Loli Kantor’s solo exhibition And a Voice Was Heard opens today and continues until November 12 at B. Hollyman Gallery in Austin, Texas.
In honor of the exhibition, Loli and I chatted about her career and the work in the show.
SUSAN BURNSTINE: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?
LOLI KANTOR: I started about ten years ago after raising my three children and a long carreer as a physiotherapist. Having always been fascinated with live theater and performers and their creative process. i asked permission from a local and unique outdoor theater to photograph during rehearsals and backstage. This developed into a five year project. At the same time I also photographed several dance companies, The Van Cliburn foundation and worked as a freelance photographer for our local newspaper, mostly with the performing arts. in 2001, I took a workshop at Hampshire college in Amherst , done by DoubleTake magazine, headed by Robert Coles. It was a heaven of documentary people : photographers, film makers, writers, poets and human right activists. I also attended a master class with Mary Ellen Mark.
After 10 incredible days there, i realized that this is my passion and i no longer could continue working at the hospital. my husband just finished his residency in medicine and encouraged me to resign from my two job career as a P.T and devote myself to photographic art.
SB: Did you study photography formally or are you self-taught?
LK: In 1998 I took an informal weekend darkroom class and continued to work on my own in a communal darkroom at night. I read everything I could put my hands on for photography and printing. In 2001, After my first exhibition, I decided to enroll in a junior college class to fill in gaps, get my work critiqued and spend time around other photographers. I took three independent study classes and worked with some fantastic mentors whom I continued to be in touch with. From then on I started taking workshops to advance myself and went to portfolio reviews which helped me with clarity the direction of my work.
SB: You photographed this body of work between 2004-2007 in Poland, Ukraine and Czech Republic. What personally motivated you to begin shooting these images?
LK: I took a photography Workshop in Prague in 2002, which gave me the first impression about Europe’s memories after the Holocaust. I have been wanting to touch this subject for years but was not sure how to begin and how to approach it. In summer of 2004 I volunteered to work at Plaszow, a former Nazi labor camp in Krakow for one month. This gave me the possibility to stay in Poland long enough that I could began researching my parents’ and their family’s whereabouts during the WWII and the Holocaust and do a preliminary aquaintance with Poland today. I made photographs of the subject of the camps and the subject of the presence of absence, i.e camps and monuments. But I felt the need to find living Jews who remained in the east and never left. What i heard of as the remnant jewish communities. I had a contact who gave me access to this in ukraine and the following fall i headed that way. What I thought would be a one year project turned into a 6 year documentary project.
SB: Viewing this work, it feels as if you are quite intimate with the subjects in these images. Did you live amongst your subjects and become acquainted during the time you photographed this work? Do you remain in contact with your subjects?
LK: I spent some time with the subjects, some more than others. The intimacy was both a matter of time spent with them, my intimate feeling towards them and my understanding of them and the stories they told, both the people and the monuments of the lost. At that point yes, i already established a close relationship with some of the people in the works.
SB: Did you find that shooting this work was cathartic in some sense?
LK: Yes, to the point that now it is almost hard to show some of the work because it is a very intimate account between myself and the places and people I photographed. I think that I am too exposed in places that i had already dealt with my own pain and now i take it out again and have to deal with it again.
SB: What are you working on now?
LK: I am putting together a story about my parents and my beloved brother, all whom have died at an early age and all whom I spent very little time with but have deep memories of and strong emotions. I am working with found documents, original archival photographs and new images which I am making. The challenge is to make this into a universal story and not merely a personal account. At this point I am gathering material, reading, researching…
Loli has several upcoming solo exhibitions, including:
And if a Voice Was Heard, B. Hollyman Gallery. Austin, Texas. October 4- November 12, 2011. Opening reception is October 6, 6-8pm. Artist Talk: October 13, 6pm
Antenna. PhotoNola 2010 3rd prize winner exhibition. December 10, 2011 - January 8, 2012. More information at this link.
To see more of Loli’s work, pop over to her website.