For three years, American photographer Lydia Panas
invited families to stand before her lens. She was curious to see what would happen. Nothing was deliberate or planned. These diverse groupings of children and adults, relatives and close friends, stood graciously before her, taking positions in relationship to each other, and to the camera. The resulting images from the project are engaging and highly charged psychological family portraits that are gathered together in the artists debut monograph, The Mark of Abel, (Kehrer Verlag, March 2012).
The portraits by Panas do not represent individuals as much as they explore questions about how we see ourselves, what we feel, and how we connect to each other. It is the details in the images that provide us with clues to understand the subtle nature of her work, and her ability to masterfully depict the delicate underpinnings of family dynamics. Her subjects are people she knows family, friends, and acquaintances. She asks them to bring along their own family members or close friends people with whom they share a history.
Panass subjects arrange themselves naturally, with minimal direction. She carefully watches their postures, gestures, and glances. It is a combination of strength and vulnerability that she is looking for, and that makes her respond. They are complex emotions that guide us, writes Panas. Sometimes what we try to conceal is the most revealing. I am interested in what we know, but do not see. My intention with this series is to show us ourselves.
Panas photographs her subjects in beautiful light against the lush, green landscape of her farm in southeastern Pennsylvania. The groupings are comprised of couples, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, friends and family, siblings, and at times, individuals. Panas is particularly interested in young people growing up, and the transition between childhood and adulthood when we are searching for our own identities. The book includes portraits of her daughter and two sons. The photographs in The Mark of Abel have a magnetic quality, and an intensity that draws the viewer in to ponder the stories of these families and close friends, and their relationships to each other.
Curator, historian, and writer George Slade, and American novelist, Maile Meloy, both contribute an exquisitely rendered essay that provide further context for this stunning body of work.
Lydia Panas is an award-winning photographer whose work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and internationally. Her work from her acclaimed series Falling from Grace
is currently on view at the Athens Photo Festival 2011. She was one of nine artists to be selected by Houston FotoFest curators for the prestigious International Discoveries Exhibition in 2007, and won First Prize for the Publishers Choice Singular Image at CENTER, Santa Fe, NM. Her work is included in numerous collections, including Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Brooklyn Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. Lydia has degrees from Boston College, the School of Visual Arts, and New York University/International Center of Photography. She has also received a Whitney Museum Independent Study Fellowship. She is represented by Wall Space Gallery in Santa Barbara.
Maile Meloy is the author of the story collections Half in Love and Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, which was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2009 by The New York Times Book Review, and a best book of the year by The Los Angeles Times and Amazon. She is also the author of the novels Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter, and of a novel for young readers, The Apothecary. Meloy's stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Granta, among other publications. She has received The Paris Review's Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a California Book Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2007, she was chosen as one of Granta's 21 Best Young American Novelists. She lives in Los Angeles.
George Slade is a writer, historian, and curator of photography based in Minnesota. His essays and reviews appear extensively online, (including on his own website, re:photographica) and in print. He received a 2007 Warhol Foundation Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant Program award for his on-going project, Looking Homeward, linking memory, history, and archival photographs.
Lydia Panas is fearless in confronting human subjects, and frankly curious about human interaction, but her interest is tender. Hidden under the hood of her field camera, she gives her models space to reveal themselves, and their connections to each other, and they do in all their complex glory. novelist, Maile Meloy