Sunday, December 11, 2011

St. Petersburg Times article on THTK by Elisabeth Parker

Artist collects photographs that are too hard to keep for exhibit.

By Elisabeth Parker, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Friday, December 9, 2011

NORTH TAMPA — The pictures may appear routine to outsiders, but they vibrate with emotion in the hands of their owners.
A woman bathes in an industrial sink. A man holds his head next to an angel statue. Two couples exchange vows.
They came into the hands of Jason Lazarus because people across Hillsborough found them too difficult to hold onto, but somehow too valuable to simply throw away.
They've become part of Lazarus's "Too Hard to Keep" archives, a compilation of photos collected from around the world over the past two years. The project will be included in upcoming exhibits in Philadelphia and Belgium.
Lazarus stopped in the Tampa Bay area as a visiting art professor at the University of South Florida. Throughout the fall semester, he has taught an art class, advised five graduate students and worked with students to re-create cardboard Occupy Wall Street signs modeled from worldwide images found online.
Aside from that, he advertised his project and made appointments to meet locals who wanted to contribute. He is still collecting, although he will return to his home in Chicago next week.
Lazarus started accumulating pictures two years ago and now has about 1,500 photos in the archive, coming from as far as Europe and South America.
The project's appeal, he says, is in its inclusivity. The photos expose the pain and ecstasy of everyday life. It's a public partnership to create art.
In exhibits, they are viewed with no back story. But often Lazarus hears the stories. The man holding his head sent the photo to a former lover. She gave it to Lazarus last month, shortly after the man committed suicide.
A classic bound album engraved with a wedding date came with a note relinquishing ownership. Inside, everything you would expect. Except that the remaining smiling faces sit by empty spots where the black pages have been ripped.
"It went from elegant to macabre," Lazarus says from his temporary home in a Seminole Heights bungalow, decorated with thrift store finds, sipping a can of his favorite sparkling water.
The photographs, he says, mix fact and fiction, as memories do. A frame captures a slice of life, separating it from the context.
His favorite newest additions to the Tampa area archives include undeveloped rolls of film and a picture imprinted on a used white candle of an old man celebrating his birthday. He also likes landscapes, because he says anyone can relate to them.
There are rules for submissions:
• Keep no copies.
• Narratives describing the photo(s) will be kept, but not exhibited and are not necessary.
• Photos can remain in an envelope in the exhibit. (Some have contributed photos that they prefer not be shown. Viewers of the exhibit will see only the envelopes enclosing them.)
The archive scan be viewed at an exhibit in February at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center and then in March at an exhibit in Belgium.
Lazarus says the archive serves two purposes for those who donate: ridding them of the photo and allowing them to enter into a bigger conversation about the way we live our lives and how photography plays into it.
"I am the kind of person who would have images too hard to keep," Lazarus said.
It's how he came up with the idea. At first, he included his own in the archive. He won't reveal their nature. But looking at them regularly was so painful, he took them out, and shredded them.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at or (813) 316-8342.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Greater Tampa THTK

Greater Tampa THTK

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Creative Loafing features THTK

Take my Kodachrome away 

Got a photo you never want to see again? Give it to Jason Lazarus.

 | November 10, 2011
Somewhere in my apartment in a box of old contact sheets — pages of thumbnail-sized black-and-white images I never got around to printing as larger photographs — there's a picture of the first man I ever considered my lover. In the image, he lies face down in our bed, refusing shyly to look at the camera as I photograph his slender, naked body. The bed is made with sheets his mother or stepmother had sent him: beige sheets striped with floral vines.
The other day, when a new lover asked me to make a photograph with him, I thought of that old image and wondered where it was. If I knew, I might be tempted to look at it again. I'm glad I don't. With youthful impetuousness that I remember wearily now, I once told the man in the black-and-white photograph never to speak to me again, and he didn't.
Some photos — tangible reminders of past loves, lost siblings, life-altering journeys and other heartbreaks — you might just be fine with never seeing again. At least, that's the premise (one I find myself embracing wholeheartedly) behind Jason Lazarus' "Too Hard To Keep" photo archive, which the artist describes on his website,, as "a repository for photos you cannot live with any longer."
Why you can't live with them, Lazarus doesn't particularly want to know, though contributions to his archive sometimes arrive accompanied by anonymous letters or are handed over, face to face, with a story. That you can't live with them is enough to merit inclusion in THTK, a project Lazarus began in 2010 and which now includes more than 1,500 photographs, as well as entire photo albums and quirky handcrafted photophilia like a small flip-book made of post-it notes and color snapshots.
This fall, Lazarus, 35, is Kennedy Visiting Artist at USF Tampa's School of Art and Art History; he ordinarily lives in Chicago, where he teaches photography at the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College. While he's here through mid-December, Lazarus is working on three projects in a conceptual medium that often shapes his art: the photographic archive. For example, in 2007 Lazarus invited people — i.e., the general public — to send him photos of the loved ones, friends, friends-of-friends, etc., who had introduced them to the music of the band Nirvana for the first time, along with a brief description of that experience.
As an outcome, Lazarus's projects often reveal something about the role photography plays in our lives — emotionally, culturally, politically — and in our relationships with other people. (Submissions to the Nirvana project read as fascinating micro-memoirs, each an individual voice in a larger, collective narrative of shared cultural experience.) His projects are diverse. The other two he's working on are an archive of animated GIFs and a collection of Occupy Wall Street signs based on photographs of the protests. To create the latter, Lazarus has recruited USF students as collaborators, opening his studio on Thursday nights and compensating fellow sign-makers with pizza and conversation about art and the Occupy protests. As of last week, they had covered his studio walls with dozen of the signs, transformed from photographs into concrete objects made of weathered cardboard and black permanent marker inscriptions like "People Before Profit" and "The Beginning is Near."
"Too Hard To Keep" might be Lazarus' most accessible project. Everyone to whom I've described the archive seems to "get it" in a split second — a sure sign that the artist is on firm ground as a cultural anthropologist of sorts. (To an intergalactic traveler, it might seem bizarre that scraps of paper coated with light-sensitive emulsion and printed with pictures hold such sway over human beings, but to us it's business as usual.) THTK is also the project Lazarus wants to make the most public and the most participatory while in Tampa. To that end, he'll undertake something here that he's never tried before: a THTK photo pick-up day on Sunday, Nov. 20. Call or email Lazarus in advance or on the 20th, and he'll come get your photo contributions to the archive. Leave them on your doorstep, or meet the artist and shake his hand. (You can also mail photos to the address listed above.)
What happens to your pictures once they're part of THTK? A couple of things are possible. Either you give Lazarus the right to exhibit your photos as anonymous contributions to the archive and to keep them in perpetuity, or you can specify that they may not be shown face-up, in which case he will exhibit them so that only their reverse sides are visible. Either option requires a kind of participation that is integral to the project: trust.
By press time, Lazarus hadn't secured a date for a possible exhibition of photos from the THTK archive in Tampa. If he schedules one, it will be announced before mid-December on his project blog,, where you can peruse the photos that other people just can't live with anymore and learn more about saying goodbye to some of your own.

selected submissions from Greater Tampa Too Hard to Keep day

new additions to THTK from Greater Tampa Pick Up Day:

if you have photos hiding at home that are ripe for too hard to keep, please consider grabbing them over the holidays.  please mail all submissions to the archive to Chicago after December 15th, i'm finally returning home after a semester teaching at USF Tampa.

more greater Tampa additions coming soon...happy thanksgiving everyone!

jason lazarus
810 n wood, 3f
chicago IL 60622

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

from a submission of four photos

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

one landscape from an entire album of photos submitted to THTK in 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Youth Culture" curated by Adan De La Garza and Nicholas O'Brien

THTK at The Future Gallery, Berlin, sharing a wall with Tobias Fike's video "8 minutes and 18 seconds of aging"

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011

received 4/3/11

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

new radio piece on THTK

in conjunction with the THTK installation in YOUR TIME IS GONNA COME at ISU's University Galleries

wglt in peoria/normal IL by laura kennedy:

the ending is pretty great!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

ISU install of THTK

Thanks to everyone so far who has submitted to the archive...this is the second installation of THTK, opening tomorrow at ISU's University Galleries as part of my solo exhibition YOUR TIME IS GONNA COME.  The photos are really starting to sketch an epic conversation about photography.

Also, in the case of some unfortunate accident (I did get hit by a car once in Chicago--it took two months to recover), I have found a trusted friend/artist who will shepherd the archive in the event of my passing.  It feels right to know the archive will be in good hands for years to come.

Last, THTK will be making an appearance at the Queens Museum of Art for a group exhibition opening Sunday, April 10th entitled "Not the Way You Remembered."  More info to come...

Be well everyone!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011