Photos by Lauren Pisano
Lauren Pisano is a rare talent. Her outwardly serene photographs harbor tension not always noticeable upon FIRST GLANCE. The shift is slow and packs an intimate punch: the more you look, the more the photo grows, evolves, and intensifies. Lauren lives and works in Los Angeles California. She also happens to be one of the main photographers for GAL, and we couldn't be more pleased to have her on both sides of the camera for this issue!
Girls At Library: What was the name of the first book you fell in love with, that turned you into a life long reader?
Lauren Pisano: Kristy’s Big Idea! My mom would take us to the library all the time and I would grab as many Baby-Sitters Clubs books as I could. Their entrepreneurship really appealed to me, I liked the idea that they were all in charge of something. In hindsight, they were all a bit of a mess — though I’m sure I appreciated that too.
GAL: What is the power of story? Describe some ways in which fictional narratives have impacted you and your life.
LP: I love reading about and getting to know characters in books. It starts off somewhat objective — taking in information about them — then I wait for them to move me. Which usually happens when out of nowhere, the character goes from being someone I’m observing, to a version of myself. Truly relating to a character. Sometimes I don’t even fully understand the impact of what I’m reading, and then there is this moment when I step away and realized I’m fully immersed in all of the complexities of the character and their story. It’s like making a friend; if it’s a good friend- you’re moved when they’re moved. It’s this moment in books I’m always drawn to, and even better when I don’t need as much information to get there.
GAL: How often do you read? Please estimate.
LP: I will read every chance I get – if in the middle of a great book I’ll become obsessed and wind up reading for hours a day. I will keep up that pace until I end up reading something that isn’t keeping my attention- friendship terminated. In those cases if I am not totally hooked, I’d say I average about four hours a week.
GAL: Do you have a current – or “forever” – favorite book?
LP: My forever book is a book of poetry by Jim Carroll. I first got into Jim Carroll when I was in junior high school. It was the first time I got a glimpse of a world so different than mine, but at the same time so familiar. It was when I realized that it was OK to embrace the crazy innards of my brain.
GAL: Who is your favorite author?
LP: Hmm. That is possibly too hard to answer.
GAL: We have a friend who has a “Sanity Shelf” dedicated to books she returns to again and again, to re-read for pleasure, knowledge, and solace. What books would be on your Sanity Shelf?
LP: Cosmos by Carl Sagan. Carl was a master. Scientific Poetry.
The Stranger by Albert Camus. Quiet, simple but at the same time wrenching. The dream.
Bread, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. It was a great book, but also because seeing it and thinking of Prune keeps me sane — it’s not only my favorite restaurant, but I have so many fond memories from eating there.
GAL: Do you own Gabrielle Hamilton's cookbook for Prune? If so, do you have a favorite recipe?
LP: Yes, I have the Prune cookbook. Two actually. I received them as gifts and couldn’t bear to return one. It’s really hard to pick my favorite recipe. They are copies of the recipes for her kitchen, so there are handwritten notations on them. One of my favorites from Green Tomato and Fried Pistachio recipe: “We should figure out something to do with the interesting cured tomato water that accrues in the bottom of the plate by the end of service. Maybe the bartenders have an idea?” Swoon.
GAL: Do you have a current favorite reading spot? Where is it?
LP: Bed Everything is best in bed.
GAL: Or – can you read anywhere – place is not important?
LP: I can read anywhere. As long as I’m warm and fed.
GAL: Is it important for you to physically hold a book you read? Or can you read on a device with no problem and no impact on the experience?
LP: I’ve never read a book on a device. I don’t want to give up holding a book. I love contemplating something I’ve just read while handling the book and feeling the weight of it.
GAL: How do you choose the books you read?
LP: When I lived in NY I would frequent bookstores more and would select things based on the cover or whatever I was in the mood for. I miss that a lot. I’ll never unsubscribe to The Strand email blasts. Here in LA, I’ll usually go by recommendations.
GAL: Have you read any books that have directly influenced your work?
LP: The Stranger by Camus definitely showed me the beauty in simplicity. When I finished it I closed the book and uncontrollably wept. I was on the train and didn’t expect it at all. It’s such an amazing reference point for how subtle yet impactful art can be.
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste by Pierre Bourdieu. My thesis teacher in college once asked if it was possible to make art if you didn’t watch MTV. Distinction is basically a very dense and complex answer to that question. As much as you want the answer to be “No”, you can’t really understand what your art is to an audience if you aren’t aware of pop-culture. That doesn’t have to define your work, but it’s something you need to be aware of.
GAL: Do you prefer non-fiction to fiction? If so, why?
LP: I usually go for non-fiction but it varies. I think I like knowing there is an ending. If I’m not in the mood, all the possibilities in fiction stress me out a little bit.
GAL: If you read non-fiction, what genre do you prefer?
LP: I love a good memoir.
GAL: If you were to write your memoir, what would you title it?
LP: Bridge Ices Before Road. It really illustrates my ability to be rock solid, but at the same time a delicate mess. Also, I love street signs. It really is the only text that is 100% out there to protect you.
GAL: Please name three books you recommend reading, and the reasons for your choices.
LP: Gabrielle Hamilton, Bread, Bones and Butter.
Such an interesting story of how our past and our tastes define us and what we do — no matter how far removed we (think we) are from it.
Steve Martin, The Pleasure of My Company. A short and so sweet novella that will take you away for a bit.
Rainer Maria Rilke, On Love and Other Difficulties. Good company when you’re falling into a maddening kind of love.