Published on May 07, 2022 at 04:38
Lydia Panas’ latest book of photographs is called “Sleeping Beauty”, but it’s actually more about awakening.
The women photographed are of various ages, lying in the grass or vegetation, while some are in other poses.
“Sleeping Beauty is meant to represent hidden strength. It’s a negation of the fairy tale,” says Panas.
Panas’ work is in the exhibition, “Hear Me Roar – Women Photographers Part IV”, through May 27, Fairchild-Martindale Gallery, Lehigh University Art Galleries, 8A W. Packer Street, Bethlehem.
The setting of “Sleeping Beauty” is the farm in the Kutztown region of Panas. The views may seem pastoral and peaceful at first sight. But women are not necessarily comfortable.
“I don’t try to do portraits. I try to say something, to express complicated feelings,” Panas said in a phone interview.
“Women’s appearance is vulnerable and provocative, somewhere between hesitation and speaking out, knowing you’re at an impasse and a way to overcome that impasse,” says Panas.
Her photographs have a theme, which she says can be appreciated if seen in a group:
“It’s not about the individual person. You can see something bigger is going on here. There are different levels of comfort and discomfort, and a sense of the collective unconscious.
Panas sees the photos as reflecting his own life. “I can see my own inner landscapes, but the issues are universal, like the need for love and affection and the fear of rejection. I bring my own life and inner experiences, and I recognize what women have lived.
Panas has known some of the subjects of the Sleeping Beauty photographs for years. Others were daughters of friends. Some were recommended to Panas. She wanted them to feel comfortable posing.
“Some of them know me well, but to all of them I have been openly receptive and unconditionally kind. I felt compassion for them and made them feel like they were in a safe place.
“I wasn’t looking for anything specific. I was very open to seeing what happens. I wanted to open some sort of connection between us in an intuitive way.
“I wanted to see what they bring and how that affects our common humanity, who we are and who we want to become, and what we have in common as human beings.”
Panas, a daughter of Greek immigrants, attended Parkland High School. The farm where she lives with her husband was a weekend getaway when they lived in New York. They moved there after having their second child.
Panas’ photograph has been published in The New York Times and The New Yorker. She has received numerous awards. She has lectured, taught, or exhibited at every college and university in the Lehigh Valley. She has published two other photography books, “The Mark of Abel” and “Falling From Grace…”.
Panas uses film instead of digital photography.
“Cinema is magical, I love it. It looks different from digital, neither better nor worse, but in the way the light falls and the colors come together.
“It’s a very different process. It feels slower, with more pauses to switch movies.
“I can’t see what I’m doing or what faces will look like on a piece of paper. I have to send it and wait for it to come back a week later. But I’m still surprised. There are some nice surprises.
“Sleeping Beauty,” which has a satin book cover, includes a poem by Monae Mallory, an analysis of the photographs by Marina Chao, and a story by Maggie Jones relating to the photographs.
Videos made during the photography sessions can be viewed on the website where information on purchasing a copy of the book is available: www.lydiapanas.com
“Literary Scene” is a column about authors, books and publishing. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus Editor, [email protected]