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Portfolio & Interview – Amy Friend on Dare alla Luce

Portfolio & Interview Amy Friend on Dare alla Luce Are we stardust? This question is posed by Canadian photographer Amy Friend as an image title for one of her new works in the Dare alla Luce series, and yet also serves to aptly represent the underlying theme and tone contained within the project.
March 28/42 17 Years, 2015  – © Amy Friend

Are we stardust? This question is posed by Canadian photographer Amy Friend as an image title for one of her new works in the Dare alla Luce series, and yet also serves to aptly represent the underlying theme and tone contained within the project. Originally introduced to the Photographer's Showcase in 2014, Friend began work on Dare alla Luce in 2012 by first attempting to embroider vintage photographs, but while holding one image up she quickly realized the light pouring though the photograph's pierced surface was more dynamic. Quickly pivoting the project to rephotograph the effects created by her technique, Friend's Dare alla Luce has complex relationships with light, permanence, nostalgia, and memory as they relate to common photographic practice.  photo-eye Gallery's Lucas Shaffer recently interviewed Amy Friend to find out more about the series, how it has evolved, and where it is headed.

Are we Stardust?, 2014 – © Amy Friend

Lucas Shaffer:     How is the project progressing? What has changed since you first started making these images?

Amy Friend:     The project is ready to become “something else” — what I mean by this is I am responding to the photographs differently than a few years ago when the project began. I have become more and more interested in the light and less interested in the what is occupied in the photographs.  Now to contradict myself, I am also more intrigued by the individuals I come across in the photos. There is a certain essence to an image that hits you and won’t let you go. I allow guttural responses to remain. I love the quick jolt and unexpected response it instigates.

LS:     Why is the light of greater interest for you? How do you view the light in your images and what is it doing?

AF:     There are many consistencies in the process of making this work with the light being the most constant element. As I consider my methodologies in this series and in earlier work, light has a strong weight in terms of concept and application. In the Dare alla Luce series we encounter light several times — the light that reflected off of the subjects in the original image (as it is necessary to create the image), again as it filters through the manipulated perforations in the photos and it is present in the final image. This amalgamation is interesting to me. Aside from this description, it is the layering of meaning that occurs when we look at photographs. They change with each “visitation” and that is where the idea of light as a portal comes forward. Light mediates meaning; it plays with the technical aspects of photography, the theories that reference how light is “an umbilical cord.” But, most of all I am interested in its potential for multiple “reads,” it keeps my interest as it disallows a full viewing of the original image and (I think) lures us to consider the source of the light.

Before the War, 2014 – © Amy Friend

LS:     On your website your statement lists the work in paradoxical terms – the images are “fragments of everything and nothing.” Can you elaborate on that statement?

AF:     I view these photographs (somewhat) as a marker of an entire life, an “I have been here” statement and yet everything else is lost. Most, if not all information about the photograph is absent. This is sometimes a consequence of the “seller,” they remove photos from an album and they are dispersed. We see only a fragment of a much larger history. I relate this to life in general, we, those of us that are here now, only experience an infinitesimal piece of existence, whatever that means.

LS:     Are your images attempting to illuminate a connection between people that is outside the present? The here and now?

AF:     In a way, yes… but what I am most interested in is the complexity of time and the layers of meaning that occur when you engage with a visual form of the past — in this case a photograph. I am interested in how we negotiate the meeting of “here and now” and “the past.”

 LS:     I see these images as an intriguing combination of nostalgia and the supernatural. Are you thinking about either of these while making the pictures?
Isolde, 2015 – © Amy Friend

AF:     Yes, I think the work beckons this type of encounter. I see myself in the work. I am reminded of those I have loved. I mourn and celebrate during the process. Yet I am always thinking about the medium of photography. It is so specific. 

LS:     What do you mean by that?

AF:     Photography brings with it a certain type of encounter. With that said, this encounter is nuanced by the actual subjects and technical processes related to the photographs. The connection to the “real” is of course questioned but still an unshakeable layer that is tied to the medium.

LS:     I think that is interesting because the source images, especially the people, in your work feel familiar yet anonymous.  Can you speak to that?

AF:     They are all anonymous to me, (although, I have worked with “familial archives” in the past). I wonder if that familiarity comes from my own preference for the photos I choose to work with or for what is available in the market? It may also be that these images are all of everyday people, as far as I know. That commonality may be what feels familiar?  As I write this, I think about my choices and how I genuinely am curious about the people in the photos and about the photographer who shot the image as well. I see them from multiple points of view.

LS:     What do you like most about making these images? What keeps the project going for you?

AF:     I am interested in the subtle fluctuations of my focus with each piece. As I have searched for the photos I work with, I have also learned a great deal about what is collected and why. It is interesting to learn about this vernacular aspect from my point of view.

Atlantic City 1948 (Part 2), 2014 – © Amy Friend

LS:     What’s next? Where is Dare alla Luce headed?

AF:     I have reached a place with this work where I will slow down with it and let it rest for a while. I have been so immersed in it for a few years now that I am ready to do something new. I know there is unfinished business with the ideas I have, but I like to let things ferment. Time will tell where it goes, but I know, as I mentioned earlier, that the “light” is at the forefront of my thoughts for the new chapter of this work. As for what is next specifically? I am in the throws of exhibiting and continuing to work on a new series titled Assorted Boxes of Ordinary Life. I have some of the work up on my website now and I will update that with more work shortly. This new work was shot off of projections on a selection of vintage mirrors.

LS:     Who are your favorite artists? Is there any one in particular you’re drawn to for inspiration. 

AF:     Oh gosh, I am inspired by so many things and artists. I will just set down a random list as it suits the way that my own thoughts work when it comes to inspiration. Anish Kapoor, Petah Coyne, rain, stars, water, my daughter’s fascination with the moon, Susan Derges, John Chiara, Masao Yamamoto, birds, dirt, sky, Chris, McCaw, Sara Anne Johnson, Osheen Harruthoonyan, Lhasa De Sela, Pablo Neruda…
Winter, 1931, 2013 – © Amy Friend

View Dare alla Luce - Portfolio 1 (2014)

View Dare alla Luce – Portfolio 2 (2016)

Read More about Amy Friend

For additional information, and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly at 505-988-5152 x 121 or

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