Interview by Rob Lehr
Peter Larson is a photographer born and raised in Cleveland, OH. He graduated from Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication in 2010 and now works from his studio at 78th Street Studios. Peter’s early career has been focused on taking portraits of musicians. He currently shoots for VICE, iHeartRadio, The New York Times, Mom + Pop Music and takes on many special projects. I met Peter during the Pride in the Moment project, while he documented Powerlifting athletes at the Gay Games Cleveland in 2014.
RL: Your photography appears to be blossoming with each new project. Tell me a little about your transition from student to professional photographer. Any advise you can give to a young aspiring artist?
PL: After graduating from OU in 2010, I moved back home to Cleveland with the idea that I’d create new work to help strengthen my portfolio and then move elsewhere once I was confident in my work. I began making a lot of personal images while also assisting other studios and photographers and kept applying those experiences to my own life and photos. I have grown to enjoy living and working here in Cleveland and I have decided to stay.
A common struggle seems to be that photographers feel lost and are unsure of what subject matter to pursue, since there are so many different avenues a young photographer can take. My advice is to pay attention to your habits and ask why you are drawn to shooting one subject matter instead of another concept. You can fight that urge, or you can just go with the flow in finding what you enjoy most. You might think you want to shoot a certain way or photograph a particular thing—but, in the end you find that it just isn’t who you are as a person. That being said, it’s also important to experiment frequently to discover your true passion in the field – this will narrow your scope and help you focus on what is most relevant.
RL: When sifting through your portfolio, there are many images that stand out as captivating. My personal favorite are the “Falling” series, depicting nudes in mid-air – a creative take on the classic academic nude. How did this project originate and what do you hope to convey?
PL: When I have an idea in my head, it doesn’t leave until I make an attempt. Many times, those ideas don’t turn out the way that I envisioned them, but I have to at least take a swing. I was going through some big changes and needed something to occupy my mind entirely. Every phase of the “Falling” project was exciting—from asking people to participate, making the images, and then creating an edit from thousands of photographs over the course of a few weeks. Everyone involved seemed to have fun and the project continues to evolve. In fact, please email me if you’re reading this and you would like to participate. It is an on-going body of work for me.
There is not one simple idea I plan to convey with this project, instead I enjoy the range of emotions that people express in reaction to the series. As always, I want to have good time, collaborate with awesome people and make images that will grasp a viewer’s attention.
RL: The commercial photographs add diversity to your portfolio. What are some of the pros and cons of working with clients? Do they often give you the freedom to express your aesthetic or can it be a challenge?
PL: It’s really exciting to work with new people and I’ve been lucky because I haven’t encountered many cons in the few short years I’ve been working with commercial clients. Most of the time, there are parameters but liberties have been given to contribute to my overall aesthetic and vision.
RL: You have an impressive list of publication work including TIME, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and VICE. What were some of your favorite projects created for editorial?
PL: VICE projects are always a good time. I had a blast being emerged in parts of Cleveland that I’ve never experienced for ‘Scrap or Die’. Also, getting covered head-to-toe in Faygo while covering The Gathering of The Juggalos 2014 for VICE was life changing. For me, the most exciting projects involve working with my friends. I am always excited to do something that I love and care about.
RL: I was first introduced to your work from the GG9: Pride in the Moment project in Cleveland. How has living in northeast Ohio helped your career? Who are some of your favorite photographers living in this region?
PL: I’ve grown to love this area and it’s only getting better. There are amazing studios, designers, stylists, artists etc. that are willing to share knowledge and experience and that’s what has helped me grow the most. Whenever I have a question or a project that I want to start, I’m never at a loss of who to call. I’m excited about Ricky Rhodes’ new project, Queen Ave. Dead End — check it out!
Peter Larson will have artwork in the upcoming “Self & Others: The Photographic Portrait” exhibition at Summit Artspace Gallery opening March 20, 2015. Subscribe to Curatorial Collective for more information. If you would like to contact Peter, you can visit his website at http://www.peterlarsonphoto.com/