Visual Vernacular: Artist Lynn Lane
NobleMotion‘s “Storm Front.” Photo by Lynn Lane
An innovator of images, artist Lynn Lane has been capturing the pivotal essence of the Houston arts scene and beyond for years. Mysterious movement, magical music, and captivating collaborations all resonate in his photography with some major players as the Houston Grand Opera and the Alley Theatre are all on his client roster.
As an artist also known for his work in film, music, visual art, and design, Lane has continuously stretched his talent while reinventing his meticulous eye over and over again much to the appreciation of such a broad audience. Best known in Houston for his phenomenal photography, Lane has the ability to capture movement and mood in such a particular way making you feel as though you were present in the moment. The swaying of limber bodies in dance, the bellows of broad operatic voices, and the interweaving of musical notes all come across in each frame.
Lynn took time out of his crazy schedule to answer some questions about how he came to be the artist he is today, even about his time with such greats as the Wu-Tang Clan and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Free Press Houston: What kind of artistic experiences did you have as a child and growing up?
Lynn Lane: I grew up in inner-city Houston and basically spent my life on that hill at Miller Outdoor Theatre. There wasn’t a lot of art in my neighborhood or really interest in it from any of the people I knew growing up around me other than me, but my mom made sure I was exposed to the arts constantly. Honestly, the reason I do what I do is because I grew up seeing performing arts whilst sitting on that hill.
FPH: How did you develop your art in high school and college? What were your collegiate years like?
Lane: High school and college were interesting times to say the least. High school was about me figuring out a lot about myself. Skateboarding and punk rock shows occupied a lot of my late high school and college life. I spent my first five years at Texas A&M studying Environmental Design and Landscape Architecture then three years at UNT [University of North Texas] studying painting and drawing. At A&M, I used to own this skateboard shop called “The Barking Spider,” silly name, but hey, it was a lot of fun. One of the guys who used to skate for the shop is now with Thrasher Magazine and has a TV show on VICE called “King of the Road.” At UNT, I used to book national touring punk bands and brought in a lot of Dishcord Records bands and others to Denton. It was fun!
FPH: Your photography captures such movement and sound in just a single frame. The music, dance, and more come through these photos beautifully. How do you approach photographing live performances?
Lane: I approach photography in these disciplines, as well as everything I shoot, as a storyteller. I don’t want to just document the work. I want to make sure that each because I feel shooting in this arena with intent with each frame is imperative for my way of capturing performance. I also have been on the other side of the camera in all of these areas so having that experience helps as well.
I see far more in the performing arts than I shoot because I truly love arts in all forms. I think this helps me more than anything. I love being a part of the arts and my passion for them allows me to be a better photographer. I feel a responsibility to convey the strength of each piece that I’m seeing. I’m creating a record of this work to help it live beyond its performance.
I’m blessed to be the photographer for the Houston Grand Opera and am now with the Alley Theatre as well. I have the opportunity and fortune to shoot some of the most amazing performing arts in Texas and working with dance companies from all over makes life pretty stellar to say the least. When I’m able to travel to shoot, it’s always a fun thing but I love shooting and helping promote the arts in Houston.
Karen Stokes Dance. Photo by Lynn Lane
FPH: Tell me about your work in film and music.
Lane: My life in film? Well that was quite the journey. I have shot a lot, some in the old school hip-hop world of NYC, been on stage with the Sugar Hill Gang, shot ODB’s [Old Dirty Bastard of Wu-Tang Clan] mom in her house with Papa Wu and others, all kinds of stuff like that. I spent three years traveling all over the country interviewing the legends of boxing, including people like Joe Frazier, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard and many more, for a documentary that is in post [production]. I’ve shot in Southern West Virginia on mountaintop removal. That was pretty incredible and moving. I was repped in London and NYC for my documentary work and even wrote an article on the NYC documentary scene for International Documentary Magazine. Recently, I’ve been asked to do a couple of new film projects that I’ve agreed to so I’m looking forward to seeing what that will be like.
In terms of music, it’s great that I’m able to be doing this again in Houston. Recently, I’ve collaborated with a few really great choreographers and dancers on different projects that were performed at The Barn. I refer to what I do more as sound art or soundscapes. I’m very interested in laying in layers of field recordings with instrumentation rhythmic and arhythmic. I enjoy the process of improvisational work and when collaboration occurs with other musicians or choreographers, utilizing the ideas of somewhat call/response from both parties to impact each others work.
I’ve started a monthly invitational series in my studio where people are invited to perform or collaborate in an intimate setting. It’s a place to workshop ideas or introduce something new to a small invited group in a safe place where dialogue can occur about the work in its development stage or final form. It’s been really great so far.
FPH: How has your time in Europe and NYC shaped your art and your life? Any memorable moments from either location?
Lane: I guess those places just made me who I am. I have so many memories from both good and bad but mostly good. Living almost 2 decades in NYC, that pretty much forms who you are for the rest of you life. People ask me if I miss New York. I miss old New York when it was grimy and fun. New New York is just not as interesting any more to me. When the Lower East Side was happening it was really happening when SoHo was the gallery spot, that was crazy! So much fun was had. Now it feels so commercial and just about being a big shopping city. I still love the city, but man, the old New York — that was amazing!
“Das Rheingold” at Houston Grand Opera. Photo by Lynn Lane
FPH: Can you tell me about your work in the design realm?
Lane: Ah the design world, now that was a crazy ride. My furniture designs are still sold in NYC and CT through showrooms. That whole design thing came about as a way for my old business/design partner, David French, and I to survive as artists in the city. We formed this company that started out with a simple piece of 5-by-5 plywood and we developed into a large company with a huge loft for fabrication of our designs and 18 employees. I ended up on the Advisory Board for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in NYC and if you name a magazine our work has probably been in it from Vogue Living to Wallpaper and on and on. Paper Magazine did a story on us when we first busted onto to the scene and then Domino Magazine named our sofa as the “Best Sofa of the Year.” We designed the furniture for Le Sac showroom in Tokyo and yeah, that’s kind of what we did. It was intense. When 9/11 happened, we were there and watched the buildings fall in front of us and decided that we had done all that we wanted to do in the furniture world, we wanted something different so we wound down the company and took off on new adventures it was fun. It’s great that our designs are still carrying on and have a life of their own, plus we get checks for them and that’s always cool!
FPH: What is one thing you wish the Houston arts scene had more of?
Lane: That’s a great question. I think I would love to see more of the smaller arts organizations and creators have better access to funding to help their growth. I’d love to see some of the big corporations that make up this city create grants for smaller arts organizations and non-profits to further fund cutting edge projects and ideas. I think supporting the smaller arts organizations is such and important thing for any city, especially Houston. A lot of the larger institutions are funded but when it comes to the smaller organizations. Funding is tight and always a struggle to keep their head above water. We need to nurture them so that our community becomes more diverse and continues to grow in recognition on a national and international scale. I’m very passionate about what is happening in Houston and fully believe that we all need to be more pro-active about supporting the arts in any way that we can.
FPH: What thrills you the most?
Lane: The thing that thrills me the most is collaboration and pushing things to the point of either amazing success or complete failure. I think hanging out in the safe zone is boring. Mediocrity is what kills creativity and our souls. I’d rather completely fail at something knowing I really tried to push it than just play it safe. I fail a lot, and that’s a great thing.