavor, and each of them loved Aunt Ruth by the time we went on press. I am thrilled that a portion of every sale of this book goes to The Intergenerational School in Cleveland, a high-performing free charter school from K-8 that has an amazing mentor program and legions of volunteers from a senior center. Aunt Ruth believed teaching was the most important profession and would have been one had the war not interrupted her education. It is the perfect pairing for our book.
Aunt Ruth lived a love of compassion, so it is important and fitting that our book carry on all that she was. She said, “Make sure you always have love in your life. It is the greatest gift of all.”
I hope the book brings some of that feeling to all who see the photographs, read the narratives, and try the recipes!
What is on the horizon for you?
I hope to be giving lots of book talks!
I just returned from a fellowship at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, where I wrote about a book I am creating with the help of Tanya Shteinfeld, a gifted photographer and graphic artist who was critical to Aunt Ruth’s book as well. Tanya and I are collaborating on designing a book using my father’s photographs and paintings as if he made the book, and I am writing about the process of making a book as if I was my father. Stay tuned!
Thank you for your interest in my work. Thank you very much.
Thank you Honey, for sharing your work and your words.
To learn more about Honey Lazar please visit her page at Honey Lazar.
To learn more about the book Loving Aunt Ruth by Honey Lazar please visit Amazon.
Thank you to the Imogen Cunningham Trust for allowing us to show “The Unmade Bed” by Imogen Cunningham.
To learn more please visit their site. Imogen Cunningham Trust .