Wavepool – Tell me about the spaces that you choose to photograph. What are you looking for in the landscape?
John Lusis – The spaces I choose to photograph are two fold: firstly, I am looking for structures where there is a clashing of the old and the new, for example a house that has been repurposed as a law firm and in the background there are new apartments. Secondly, vernacular structures that show a history of adaptation that makes them appear odd through colors or morphed forms of the buildings. I have an affinity for these strangely shaped houses and main streets, which have changed their initial intention. They exhibit a sense of desire to move forward with what means they have around them, which I find humble and admirable. This shifting and repurposing interests me as well, because it changes the initial meaning and shows over time what we think is new will eventually be overtaken. The tension between the old and the new exemplifies the desire for the new but a reminder that what is new will eventually be replaced.
Wavepool – In addition to photographing the structures as a whole, you sometimes focus on smaller surface details. Do you see those kind of images functioning in the same way as the more broad investigations? Are there any differences?
John Lusis – The details are an attempt to engage with structures in an in depth way. It sort of came about one day when I wanted to know what the outsides of these places felt like. Many of these more detailed photographs focus on windows as well. I am fascinated with windows as means to look out of a building, or anthropomorphizing them as eyes. An illuminated window at night stands vigil waiting for its occupants to come home. When blocked or obscured the building loses its ability to stand guard, which comes up in many of my photographs. This loss is also related to the formation of commercial structures next to older structures, for instance, when a house is transformed into a commercialized space the window is often covered up. I would like both the details of a building’s façade and its use, or non-use, of windows to underscore the ideas behind my work as a whole.
Wavepool – Many of your images maintain a sense of anonymity. Is this important to you?
John Lusis – Anonymity comes out of the fact that I focus on structures rather than concerning myself with the place. Specific cities for a long time were the basis of my work but what kept happening was I would look at the same oddly constructed buildings. It’s important to me that these places maintain a sense of anonymity because I prefer to see it as a larger symptom of the way we shape the built environment of our cities.
Wavepool – Is research involved in your process at all? Do you set out with something in mind, whether it be the way an image might look or what kind of structure you’d like to track down?
John Lusis – The research I do isn’t on the specific places that I photograph, although there is a lot of Google street view involved, but with theories concerning the production and reproduction of space within cities. I am constantly looking at buildings as I move through the city in my car making notes and going back to them. I often go back a couple of times if I don’t get the light right or wasn’t a fan of the composition in the first place. I have different agendas depending on which part of the project I’d like to tackle that day. So I may just focus on homes, which have a vernacular look, or other days I’ll look at older buildings converging with newer structures. I think a lot about the capitalist commercial production of space as well, which is related to the reconstruction and production of the outmoded. I then apply these theories in the picture making process.
Wavepool – What artists, both past and present, do you see your work being in dialogue with?
John Lusis – I’d like to think that my work is in conversation with photographers like Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams for the way in which they look at what we are creating within the built environment. Also, the work of Richard Nickel for what we leave behind in the wake of reconstructing cities. Stylistically, Bob Thall has had a big influence on the way in which I construct pictures. A few contemporary photographers I enjoy/admire are Felipe Russo’s Centro in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Daniel Shea’s Blisner about de-industrialized cities in Illinois.
Wavepool – What do you hope viewers take away from your work?
John Lusis – Mainly, I hope viewers see that what is new will eventually be overtaken by another new, in a constant cycle of shifting and repurposing of the built environment. Then, seeing the new referencing the past and borrowing form and replacing it, questioning whether or not the new is as good. Further I like to ask, of these structures how many could still have the opportunity to be repurposed rather than being replaced with cheaply constructed suburban strip malls?
To see more, please visit John’s website.