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Photographer looks at chain of abuse
By John Seven
North Adams Transcript

WILLIAMSTOWN — Photographer Lodiza Lepore examines the pathology passed from generation to generation through the items of our whimsy — figurines, toys, dolls and more. Lepore’s work, “Circus on Broken Boulevard,” can be viewed at Images Cinema. For the photographs currently on view, Lepore uses various figurines in highly surreal realizations that touch on the ideas of victimization and abuse, and their relationship to fascism. These are long-term, thematic concerns for Lepore, but it was an encounter with the work of German filmmaker Michael Haneke that led her to her current series. “The points I’m trying to bring out in the show have concerned me my entire life,” Lepore said, “but when I saw that film, ‘The White Ribbon,’ it brought things more to the surface, and I started thinking about it and the idea of doing a show bringing out those points.” Lepore is specifically concerned about child abuse, certainly for all the reasons anyone would be, but also for its perpetuation across generations and its effects of societies as the real trickle-down effect from the upper echelons of their structures. “I think it is responsible for the rise of fascism. You see it in governments; you see it everywhere,” Lepore said. The photos represent one aspect of Lepore’s work that happily engulfs itself in an experimental surrealism that offers equal thematic importance to the items being photographed and their juxtaposition together. It’s a constant process for Lepore that has her scanning the world around her for ways to externalize her concepts within the objects. “I just kept thinking of the ideas and how to find props that might explain what I was feeling,” she said. “I was just thinking about it a lot and I spend a

Courtesy photos

Left, Lodiza Lepore’s ‘Foolish Man.’ Above, a photo from Lepore's work in progress documenting Occupy Wall Street. dark room. “I wasn’t particularly interested in photography until I started learning darkroom,” she said. “As soon as I went in the darkroom, I was overcome with this passion to keep doing it practically non-stop. For the longest time, I was practically living in the darkroom because I became obsessed with it.” The darkroom gave Lepore a tactile outlet for her creative work that made the entire process seem more an act of artistry than any other part of it. “If it wasn’t for the darkroom, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Lepore said. “Being in a darkroom makes me feel like I’m part of the creative process. I think that’s one reason I’m not at all attracted to digital photography. I can’t imagine spending my entire life sitting in front of a keyboard.” Lepore’s devotion to darkroom photography is also related to her views on digital photography and how that is shaping people’s visual sophistication. She thinks that the tactile process in the darkroom adds to the appreciation of imagery, and this translates into more potential for the final product. “People are losing the ability to really see things [by] using digital,” said Lepore. “You have these discs and you can shoot 1,000 images. So people are just clicking, clicking, clicking, and picking out something that came out okay instead of really looking at what you’re seeing.” Though her current exhibition highlights her more experimental work, Lepore is quick to point out that her photography covers many other areas, including one of her favorites, photojournalism. The opportunity to create that sort of work doesn’t come up often enough in the area, and Lepore has seized on her enthusiasm for the Occupy Wall Street movement as an outlet for this side of her work. Lepore has traveled to the Occupy encampments in New York City and Boston with the intention of capturing the diversity of the crowds as well as the energy she feels. “I’ve photographed people of all different ages and backgrounds,” she said, “so you can see through the images that all these people aren’t a bunch of people that just escaped from an asylum. They’re just trying to paint a very negative impression of the people who are involved in the movement, so I think if I could get these images up, it’s a way of educating people.” Lepore hopes to trade-off this body of work with her current offerings at Images Cinema soon. The final photo in Lepore’s show brings these two sides of her photography together — it’s the only one included that involves human figures rather than miniatures. A group of girls dressed-up in prom-style gowns move over a crosswalk with balloons in their hands into an uncertain darkness. It captures the center of Lepore’s philosophy and the reason why investigating abuse and the Occupy movement both make perfect sense under her thematic umbrella. “Man just keeps making the same mistakes over and over again, even with all the tragedies that happen,” said Lepore. “Nothing ever changes and you just see these people walking off happily in the sunset with these balloons, no cares at all. Nothing affects what’s happening, they just keep going on in their oblivious state.”

lot of time looking for objects that I can use in my photographs that represent ideas. Traveling around, I’m always on the lookout for something that will convey what I’m thinking.” Sometimes Lepore will buy an object with the thought that it will mean something later on, but more often the thematic connection is immediate and the object has a home in her visual thought process. “I’m always thinking about things that bother me about the world,” said Lepore, “and so, if I see something, it will strike me right away if it fits in to an idea that I want to capture on film.” Lepore likes to work with the miniatures, partly for the surreal quality they lend to any photographic statement, but also because they function as direct extensions of her own psyche, something only marginally possible when other people are included in the work. “When you have these figures, you can fully do as you please and you have nobody to answer to,” Lepore said. “You are just creating your own world there

and it’s a lot easier for me, not having to deal with anybody else and arranging things exactly as I want. You don’t have to worry about them moving or getting tired. I feel like I can have poetic license with these figures. It’s just hard when you’re working with people.” Lepore first started taking photographs in the early 1990s in Rochester, N.Y., where she worked for the University of Rochester. A layoff gave her ample time to delve into the craft, and she took some classes where she was required to constantly take photos. “They wanted us to shoot at least six rolls a day. For me, that was no problem,” Lepore said. An open call for a coffee-table book to be published by the City of Rochester saw her first professional sale of 18 photographs, and gave her the encouragement to move forward. For Lepore, though, the real interest wasn’t entirely the external focus of being a photographer and more grounded in the darkness than the light of day that created her exposures. She was married to the

Great new books for kids
By John Seven
North Adams Transcript

Books “Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking” by Phillipe Coudray “Nina in That Makes Me Mad” by Hilary Knight (Toon Books) Now an imprint of Candlewick Press, Toon Books forges ahead with the same simple quality that it’s always had displayed in these two new titles.

The Kiosk
French cartoonist Coudray offers a series of comic strip vignettes that are surprisingly cerebral in their tone. Benjamin is a bear, and his encounters with other animals in the wild bring forth some surreal and even some hilariously brutal conclusions. Coudray is also a master of illustrating the sequential form to kids with his perfect pacing and the time unaccounted for between the panels. It’s a great book for kids who can settle in and approach a book as an exploration. For Nina, children’s book legend Knight — illustrator of the Eloise books — adapts a text by Steven Kroll into a hybrid effort examining childhood anger. Each sequence illustrates the particular incident the anger brings on but is heralded in by a full-page that evokes more traditional picture books. Together, the pages add up to an empowering portrayal of the dark side of kids that validates it even as it suggests that understanding adults might be able to offer truly productive suggestions to quell the ill feelings. “Drawing From Memory” by Allen Say (Scholastic) In this touching picture book memoir, acclaimed children’s book author and illustrator Allen Say recounts his youth in Japan before and after World War II, a time during which he

Image courtesy of Toon Books

Image courtesy of First Second Books

Image courtesy of Scholastic

Image courtesy of First Second Books

worked to become an artist. Say’s desire to be an artist survived the disapproval of his father, as well as war and occupation. A newspaper article about one boy’s long trek to gain an apprenticeship with a famous Manga artist inspired Say to seek out the same, and the story follows those years of learning his craft until Say’s eventual trip to America. In having his story unfold, Say employs a number of narrative and graphic mediums depending on what any given section demands. There are traditional picture book segments, with photography, sidebars and even comics pages that reveal the small conversational moments behind some of the bigger turning points. Say’s story is filled with thoughtful wisdom that should speak to any kid about what it takes not only to embrace one’s creativity, but make a life of it — and his skill at telling the story is definite proof of the sureness of that wisdom. “Bake Sale” by Sara Varon (First Second Books) Sara Varon returns with an innocent-seeming confection that like her previous graphic, “Robot Dreams,” manages to pack a sophisticated emotional message within its simple presentation. In Varon’s story, Cupcake is the local baker in a New York City populated by large food

items. Attempting to juggle life — Cupcake is also in a band — and achieve his dreams, Cupcake gets some advice and help from his friend Eggplant that involves sacrifice and commitment. The goal? To take a trip to Turkey to visit Eggplant’s aunt, who is friends with Cupcake’s baking hero, Turkish Delight. Cupcake dreams of the possibilities of this meeting and gets enterprising in raising the funds to get there, but also discovers that life throws a few curveballs that can disrupt the best of plans and require inventive solutions and humility. As usual, Varon’s cartoonish vigor couples with her patient depth in characterization to pull her story out of the expected one-dimensional presentation into a fully-formed world — and it’s to her credit that she can achieve this with one filled with walking, talking food. Such is Varon’s graceful sense of humor — and the lessons she offers are as friendly as they are profound. Including several recipes that Cupcake uses throughout the book — Varon is an enthusiastic baker, just like her character — this is a great book that reveals to kids the beauty of baking as well as the demands of friendship. “Nursery Rhyme Comics” edited by Chris Duffy (First Second Books) Such a simple concept, but with complicated results, all

positive, “Nurse Rhyme Comics” is exactly what it says it is. That title might be an acceptable way of presenting what sort of material is contained within, but the level of the contributors is another thing entirely, and what they add to such brief and well-trod material shows clearly why they are

at the top of their game. Compiler Duffy has fashioned the sort of multi-faceted collection that finds alternative cartoonist Lille Carre lending a primitive version of her creepy style to “Song A Song of Sixpence” alongside Jules Feiffer’s frantic “Girls and Boys Come Out Play.” Hellboy creator

Mike Mignola grimly realizes “Solomon Grundy,” while the always delightful Sara Varon imbues “Mary Had A Little Lamb” with a quirky sweetness. Other highlights include Gilbert Hernandez’s “Humpty Dumpty,” David McCaulay’s “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” James Sturm’s “Jack Be Nimble” and Marc Rosenthal’s “Yon Yonson,” which is reimagined as a tour de force of meta-absurdism. The idea is to reframe these classics by offering them personalities and narratives that speak to a modern kid, particularly a funky one. Nursery rhymes don’t have to appear stuffy or outdated — they’re nonsensical, brutal, sarcastic, heartbreaking and harrowing, and the sequential versions here bring out all that and much more.

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