QCP is taking books of sixteen Australian photo-media artists to PhotoBook Independent (1 – 3 May 2015). This series of focus interviews gives an insight into the selected artists.
How did you get into photography?
I don’t have a nostalgic story about knowing from a young age that I wanted to be a photographer. It wasn’t like that for me.
I studied Journalism and Communications in my first university degree straight out of high school, and I thought I enjoyed it, but later decided I did not want to go down that career path. However, doing unpaid work experience at a couple of Brisbane newspapers proved valuable in an unexpected way because it led me to photography in that when I was not writing copy, I would spend time with staff in the photography department, and would sometimes join them on shoots. Having always been solely focused on text, using the visual as a mode of communication was a new concept for me. I wanted to learn more, so I applied for a Bachelor of Photography before I’d even finished my Journalism degree… Though I did take a break in between the two courses, during which I lived and travelled overseas for 18 months.
How did you arrive at the decision to create a photo book, and how is working with a book different from working on an exhibition?
I felt that the intimate nature of Return to me called for an equally intimate experience in viewing the work, which led me to pursue the book as my means of presenting it. I wanted to create something akin to a diary or journal due to the almost secret story the work tells. I wanted to avoid the transience inherent in showing work as prints on a wall. I wanted to negate the clinical and impersonal experience that I myself often feel in the context of the gallery space. For me, the book better honours the fragility of the narrative.
I believe the tactility and mobility of books overall is integral to the way this project is received, and it’s important to me that I can give a physical object, rather than say a web link, to those who want to see the work.
When compared with working on an exhibition, making a book teaches a whole new set of skills because existing skills, which are standard in our practice, such as editing and sequencing, take on different meanings in the book form.
Tell us a bit about your book featured at PhotoBook Independent.
Return to me is a deeply personal account of a family in transition. It tells the story of coping and at times, not coping in the wake of my father’s failed suicide attempt and stroke leading to dementia. The project developed out of my own lived experience of trauma, and it deals with themes of family systems, life disruption, and social stigma.
I self-published this book in 2013, but have continued to photograph my family since then, so this work is still ongoing and evolving.
For more information about Lindsay Varvari, please visit her website.
Banner image: Return to me cover