"In Their Purse Pockets"
Molly Lamb holds an MFA in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and a BA in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her work has been exhibited nationally, most recently at the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Center for Photography at Woodstock, the Houston Center for Photography, the Annenberg Space for Photography, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. In 2015, she was named one of Photo District News’ 30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch as well as one of LensCulture’s 50 Emerging Talents. She was awarded an Artist Fellowship grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, she was a finalist for the New Orleans Photo Alliance’s Clarence John Laughlin Award, and she has been a Critical Mass finalist the past two years. She currently teaches art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and she teaches photography at Simmons College and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She is represented by Rick Wester Fine Art, New York. Her solo exhibition “Ghost Stepping” is currently on display at the Danforth Art Museum in Framingham.
"He Asked Me To Name Him, Red Bear"
- How did the series Ghost Stepping begin? Do you remember the first photograph you took for the project?
ML: There wasn’t a specific point at which this series began. It was a long, gradual process. I started photographing ideas related to it before I realized that’s what I was doing. Because I had been working as a newspaper photographer, I was so used to thinking about photographing the lives of others that it took a while for me to think about photographing aspects of my own life, or to understand that I was doing it without realizing it.
When I started graduate school at MassArt, I knew that I wanted to focus on photographing ideas about my family history. It was at MassArt that I really began to flesh out all of the ideas that went into this series. My first pictures were mostly of my family’s belongings and they looked as if I had just found them and photographed them that way. Over time, I began to experiment with bringing myself more into each image and including my own ideas and emotions about my history in the way that I worked.
- What artists influence you and how do they influence your thinking, creating and career path?
ML: It’s difficult for me to name specific artists who influence me because there are so many and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out. Because of social media and online publications, I encounter and am influenced by visual ideas constantly. I love that. I also attend as many artist lectures, exhibitions, and opening receptions as I can.
As I was working on this series, I spent a lot of time looking at the work of photographers who were thinking about family history, memory, and loss as well as photographers who were photographing objects and photographing the landscape as metaphor. I was inspired by Rebecca Norris Webb’s book My Dakota,Susan Worsham’s series “Bittersweet on Bostwick Lane,”Jitka Hanzlova’s series “Forest,” and David Favrod’s series “Gaijin.”Rinko Kawauchi’s work always inspires me as well.
A little more than a year ago, I began teaching art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It’s been an amazing experience and an incredible influence on me. I’m able to absorb artwork gradually and consistently because of spending so much time in the galleries. I think a lot about how light is portrayed, about how much emotion is held in a gesture, and about how ideas are visualized. I’ve also learned a tremendous amount about the artwork and the history of art.
“In The Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11” was a photography exhibition at the MFA that affected me deeply. Seventeen photographers were included and each responded to the earthquake, the tsunami, and the Fukushima disaster in such different ways - so beautifully, so movingly. The wall text with each photographer’s work was also very powerful because it included the artists’ thoughts and experiences. I spent a lot of time in these galleries yet each time felt like an entirely new experience. Lieko Shiga’s photographs in that exhibition really stuck with me and have been on my mind as I’ve been making new work.
I also love words - books, stories, poems, and conversations. And I love how words and photographs harmonize. I read as much as I can and it has become very important to me to include poetry with the photographs that I’m making. The words and photographs exist simultaneously for me but each brings something different to the story. I think of “Ghost Stepping” as a chapter, the first in a larger body of work that explores my family history and the influence that it has on me. Each chapter incorporates poetry and my hope is to compile a larger story about my family history with many chapters, each a vignette of photographs and poems.
- Your color palette is mostly soft & subtle – what influences you as you photograph to make these choices?
ML: I think the color palette has developed because I photograph intuitively. As I’ve been working on these ideas about my family history, I’ve realized that I think of the light and the colors as characters in the stories that I’m telling. I look for them and recognize them like long lost friends. And I think a lot of that also has to do with my own personal memories and history. I spent a lot of time outside or wishing that I could be outside as I was growing up in the South. I was always watching the light, the plays of the light, the gestures that the light graced, and the colors of it all. And I still do.
- You recently attended the portfolio reviews at Photolucida can you share a few of your experiences from that weekend?
ML: I’ve been to two portfolio reviews so far, Review Santa Fe and Photolucida. Both have been incredible experiences that have broadened my world. We’re so lucky as photographers to have gatherings like these - to be able to meet photographers and reviewers whose work we love, to hear their thoughts about our work, and to be able to talk about life with others who think about and express ideas about it visually. My life has changed and grown in so many positive ways because of both of these portfolio reviews. I can’t recommend them enough.
"Their Feathers Seemed Like Omens"
- You currently teach at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Simmons College, and at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. What do you enjoy most about teaching?
ML: Teaching is another layer of experiences that influences me as a person and an artist. It’s also a way for me to give back. Art has always been a resource for me for thinking about the world and processing my ideas and experiences. My hope is that I’m able to help, even in some small way, those who are looking for ways to visually express the ideas and experiences that are important to them.
- What are some tips/advice you would give to someone just starting out in photography?
ML: One of the reasons that the portfolio reviews and photography festivals that I’ve attended have been such positive forces in my life is the community of creative people around me that they have helped develop and foster. I think that nurturing one’s artistic community is crucial - supporting and encouraging each other as well as exchanging thoughts and ideas that inspire us and help us grow.
I also find it helpful to remember to simply be true to myself. Everything is a process. Life is a process; we’re always learning. Being open minded and curious to learn and grow, even when I am uncertain and wish everything was crystallized in my mind, is incredibly important to me. Otherwise, life would feel stagnant and pale instead of vibrant and lush.