JONATHAN CHERRY: What got you started with photography?
LEVI MANDEL: Subconscious urges to document my life… my surroundings. My parents obsessively took photos when I was a baby. There are tons of photos and home-video tape I only recently discovered. Although I was obviously unaware of their documentation at the time, I’ve been tracing a lot of my personal habits and urges back to my parents through this footage which I have recently been re-appropriating and working with.
JC: Any emerging artists inspiring you at the moment?
LM: Lately I’ve been obsessed with the anonymous Flickr photographer. For the amount of slack photographers get for using and/or posting on Flickr, I’m constantly surprised and impressed with the work I happen to stumble across while killing time online. Many are from Russia for some reason. I also throughly enjoy family Flickr accounts, the ones that more or less appear to be used as storage and not meant to be shared - it’s like finding the modern day discarded family photo album.
JC: Whats your current project all about?
LM: I’m working on about 3 separate projects right now, all in different stages of progress. The first and perhaps oldest project is called Reasons for Living. The series consists of large format, 4x5 black and white nude portraits of my friends. Each shot is naturally lit, the subject standing on his or her respective residence, usually roofs or backyards. The second is a video I’m making, somewhat of a portrait although I use the word loosely. It combines footage from the earlier mentioned home-videos my parents made, found footage, and new footage which I’ve made in the past year. The third is an ongoing series of color, situational photographs, which has recently led me to investigate and study standard religious symbolism, such as rays of light, flowers, crosses, etc.
JC: Where are you currently living and how is it shaping you?
LM: I’m currently living in Bushwick, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. I think my city’s influence can been seen through my photographs, which is why I’m eager to upset my routine and move far away.
JC: One piece of advice to recent photography graduates?
LM: Well I’m still in school myself, a junior at Cooper Union to be exact, so if you have any advice I’d love to hear it.
JC: Any big plans for 2012?
LM: Absolutely. I’m subleasing my room and moving to Malmö, Sweden to study with the Malmö Art Academy on exchange from January through July.
JC: Favourite tree?