The core of Bryce Lankard's photography is anchored in the documentary tradition. The term documentary photography is both a tautology and an oxymoron. Inasmuch as any photograph is a document of a moment, simultaneously the term has long carried the implication that what is captured possesses an aspect of truth, while, in truth, it has naturally been colored by the mind and eye of the photographer into a more subjective "document." Photography has long had a tenuous relationship with the notion of "truth," and this realization struck Lankard at an early age. With a 110 instamatic in hand and the photo albums and home movies of shutterbug relatives, he would pore over these photographs until he saw beyond the familiar faces and had a new vision of what the images would suggest when viewed by a complete stranger.
The seeds of this concept germinated over years into the broad strokes of his approach to photography. Namely, that a camera is just the tool of a subjective artist. In the act of creation, the artist has many different tools available in which to influence the mood and tone of the work. The same is true with regard to how the work is manipulated and presented, whether that be in camera, in the darkroom, and more often today, in the computer. Whether that is manifested in the most "purist" and apparently unadulterated of expressions to the more heavy-handed manipulations of style, any tool and technique is at the artists disposal to better communicate the intent. Further, that despite the artist's conscious efforts to create a narrative and context, the equation is not complete without consideration of the contribution of the viewer. The meaning and relevance of the work therefore is never fixed and final as each new viewer will bring their own associations to its interpretation. All are welcome.
From the very beginning the subject matter that has attracted Lankard has been defined by the emotional reactions he has had as a human, and as an American, albeit one with an admitted Southern persuasion. Growing up in the heart of the bible belt and living in the rapidly evolving world surrounding the end of a millennium filled him with a sense of wonder and curiosity. His continuing body of work entitled Evening Land has been inspired by the philosophical themes in the work of the great southern writer Walker Percy, and specifically these words from The Moviegoer, “It’s an interesting age you live in - though I can’t say i”m sorry to miss it. But it should be quite a sight, the going under of the evening land. That’s us all right. And I can tell you, my young friend, it is evening. It is very late." Captured from perspectives ranging from reverence to outrage, expressing love and awe, humor and horror, several of Lankard's exhibitions find different methods of addressing this one constant theme. Of the photographs in his first solo exhibition, National Dread, was said that they,"underscore many nasty, tawdry, even grotesque, aspects of life in the U.S. of A. Conveying moral outrage, the artist's photos hold up a mirror, confront- ing the viewer with facts he knows to be true, but attributes to the folly of others. Lankard discovers and frames striking images that, beyond documenting mindlessness and excess, often reveal a betrayal of American values." (Roger Green) While of the images in Salon des Refuses was said, "Bryce Lankard’s Acadian Mardi Gras scenes seemed like fragile fragments of a legendary lost world--which indeed they are.” (Eric Bookhardt) And in Chronic Daydreams, more of a narrative has been created by juxtaposing paired images to create a dialogue whereby one image influences the context and meaning of the other.
It was from these experiments in Chronic Daydreams that led Lankard to explore other languages in which to create these "documents." By utilizing a variety of cameras and film types, distressing and manipulating an image, recombining imagery to concoct a different context, and by distilling the subject down to a more evocative object, Lankard is creating another form of the documentary photograph. From solarized and wet-scanned images of the human form in the series entitled The Illuminated Shadow to a recent project called "Blink of an Eye", using a toy camera to evoke the idea of sudden loss as inspired by post-Katrina New Orleans and post 911 America. A current project called "Transience" uses image sequences to sparsely suggest the beauty and imperfections of nature and life seen from a stationary point on a spinning planet.
Whatever the subject matter is; a hurricane ravaged city, an Elvis impersonator, or the human body, and in whatever form it takes; from a single image to a distressed collage. Bryce Lankard's work is always about the document. Using a camera as the tool to record, manipulate, contextualize, and interpret, it is still in the end, always a document.