Interview: Stacy Kranitz
By Chelsea Lewis
Stacy Kranitz is a photography graduate student at LSU. Her work is diverse, ranging from landscapes to portraiture covering themes of violence and the ‘gray’ area of life. Kranitz’s photography has been featured in several publications including ESPN magazine, the New York Times magazine, and Spin.
Manchac Magazine: Where are you from?
Stacy Kranitz: I grew up so many places it wouldn’t be fair to say them all, but I’ve spent the last ten years between New York and Los Angeles and Louisiana, like a triangle.
MM: What brings you to Baton Rouge?
SK: Well, it’s my love affair with Louisiana that started about five years ago. It sort of got under my skin, and I knew that I had to come back and seriously focus on things that I really wanted to do here. I moved to a small town up above Lafayette two months before hurricane Katrina.
MM: What do your parents think that you do?
SK: I think they do think I’m a photographer. They get incredibly excited when I publish something in magazines that they know about. So, if something’s in ESPN or Entertainment Weekly, my father will run to the store and buy twelve copies. He couldn’t be happier. Sometimes I haven’t even seen that actual tear sheet, so it’s really rather sweet, but beyond that they choose to ignore a lot of the more challenging things that I work on.
MM: Let’s talk about your work. What are some common themes and inspirations?
SK: In some ways they’re one and the same. I’m really interested in the murky gray area between right and wrong, black and white. So I’m always looking for things that on outside appear to be very wrong, but yet when you get into them there’s a real mixture of values. It’s kind of about empathy and tolerance and understanding. I think the largest theme in my work is violence. It’s always been a very overt subject for me, the theater of violence, but I’m now trying to pull away. So much of my work is very aggressive, and I’m trying to pull away from that a little bit while I’m here. We’ll see it’s very hard for me to step back
MM: Where do your inspirations come from?
SK: Growing up I was very righteous as a child, and I think that was something that I always found very problematic and very painful. So it led me to really want to look into that area in between. My first role model was Leni Riefenstahl. I liked everything about her life, even the fact that she had a boyfriend forty years her junior for many years. He was maybe forty, and she was eighty. She got married to him right before she died, but they were together for thirty years. She’s very easy to love and hate.
Untitled, (Target Unknown)
MM: Do you have a favorite subject matter?
SK: Violence. Louisiana. I’m definitely drawn to the portrait and the human image, just always been that way, but I’ve always implemented landscape on some level, and animals, plants, food.
MM: Let’s talk about your processes. Do you stage a lot of your shots?
SK: I’m very nerdy in the sense that I read a lot of newspapers. I just love the utopian aspect of that kind of journalism. I clip stuff, and I have this elaborate file system. It’s very creepy. I love lexis nexis, and I just get lost, you know. That’s really how it all starts. I read a lot of non-fiction books and fiction, as well. Then I come up with an idea that I really like, and I make all these ridiculous lists. Then, if it comes back to me, you know, and I keep thinking about it – It’s like when I first came here to do the cock fighting story. It had been three years and I was just driven and driven and driven. It would just come back to me, haunt me. I had to go. So, I just got in my car and drove straight to these towns, just hoping that there would be the cock fights. It’s like the same thing with Louisiana, too. I couldn’t get it out of my system.
Untitled, (Cock Fights)
MM: Do you think you’ll ever get it out of your system?
SK: No, but I don’t know how long I will stay as a permanent resident. I’ll hopefully be able to live here for a time.
MM: What is it that inspires your infatuation with the state?
SK: I mean the simplest answer would be this backwards South, but when I first came here I was introduced to this state through cock fighting. There’s this innate like backwoods violence that was really appealing and this brilliant Cajun culture, which is the smallest minority in the United States. Something about that idea was just so potent. I was out on the bayou, and I was just like, “this is the most romantic thing I have ever experienced in my life.” I couldn’t really let go of that idea.
MM: Any favorite artists?
SK: The writer William Vollmann. He’s wonderful, writes both fiction and non-fiction, and he wrote this tome on violence. That’s been a huge inspiration. And, Peter Matthiessen, he wrote the Watson trilogy, and that work’s been a really big deal to me. The photographers Jim Goldberg and Delahaye, and the film makers Chantal Akerman and Sharon Lockhart.
MM: You seem pull from all different genres…
SK: Yeah, I mean, when you have something that you’re so fascinated with, like Louisiana or violence, it’s really easy to find everything from music to painting to be inspired by.
MM: What do you have planned?
SK: I’m working on four projects for the next three years, and they kind of run in a cycle. So, there’s this epic love poem to Louisiana. There’s this story about a sinking island that I’m in the middle of, as well. I do a trip along the [Mexican-American] border, and I’m really obsessed with Juarez and all the very romantic notions about that divide, this ridiculous line. I’m also working on a story about an anarchist compound in Ohio. That’s my summer. I like to be working on so many different things that I can’t keep my head straight. I love what I do so much that I can’t imagine filling my days with anything else.