Erica Snyder is a New York-based freelance photographer. Taking inspiration from vintage photographers, she elevates normality and helps us discover hidden gems in suburbia. In her most recent work, she collaborated with the erotic performance artist, Lyndsay Dye, allowing the viewer to find the hidden gems in Dye’s inventory. In this interview, Snyder tells us about her love affair with maximalism and her sisterly bond with Lyndsay Dye.
Hi Erica Snyder! For our readers who are unfamiliar, can you tell us a bit about what you do and how you got into it?
I am a freelance photographer and director currently based in New York. I specialize in photography for musicians.I got into photography in a roundabout way. Growing up I was always interested in cameras, my father was a wedding photographer for a brief period and there was always a camera to play with in the house. However, I didn’t take it seriously until I was in my early twenties. Starting out, I was too nervous to photograph people so instead I captured buildings near my home at night. A year later one of my friends, a musician, went on a North American tour and needed someone to accompany him and take photographs. He asked me to join and that was the first time I realized photography was something I could do as more than a hobby.
Your photography is very reminiscent of queer photographers who made their fame in the 1980s, such as Nan Goldin, are there any particular artists who inspired you?
I do love Nan Goldin, I also am very inspired by Gregory Crewsdon, Mick Rock and Alex Prager. Film also has a major influence in my work, specifically the films of Wong Kar Wai, Hitchcock and Truffaut.
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Your photographs often have an erotic nature. What is it like interacting with the models and sceneries when shooting these images?
I view “the erotic” in a nonsexual way, similar to how Audre Lorde describes in it her book, Uses of the Erotic. She explains that “The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.” I encourage my subjects to express their feelings that lay right beneath the surface and I often let them guide how the shoot progresses. I don’t want to manufacture any specific outcome. My aim is to facilitate what my subject wants to show me and maybe add a bit of drama to it.
You have said before about your interest in the suburbs. Can you tell us more about what interests you about these eerie suburban landscapes?
The suburbs alway feel magical because everything happens behind closed doors, it has brought my imagination to fantastic places. For a long time I was preoccupied with this because the home I grew up in was very volatile but on the surface appeared normal. Through long exploration of this sentiment I satisfied my urge to photograph the suburbs. Now my curiosity lies within people and portrait work.
You once described modern architecture as “sterile”. This is a very interesting way of phrasing it. Could you tell us more about this?
I might have been referring to the architecture of the “office building”. I remember visiting my mom at her work as a kid and getting lost because all the cubicles looked identical. The outside of the building was bland and bore no sign of life, to me this is inherently sterile. Now I think of it as an interesting concept to pursue in the era of covid as office buildings are slowly becoming obsolete.
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Recently we have lost the tackiness of architecture and turned to minimalism. Your photographs definitely have a vintage quality. Do you feel that you have a love affair with maximalism?
Of course! I love looking at photographs with many tiny details in them, they feel like clues that can help explain a complicated idea. Someone can take a portrait of a person who is making a fantastic expression and the background is very simple and it will be a good photograph. But I aim to combine the two, it’s more exciting to me. For example, the photograph of Lindsay in her bedroom, in the right corner is her hitatachi. It grabs the viewers attention and makes them wonder, why is this in frame, what is it saying about the subject? All the little details can encourage a viewer to linger and consider the image. This is especially important in the age of instagram when it is so easy to keep scrolling.
Although your photographs are vibrant, there is often a sense of loneliness in them, often isolating one building, car, or person within a huge landscape. Is there anything you are trying to communicate with your compositions?
I think it is actually what my photographs are trying to communicate back to me. When I make work I’m not actively thinking, I want to say 'blank' with this photograph. It is only after looking through many photographs that I start to realize a theme. I can’t seem to escape the sense of loneliness that appears in my work, it is too ingrained in my subconscious.
You recently photographed the performance artist-sex worker Lyndsay Dye, what was it like collaborating with her? Did you have similar ideas?
It is a dream to collaborate with Lindsay, she and I are surprisingly similar, we come from similar backgrounds and get along like sisters. We are currently finishing up a multimedia project that we have been collaborating on since 2018 entitled Our Girls.
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For your photo shoot with Lyndsay Dye, you chose a very natural setting. What was your thought process behind this?
The setting is actually her bedroom and this shoot was done on a whim. Lindsay had recently slipped down subway stairs after going to the Russian baths and fractured her tailbone. She couldn’t sit properly, let alone leave her apartment. We thought it would be funny to capture this moment of immobility in the most glamorous way possible.
Your work is very loud and emotional, it truthfully communicates the world’s current situation and I love it a lot. What can we expect from you in the future?
Keep an eye out for Our Girls with Lindsay Dye. Also a music video I directed for artist Dora Jar, entitled Quiver, will be released in the beginning of March.
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