Photos by Kiki Vassilakis
“This is Richard Lovrich. I’m going to shoot you.” It was amidst the scurry and high emotion of my last day at my previous job that I was first introduced to Richard Lovrich. It’s almost embarrassing to admit that, until he left a message in his deep, weathered voice on that unseasonably warm fall day,I had no idea who Richard Lovrich was. I certainly should have, as Lovrich has for years been at the center of the Capital Region’s creative community, thanks not only to his role as creative director at Proctors, but because of his work as a photographer, author and poet and to the time he has spent mentoring and collaborating with artists across the region.
But I didn’t know, and I was a little intimidated. On my first day on the job as editor of The Alt Richard and his Leica camera we’re never very far from my face. As a nervous, flabby, balding guy I was more than a little uncomfortable. But for all my nerves Richard shot me with reverence. “His angles show that he sees you as the director, as the captain,” a friend later told me. It was hard to accept. I felt very much unworthy.
Lovrich later came on as the creative director for The Alt. We spent a number of Sundays brainstorming, piecing together designs.
I soon found out about his photo project, Makers 365, a project based on his portraits of creatives who live in or have passed through the region and found themselves in front of his camera. The project proved invaluable to me as I started at The Alt; I’d spent the last seven years obsessed with politics, and while my earlier experience as a local reporter had put me in touch with major creatives, the scene had drastically changed.
I was honored when Lovrich asked The Alt to come aboard as a co-sponsor for his showing of Makers 365 at Albany Center Gallery.
Last week I sat down with Lovrich for a chat about Makers–and despite the fact that we’ve spent plenty of time together these days working on The Alt I found myself surprised right off the bat.
“I had the dread fear of taking pictures of people’s faces,” Lovrich said. “I was a professional photographer, so if you were a model or a subject, that was no problem, but the idea of going out into the wild…. I had done that a little and found it satisfying but extremely stressful.”
Lovrich worked as a studio photographer in Manhattan for 15 years. “I grew up in studios, going through high school hanging out in the studio, working in the studio. I didn’t cut my teeth as an art photographer.”
Besides not being used to shooting regular people in their environment, Richard said, he had yet to find a camera he felt was his own. “When I looked for a camera I bounced around. And the Leica is ideal for approaching people. There’s also this theater thing where I wanted a quiet camera, and the Leica is just about the quietest. And also, I guess the simplicity…. I’m not a Luddite, but I didn’t need a lot of redundancy: 8-point focus, etc. I simply didn’t need it. It would be nice to have for other jobs but it was not something I needed for my own art.”
In March of 2016, Lovrich started shooting. He was already engaged in projects relating to the local creative economy and working with The Alpha-1 Foundation to promote the group’s work raising awareness for that genetic condition, which can lead to serious lung or liver disease.
“What I did was speak to some young artists after the presentation on the creative economy who said, ‘I didn’t hear myself mentioned in this. I don’t know if I’m in there.’ I took that to heart, and that was the basis of this. So we’ve heard about the creatives–this is hearing from them and having them look directly into the camera.”
As the project took off and Lovrich began to share images on line creatives began connecting to each other through the images on line.
“In my previous project I set out to write 1,000 short stories; that number equated to three-years’ worth, and that was an immense challenge–and this was similar. In both instances, I learned an awful lot. I’ll never be the same after writing those stories, and I’ll never see people the same way again after working like that, in that discipline, looking at a face each day and caring, wondering, ‘Do they like it? Do I like it?’ It was even harder if I knew people.”
Lovrich has developed more confidence shooting in the wild. “I tell people now, ‘Don’t worry. I touched Iman! I bit tags off of Janice Dickinson’s underwear!”
But how did Lovrich deal with people like me? Slightly retiring folks, unsure if they wanted their mug blown up on a wall. “With some people it was conversational; it was showing them pictures, getting over some tenseness, telling them, ‘We don’t have to do anything with these pictures.” After some folks saw it on my Instagram page they’d say, ‘I get it now!’” There were people who wanted to be involved and reached out, and I was a little startled by that as well.”
Lovrich says he “tried to keep away from cheap shots” and went out of his way not to use the most obvious image.
Heading into the exhibit’s opening on June 20, Lovrich does have a few regrets. “There’s a slight disappointment for me, too, that I didn’t capture certain groups, certain people, but after the show opens I’ll just start up again. It’s that intimacy now, of being face-to-face with people, that I seem really addicted to and I don’t know if that will be going away anytime soon.”
Makers 360 opens at Albany Center Gallery on June 20 and runs through July 21. The opening reception will be held on June 21 from 5 to 8 PM.
The Alt and ACG will host a series of conversations with local creatives in conjunction with Makers 365. Those events will take place June 29, July 6, July 13 and July 20.