Peggy Levison Nolan’s book, Real Pictures: Tales of a Badass Grandma (Daylight Books, 2018) showcases a lifetime of photographing family, growing children, and intimate family spaces. Nolan was my color photo professor at FIU, and the most enduring lesson I learned while in her class had less to do with photographing in the conventional sense, and more to do with seeing— in the least conventional way possible.
While she is generally wary of interviews, her photos are full of meaning and irreverence and delight, and speak quite well in her stead:
CMO: Why is photography important to you?
Peggy Levison Nolan: Photographing is much like washing dishes and doing laundry and going to my day job. I brush my teeth and photograph the sink and not think too much about it, but it is a necessary act. It is the act of witnessing and the complicated results are always different from the original experience. Thus the addiction. Also, I am the self-appointed historian of my family, competing with millions of cellphone pictures.
CMO: When did you realize you wanted to take pictures? What was the context?
Peggy Levison Nolan: Most of my kids were still small and my Dad gave me a camera and asked for pictures of his grandchildren.
CMO: Whose pictures do you love?
Peggy Levison Nolan: I could name names endlessly but I also like many images made by my students who have never shot film before they came to my class.. The excitement behind the cameras is palpable and a bit of luck makes for amazing surprises. A mother biting her lip in good light. I appreciate work about something other than the medium itself. I appreciate work when the photographer is invisible. I’m amazed and properly intimidated by images made with large pin hole cameras, especially portraits of people. The presence of a person almost life size without irony is one of the most pleasurable experiences that film has to offer.
CMO: What are you working on now?
Peggy Levison Nolan: Tooth paste in the sink, a daughter-in-law concentrating hard, a grandson running naked at night on the beach, a man sleeping face down on the pavement…..etc.
Peggy Levison Nolan’s work has been shown at the San Francisco MOMA and Dina Mitrani Gallery in Miami, FL, among other places. You can learn more about her work, and purchase her beautiful book here.