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Meet J. K. Lavin

Today we’d like to introduce you to J. K. Lavin.

J. K., please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As long as I can remember, I’ve always responded to the visual quality of things. Growing up influenced by Life, Look and Time magazines, I wanted to be a photojournalist. At the University of Minnesota, the first available class was Art Photography 1 or 101 taught by Nicholas Dean. I was hooked, seeking out available darkrooms and places to learn more about photography wherever I could.

I was fortunate to attend various programs including the Visual Studies Workshop and The Center of the Eye, taught by remarkable and inspirational photographers including Jerome Liebling, Elaine Mayes, Garry Winogrand, and Joan Lyons. Some of my earlier work was made using xerography and other alternative processes.  After completing a Masters of Art degree in Photography at California State University at Fullerton with Eileen Cowin and Darryl Curran as my graduate advisors, I began working with neon.

For about ten years, I worked and exhibited as a neon artist. Photography has always been my great love. Now I consider myself a fine art photographer or an artist who uses a camera and photographic methods, preferably analogue. By using the term “artist,” I give myself permission to use whatever medium, techniques or materials are available. My current project is the re-presentation of a daily self-portrait project that produced 3000 Polaroid SX-70 images over a period of eight years.

Prior to that, I worked on a long-term project of analogue photographs created with the ambient light of the full moon. I have exhibited across the US and at Fotofever, Paris. “Crisis of Experience,” a solo exhibition based on the extensive series of SX70 Polaroid daily self-portraits, is on view at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA December 6, 2018 – March 3, 2019.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
One of the biggest challenges is balancing time for working in the studio with the financial necessity of having a day job. After submitting my photographic work to various competitions and galleries, a curator sought out my neon work for an exhibition with some prestigious neon artists.

After that, I was employed at and exhibited as a neon artist. That was exciting and technologically challenging but diverted me temporarily from my great love of photography. Finding a way to work with analogue, digital and alternative processes is what I’m concerned with now. I am constantly considering, what is a photograph?

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I am a fine art photographer. Recurring themes in my work are memory, self-portraiture, and marking the passage of time. Duration is an important dimension of my studio practice, as well as experimentation with randomness and chance.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
As an artist, we tend to think of success in terms of exhibitions, museums, collectors, awards and publications, which are all determined by someone else, i.e., gallerists, curators, writers, etc. That’s a certain kind of validation.

Success for me is about continuing to make art, having a voice and seeing what comes next.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: j.k.lavin
  • Facebook: J. K. Lavin

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