It is with great pleasure that we speak with photographer & author Honey Lazar about her inspiring and uplifting book.
Shutter Sisters: Tell Us About Your Book.
Honey Lazar: My book is called Loving Aunt Ruth: Recipes for A Well Lived Life. Kristin Ohlson, Author, The Soil Will Save Us, wrote the jacket text for the book, which I’ll share.
Everyone wants unconditional love. Loving Aunt Ruth invites you to share in it.
Ruth Moss’s life was filled with pain and loss, but she responded by reaching out to the world with love. Her niece, photographer, Honey Lazar, asked Aunt Ruth if she could document her life in pictures and, in the process, become an audience to her wisdom. Her lessons in love are revealed in text as well as in Lazar’s intimate photographs. She believes Aunt Ruth and other loving exemplars provide a uniquely powerful guide to living well.
SS: Tell us why you wrote the book, Loving Aunt Ruth: Recipes for A Life Well-Lived?
HL: I began photographing my Aunt Ruth as a way to get closer to her, but once I put the camera down and listened to her stories, her wisdom for living well, I felt a narrative evolve. When I began taking Aunt Ruth’s photos, her children and husband were gone, and I asked her how she stayed determined in the face of so much loss. Her answer became the anchor for the book and changed my life. She said:
First, I accept that life isn’t easy. I have my faith…but, I have a will to live, and that will comes from loving people.
SS: What did you enjoy the most about writing the book?
HL: Falling in love with Aunt Ruth, getting to know her legion of friends whose lives would enrich mine, and feeling a part of creating a book about living life through the lens of love. My eldest sister was moving east, and my only local relative was Aunt Ruth, so I thought photographing her would help us bond. The bonus was going to School of Aunt Ruth and learning the guideposts to living well that I didn’t know I needed and being treated to a decision making process that was predicated on loving people. If you are going to bake brownies, bake an extra batch for friends…and so forth!
SS: What was the most challenging part of writing it?
HL: I asked Aunt Ruth if I could photograph her for a book without any thought to what I was saying, and she said, “Okay. I will have a tea party, so you can meet all of my friends, because if you are going to get to know me, then you must know all the people who are important to me.” If the book began with a party, the challenge was certainly how the book would end. I didn’t want to photograph my aunt’s aging process, since she was 87 when we began, because her life was all about socializing, giving to friends, family, and community, so how to finish was a challenge.
Until…she began to plan her 90th birthday party that 165 people attended. Problem solved…the book would end the way it began; with a party!
SS: What is your favorite photo you shared in the book? Why is it your favorite?
HL: Aunt Ruth’s 90th birthday party is iconic and my favorite. She didn’t want gifts, so I sent postcards to the invitees asking them to choose 1-3 words describing her, and for me, the photo symbolizes all that Aunt Ruth meant to everyone. 165 people came, and I only know that many people on Facebook! I love this picture.
SS: Did you shoot the photography specifically for the book, or did you curate the images you already had, or both? What is the process like?
HL: I had no idea that photographing Aunt Ruth would turn into a book! I documented Aunt Ruth’s life over a 3-year period, and by year 3, I was certain that I wanted to edit these images into a narrative along with the lessons I’d collected over the years of photographing.
The process was intimate, beautiful, and instructive. I learned a lot about location lighting, but most importantly, I got lessons on love, loss, friendship, aging, and forgiveness that helped me beyond my dreams. Both of my sisters died shortly before the book was published within 10 months of each other, and the photographic journey with Aunt Ruth gave me courage.
SS: What one tip would you share with people who want to start taking better pictures right now?
HL: Obviously, shooting every day matters, but my tip is really to learn about the photographic basics of light and time by taking courses or watching videos to enhance your skill set in order to make the images your mind already sees.
“Make sure you always have love in your life. It is the greatest gift of all.” -Aunt Ruth
Purchasing Loving Aunt Ruth: A little book about being good should definitely do some good, and a portion of every sold book goes to The Intergenerational School, a charter school in Cleveland, my hometown, whose core of volunteers and mentors come from a center for seniors.
In the spirit of Aunt Ruth who said, “Everything tastes better shared,” Honey is sending a PDF with 24 additional recipes not in the book to anyone who buys the book to give love this holiday season.
About Honey (in her words): “My dad was an artist. He was a brilliant photographer, a painter, an illustrator, and a filmmaker. He documented our family, the famous, and led his own advertising agency. He died when I was three, but his pictures and movies kept me close to him. I picked up a camera to document everyone and everything in my life as a way to keep memory close at hand. I love everything about photography, especially the part that tethers me to my dad.
I am a fine art photographer whose work focuses on long-term projects for exhibition and publication. My work has been seen from Spain To New York and on the walls of my sweet Aunt Ruth’s apartment.”
Honey Lazar is an award-winning photographer who lives with her husband and 22-year-old cat in Cleveland, Ohio. Read more about all of her photographic accomplishments on her about page.