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People vs. Objects: The Photography of Lenard Smith


There’s a pensive quality to the photography of Lenard Smith, a frozen-in-amber sensibility that errs on the side of strategic cinema. With density and seriousness, Smith captures life in a moment, turning his lens on the inanimate—the shells that contain the living and the items that share the space. By separating people from objects, the viewer is permitted to enter the scene, placing themselves within an open context.

ISAORA got to talking to this New York-based photographer about the importance of everyday things, being aware of our surroundings, and the source of his firmly focused creativity.


So, Lenard Smith, what’s your deal?

I was born and raised in Southern California. I spent time living and working in Italy, London, Switzerland and Germany.

You have a way of giving your photos a narrative by focusing on the objects in a room, and not the people within the space. Do you find there's something more compelling by letting the viewer imagine the scene themselves?

Yes, I do find objects fascinating in relation to where they are found. I am also interested in the still-life photograph, as well as interiors and the psychology of how space is transformed between institutional and domestic settings. All spaces become an experience, and how we navigate them is determined by our conditioning. Upon entering these spaces I am drawn to the personal touches of the space that are contrasted by the tension of an institutional setting.

It would be just too easy to make an emotionally charged photograph of someone lying sick in a hospital bed, so I tend remove people in some cases. The viewer is then given my point of view on the experience and allowed to create a new picture, a sort of “insert here”—themselves or a loved one.

Is it hard to work in New York, where it feels like there are more people than objects most of the time?

No, the city offers many sources of inspiration. The large population is small in comparison to the architecture and the banal scenes of our everyday lives.

What type of city fuels your creativity?

It really doesn't matter to me if it is a city. 

What subjects interest you most?

Everyday things. 

What do you try to convey in your pictures?

An understanding of surroundings. I have been working on expressing how to confront the public/private moments. 

Anything or anyone you've really wanted to shoot but haven't had the chance?

Alexandre Desplat.

To view all of Lenard Smith's work, please visit his website.