Photographer Richard Lovrich captures himself in a self-portrait. (Photo/Richard Lovrich)
Photographer and creative director Richard Lovrich has no time for boredom. He once left a comfortable art director job at a major daily newspaper to become art director of a developing, regional theater group. Based in upstate New York, Lovrich is now creative director for three theaters and an independent newspaper. He’s an often-traveling advocate for the lung disease Alpha-1. And whichever hat he’s wearing, he’s always, always the man with a camera in hand.
Lovrich’s frank, intimate, portraits reveal a gift for capturing just the right fraction of a second. We slowed him down long enough to ask him: What’s the most interesting thing about you? There was plenty to choose from.
Age of diagnosis with Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency:
I’m proudest of:
Goal I’m striving toward now:
There are a few: to become a better Alpha-1 advocate, artist and long-range cyclist and to eradicate the last of my fears.
Best advice anyone ever gave me:
Pay attention to your body. Here’s how I first learned this. At age 8, after running, clumsily, down the five flights of steps to the lobby of my Bronx apartment building, I was greeted by a knife-wielding teen brandishing a switchblade. He pointed said blade at my face and said this: “I want you to go all the way back up … and come down COOL.”
I did go all the way up and I took his challenge. I walked down the five flights, this time, catlike, stealthily, until, heart pounding, I reached the lobby landing. The knife was summarily folded and its bearer said, simply, “Cool” and waved me on. This advice – to pay attention to my body – served as a survival technique in the then-dangerous Manhattan of my youth and the “message” of it has stuck with me until today. With Alpha-1, there are ways of moving your body that make life easier, like when you bend down, you want to inhale first. So that advice relates to the disease as well.
Something I learned the hard way:
Never lose the opportunity to do what you can, whenever you are able.
My idea of the perfect day:
When I can learn something new, create something of worth, or increase Alpha-1 awareness.
For artists I would choose
Alexander Rodchenko, László Moholy-Nagy, and Kazimir Malevich – all connected to Constructivism, a movement born in Russia that aimed to involve the viewer and make a social impact. The artists even created street signs. I love the idea of artists who used everything that was in front of them.
Favorite musician: Brian Eno
Favorite movie: Prospero's Books
My most prized possession:
Our family home that I share with my wife Lynne, our dog, and the surrounding wildlife. I always lived in apartments. Then we moved upstate and we built a house in the woods.
Something most people don’t know/understand about photography:
The joy of thinking the way that light thinks.
Something most people don’t know/understand about Alpha-1:
That so much of an Alpha’s condition and experience depends on the Alpha, from seeking out and maintaining the appropriate course of medications, to diligent trigger avoidance, and of course, to breathing, and general fitness.
Most common question people ask about my illness:
How did you get Alpha-1? Really, that is it - even after I lead by explaining that Alpha-1 is a genetic disorder.
My advice to anyone who’s living with Alpha-1:
Our diagnosis, FEV1 and oxygen levels, all very important, but they should help guide us, not define us. Alpha-1 is neither a life, nor death sentence, it is a life challenge. Work hard, reach out for a helping hand and when things are at their very worst, think of how you might help someone else.
The most interesting thing about me is:
That I am insatiably interested.