Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Conversation with Liz Kuball

The first time I heard of Liz Kuball was around the time the notorious "gallerina article" published and caused a small ruckus among the online photo community.
Liz was one of the first to respond to the article on her blog and to take action by coming up with the "Ask Me I've Got Answers badge".
Liz Kuball always wears her heart on her sleeve and her blog is an intimate diary of her journey and growth as a photographer.
In this conversation Liz speaks about her love for photography and California --two things which have led to her most recent and perhaps most compelling series --the aptly titled California Vernacular.

© Liz Kuball

NP: Tell us a little about yourself.

LK: I was born in Washington, D.C., in 1973, but when I was a few months old, my parents moved back to the small town in Michigan where they had grown up, and that’s where I grew up as well. I went to college in Indiana, lived in a converted horse barn in the woods for a couple years while I was in grad school, and then moved to Indianapolis to work as a book editor for a publishing house. I went freelance in 1999 and, a couple years later, realized I could live anywhere I wanted, so in 2001 I moved out to Los Angeles, knowing no one. Most people I knew in the Midwest told me I was making a mistake, that I wasn’t “the L.A. type.” But I fell in love with the place—every little bit of it—and my mom has finally stopped asking when I’m moving back. I live with my 2-year-old Australian Cattle Dog, Boo Radley, who likes to bite my ankles when I’m doing push-ups. I have the refined palate of the average kindergartener. And I can knit a mean sweater.

© Liz Kuball

NP: How did you discover photography?

LK: My formal education is nearly entirely in literature and writing—I have a master’s degree in each. But when I was in grad school for writing, I realized that writing wasn’t where my heart was. Midway through the program, I enrolled in an independent study course, and before the semester started, the professor asked what I was interested in. I said, “I’ve always liked photography,” and I feel like that sentence changed my life. He came up with a list of books for me to read—collections of essays on photography—and by the time I graduated from that writing program, at the age of 31, with $40,000 in student loans, I knew that I wanted to be a photographer.

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

LK: Sometimes it’s other people’s work—I’m a big fan of Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces and William Eggleston’s just about anything. Sometimes it’s my own work, strange as that sounds—I try to keep my favorite photos around me so that, if I’m ever stalled or stuck, I remember that I’ve made at least a few images I’m proud of. Many times it’s movies— No Country for Old Men, Revolutionary Road. . . .I just love seeing, and showing people what I see.

© Liz Kuball

NP: How do your projects come about?

LK: I don’t really know, actually. I feel like I’m still so early on this journey—I’m basically still pulling out of the driveway. I can tell you that my first real project, In Store, came about for all the wrong reasons: I was looking around and noticing that everybody I admired was working on a project and that I’d better get one myself, and it occurred to me that storage facilities would make a good series. But I wasn’t passionate about the subject and didn’t feel any real connection to it.

My current project, California Vernacular, is exactly the opposite. I was taking pictures, trying to figure out what I was interested in, posting them to my blog, and toward the end of 2008, Lisa Hunter e-mailed me and said that she thought I was capturing a California vernacular of sorts, that my photos reminded her of a Joan Didion essay, “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream.” I love Didion, so when she said that, everything clicked for me. I knew right then what I was doing, what I was working on, and what I was trying to say. But my actual process in terms of working on this project isn’t as direct as it was with In Store, and that suits me. I just take pictures, as often as I can, and if I see ones that fit with the project, I include them there. In other words, I don’t go out looking for images for this project—I just go out looking for photographs, and I let where they fall happen later.

© Liz Kuball

NP: What’s next?

LK: I’m working right now with on the editioning of one or two of my photographs and looking forward to seeing that go live. I’m continuing to work on California Vernacular. And I’m playing around with ideas for new projects as well. I’d really like to move in a documentary direction with my work, and I have a couple ideas that I want to research and possibly pursue.

NP: Thank you so much!

To see more of Liz Kuball's work please visit and don't miss out on her blog:!

1 comment:

Tema Stauffer said...

Great interview. Great work. I have been a fan of the clear voice and introspectiveness of Liz's blog since I discovered it a year and a half ago.

The influences come through in the images - Shore, Eggleston, Didion - but they are her own.

Very cool. California.