Lara Zankoul Cold as White Stone, 2016
Lara Zankoul is a storyteller whose magical parables mix motifs, canons, and stories from all over the world, to form an enchanting series of conceptual photographic work that seems to transcend national borders. The self-taught Lebanese photographer’s view of the world is in part of a reflection of the artist’s own experience, a catharsis of sorts, speaking in a language of intimate narrative that seems both allegorical and classical.
Much of the award-winning photographer’s images incorporate motifs from a mythical landscape, such as Cold as White Stone –a series of eerie wintery landscapes populated with beings straight out of a Greek chorus or perhaps a somberly elegant Ferdinand Hodler picture. Long lines and a stark black and white palette recall the verticality of theatrical sets of Elektra. Strange how Max Reinhardt like spaces still seem to permeate our idea of the modern, of the disillusioned, of the mystical, and most importantly the modern. Nevertheless, these are subjects who express more than tragedy on the heroic scale, but often a sort of epic exhaustion, a sort of bloodletting that leaves only shells. There is an unapologetic dramatic element that enchants and charms, we fall in love with all this strangeness and metaphor.
Feminine Side, The Unseen Series
Conversely, set in tiny rooms, The Unseen (Frenemies) series are narratives about the secret lives of others, and the duplicitous nature of concealment and truth, shame, status, and despair. Much of the work responds to the experience of betrayal, raising questions about truth and culpability, and the fallacy that appearances are everything.
“The pictures are the product of the accumulation of experiences linked to the disillusionment with people’s transparency. After all, sometimes people are more transparent than others, yet everyone has things to hide, be it consciously or subconsciously.”
As Cold as White Stone
RB: Please share a little about your technique etc. What cameras, processes, or tools do you use?
LZ: The majority of my work consists of finding, preparing and building the right setting for my pictures. I use my Canon 5d mark iii, and for my set up, Broncolor lighting equipment, and some light color and temperature tweaking for the final image.
RB: Much of your work seems to approach a mythical landscape, such As Cold as White Stone –reminding one of allegorical painting, tell me more if you can.
LZ: I often try to find and portray mysticism in my work through my choices, be it the location, the choice of colors or the characters’ body language. The series As Cold As Stone, grew out a time studying (residency) in Italy. During this time, stone became a crucial element in my work, and for these works I intended to deconstruct and remake Italian marble figural work, reducing it to linear form.
RB: I am fascinated by the cinemagraphs, they are so simple yet have a certain fairy tale quality –how did you come to make this work?
LZ: I realized that animated GIFs are all over the internet, and I wanted to create something particularly conceptual and artistic with technique. The idea or concept behind these works is a search for freedom.
RB: How do you think your experience and sense of self informs your artwork or viewpoint?
LZ: My artworks are very personal. They are always inspired by my real life experiences. I am highly sensitive to emotions and psychology, and chose to display that in my photography. Producing photography is like a catharsis for me.