F-Stop Magazine: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?
Liz Calvi: I was always making art and knew that I wanted to be an artist so I went to art school. I was majoring in illustration at Pratt Institute and at the time seeing a girl who was in a photo class. She let me use her camera and showed me how to develop black and white film. Her teacher, Paul McDonough invited me to their next critique. I was seduced by the way the camera allowed an instant exploration of the world. Paul really encouraged me to pursue photography and greatly influenced/inspired me to really look at and interact with the world. After that critique I switched my major to photography.
F-Stop: The “Documentary” issue of F-Stop includes your project “Lost Boys” can you tell us about this project? What led to you creating this project?
LC: I started taking photographs of Lost Boys when a few of my good friends came back to my hometown and were living in their parent’s homes. At first, I photographed them as a way to reconnect. I spent a lot of time talking with them and their parents and found it interesting how differently parent’s reactions varied to their boys living back at home with them. This got me thinking about male gender identity in relation to the American Dream today. After that, I photographed as many guys as I could find in similar situations.
F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images or your creative process more generally?
LC: I use photography to interact with the world and am constantly photographing my life and my reactions to situations. When I feel my emotions turning into a project or series then I will sometimes set parameters for myself while always following my intuition and leaving room for chance. For my Lost Boys, I started photographing old friends I knew from my childhood as they returned back to my suburban hometown. Once I knew I wanted to photograph just boys I intentionally started contacting other boys in my hometown that I did not know as well from high school or whom were friends of my friends. I also wandered around a lot looking for boys in public places whom I felt could fit in the series and would talk to them to see if they would work.
F-Stop: What do you hope people see or feel or perhaps learn when they look at these photographs?
LC: I hope that on some emotional level they react or relate to these boys. I hope that it makes people question more about our society than it necessarily provides answers. Specifically I hope it makes people question the attitudes & desires of these boys as well as gender stereotypes the media and art history has placed on males and females, whether they are artist or subject.
F-Stop: What is the intended “end” or “purpose” for the project? (i.e, book, multi media piece, etc)
LC: I love books so much. I have always loved writing and often write about photographing my projects in a journalistic style. I would love to make a book incorporating the photographs and writing.
F-Stop: What are you working on now?
LC: I’m constantly working on a few things. I am photographing my brother as he’s been growing up and finding his identity. That’s more of a long-term project, he’s 16 now. We are going on a road trip this summer so along with shooting him I’m going to shoot from intuition and see what kind of a project forms. I don’t really research or plan out my projects until after I shoot around and feel something. I have been thinking a lot about the female identity.
F-Stop: What photographers or other artists inspire you?
F-Stop: What is the best career advice you have ever received?
LC: I feel very fortunate, I’ve received a lot of great advice from so many generous photographers. Some one said to me something along the lines of “don’t ever compromise yourself for your art. Your view of the world is what separates and should define you.” I think staying true to oneself and the practice is one of the hardest and best thing one can strive for.
For more of Liz Calvi’s work: www.lizcalvi.com