Lyndie Benson is candid, down to earth, there’s no pretentiousness in her character. When confronted with the new knowledge that one of her recent Great Wall photos from China was listed as a winner on the 2008 International Photography Awards site, she was dumfounded, stating “Really? I didn’t know that.” Benson said she “enters contests because it is fun. Of course it is more fun if you win.” Benson is still not even sure which in her series of her Great Wall photographs received the honorable mention in this year’s Architecture-Historic category.
KRISS: You have an IPA Honorable Mention on your resume, for a portrait of a very famous dog?
BENSON: Yes. Buddy is President Clinton’s dog. And that is one of my favorite photographs. It kind of encapsulates what I like to do, which is take a subject, whether it’s a wall, a person or animal and find the truth of the energy of the moment of whatever it is that encapsulates the energy of that noun. Whatever that thing has in its energy, I like to capture that. And in the case of Buddy, being a dog, a chocolate Labrador Retriever, I wanted to show it’s the President’s dog. And to feel in the one moment, there is always that one thing that comes together that is sort of hard to explain, but that it makes it so you can see what that thing represents. And I feel the photograph of Buddy did that. I feel like it looks like the President’s dog. It feels like it is the President’ s dog. He is dead now. When you saw the dog, and he was running around, you’d think, that’s a really beautiful dog. It is clear in that picture that he is the President’s dog. It is weird too. If you look at the contact sheet from the whole shoot, that is the only shot like that. All the others on the contact sheet have the same feel. I shoot a similar shot multiple times, and they all have the same feel, then I try to find the best one on the contact sheet – with that one shot, it was the only one – it was in my mind to take that particular pose and vibe. But then, it happened in that one second.
KRISS: And still another award, a Women in Photography award was for a black and white, titled African Masaii Women. Tells us start to finish how you completed the Masaii photo?
BENSON: I went to a village in Kenya, and I spent a few days there. There were just such natural scenes of life going on there between mother and children, the warriors and husbands, all the normal things they do. The one thing that was the same as here is they had all these women hanging out. They were looking at each other’s clothes, helping each other try on different jewelry, in the middle of nowhere. They were supportive of each other, truly. In the middle of the bush, they make all their own jewelry, beads, clothes, try on their outfits all different ways and braid each other’s hair. And this was just a group of women hanging out. They were just friends. Looking at this place, it was exactly the same but different, like our culture – we have women out at work, at home helping each other, dressing each other, it was so feminine and supportive of each other, girlfriends. That was what that was.
KRISS: You have an upcoming exhibit here in Malibu at the Canvas on your China series. Are these photos all film or a combination of digital and film?
BENSON: They’re all film, but then I scanned the negs that are printed digitally. But they are taken from film.
KRISS: You’ve mentioned to me earlier it took you awhile to make the switch from film to digital. What was the hesitation?
BENSON: I thought the color was up to par with film. Digital color was sort of on par, you could feel good about taking a color photo. But black and white, the quality wasn’t as good. Something was missing. Now. I feel they got it now. Even though it takes a lot of work. I also find taking black and white photo in film saves a lot of trouble digitally, because if you do it digitally, you have to do a lot of work to make it look like film. I’d rather take it in film and print it digitally. I did all my India stuff in color. I feel that’s fine. And I found an amazing color printer. I’m still not totally digital when it comes to black and white. Plus black and white, as opposed to color, there’s a totally different thinking when shooting black and white as opposed to color. With digital, I don’t do that. When I have black and white film in my camera, I have a totally different mind set. In digital I don’t have that at all.
KRISS: Do you prefer post-production to the actual creation of shooting the shot?
BENSON: I prefer the actual shooting o a shot, because that’s where I get that charge is in the shooting of whatever it is in that moment. Trying to find the muse, the essence of the feeling of what I am shooting, that is the process I really enjoy, the thing I love like the craft of acting. I didn’t continue for a year because my husband is a musician and somebody has to be home, and the business did not work for me. But the relative process of it I admired, because it is the same feeling in acting as in photography. You are so in the moment, to reveal that moment, in both the acting and photography crafts. Like when an actor hits the truth of the note of that moment, for the right truth of the right moment, and that hits a chord of somebody watching it, and they know – that unspeakable, cannot describe the thing, that is the same thing I want in photography. That is when I get excited about is when that happens. The post part visually is fun. All the printing, the process of how you want your image to come across, but first you have to have the right image.
KRISS: You have a book currently under construction titled The Point, referencing Point Dume here in Malibu. How long has that book been in the making?
BENSON: I’d say a decade.
KRISS: What motivated you to chronicle the Point, as if the captivating beauty of the Point was not enough? The works are much deeper than just the sheer raw aesthetic value of Point Dume.
BENSON: First, when we first moved onto the Point, we were moving back to L.A. from Seattle. We thought we were going to raise our family in Seattle. We had built a place in Seattle that ended up not being our perfect place. When we came back to Malibu, we were desperate to find a place to raise our kids, the right place. And so, when we came here, we looked at this house where we live – we live on the bluff of Little Dume. We look down in our backyard, kids are surfing and playing. Some of our neighbors are fourth generation Point Dume residents. It had a history and culture and energy about it. Energy is a pretty important, when you feel like you want to raise your kids somewhere. We could’ve gone anywhere, and we picked this place. It was already special. I was already in love with it. And shooting my kids here and being around the Point for five or six years after. I have a whole bunch of photos from living here, and this is a project that has to happen. The first five years were shooting without me knowing I was doing a project, and the last five years were with the intention of knowing I was doing a project. But the point is, there is also a Point, protecting the Point, growing up on the Point, there’re is a point to The Point, not just pictures of the places. There is more to The Point than pictures of the place. There is a guy I met today, and he is third generation Point Dume. He actually has a Point Dume museum in his house. So people take it really seriously growing up on the Point. They were little and raised here, and they raised their families here. There are so many people like that, and there are so few neighborhoods in L.A. like that, that also have a history as well. I’m sure they’re there, but it is pretty rare.