Ira Lupu Interview - The Hopper Prize

Ira Lupu

Ira Lupu on inventing a vision, preparing for major upcoming exhibitions, the othering of Eastern European women in Western culture, & a deep appreciation for unpredictability.

photo © Samantha Sutcliffe

photo © Samantha Sutcliffe

How did you get into making art?

I didn’t dare to consider myself an artist up until recently when I started getting recognition in the art world. I’ve been doing journalism and art direction for many years, which has definitely enriched my practice with an inclination for storytelling, research, and critical approach. My first conscious act of photography took place in high school when I started skipping weeks of classes in favor of going to the famous Pryvoz market in my hometown of Odesa, Ukraine, where I would make quite weird and deliberately miscomposed frames. It was a revelation: discovering the camera’s ability to twist and turn reality while laying open the hidden layers of it. I appreciate this moment as I had zero access to photography resources at the point. So I invented a vision out of my head, not through a reference.

What are you currently working on?

I’m preparing for my upcoming solo exhibitions at the Copenhagen Photo Festival and the Rotterdam Art Week with “On Dreams and Screens”, a project that I got shortlisted for the Hopper Prize. This is a photo and new media story on how the virtual gaze seeps into day-to-day existence told through the experiences of Ukrainian online sex workers. I’m also developing a small photo series under the working title “Respite”, which was shot with two female models in Brighton Beach and the Bronx Botanical Garden. I haven’t been out of NYC for 7 months, so I’ve been thinking a lot about parks and city beaches — and simulation of mental and physical getaway that they offer in an urban system.

With “On Dreams and Screens”, I was initially triggered by the othering of Eastern European women in Western culture.

Ira Lupu

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

With “On Dreams and Screens”, I was initially triggered by the othering of Eastern European women in Western culture. Then, it was the idea of the mental split between the digital and analog world. My major source of inspiration has been getting to know all of my cam girl protagonists in the first place.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I would say a broader approach, but things often end up coming together as a project of sorts.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

The way that I work doesn’t require a stable studio practice. Firstly, I’m putting myself into particular situations or new environments. That’s where things can get oversaturated and intense, mellow and romantic, or totally weird. There is nothing typical in a shooting day like that and I live for this unpredictability. After I’ve collected the material, I have a boring routine like everyone else, waking up, having my breakfast, and then working on a computer or running production errands.

Who are your favorite artists?

My friends Kseniya Bilyk, who I had an the honor of creating a “2021 Water Fetish Calendar” with, and the MNPL collective. I have a long list of fragmented inspirations, like the figurative “serpentinata” of Mannerism, Fischli and Weiss’ sculptural series “Suddenly This Overview”, Hito Steyrel and Omer Fast’s movies, the 1970’s version of “Wicker Man”, or early pop-gothic visuals and music by H.I.M. Photography-wise, recently I’ve been looking at Carolyn Drake, Irina Rozovsky, Justine Kurland’s works a lot — and Stanley Greene’s series from Chechnya. I enjoy intellectualized and performative photography, like Leigh Ledare’s “Double Bind”. I’ve been somewhat influenced by Masahisa Fukase, Daido Moriyama, and Boris Mikhailov.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Working as Darin Mickey’s teaching assistant at the International Center of Photography has been a great way to discover new artists. It is super fun because you get to see how people think and develop work.

Ira Lupu is an artist based in New York City who recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist:

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