Hi Lisa, thank you for accepting doing this interview for Polaroid of The Day Magazine. It’s a great pleasure to have you featured in our long gallery of Polaroid artists!
How would you describe yourself in two sentences? What would you like people to know about you and about your work with Polaroid?
I’m a wife, auntie and grand-auntie, reader, writer, lymphoma survivor, road-tripper and collector of old things. I love working with Polaroid cameras and film because I am always up for problem solving, and Polaroid scratches that itch: its limitations and quirks (color shifts, divots) help me to embrace imperfection, turning everyday life into art.
Polaroid limitations and quirks help me to embrace imperfection, turning everyday life into art.
I saw that you had a project going on with a name “Dwell” – portraits shot on a very green almost turquoise wall. It looks very fairy-like and almost like from a painting, with a really enchanting atmosphere. How was this project born and will you continue working on it in the future?
Dwell came out of an accidental shot: in the one entitled Penumbra, I wanted to try the F101 Spectra motion filter to create a ghostly effect, but I accidentally inserted it on the lens so that it was facing up and not down – the blur effect made me look as if I were free-falling, or being pulled up through another dimension. But I liked it, and thought more about how to create this kind of atmosphere in the tiny space of the bedroom, where the green shots happened. Shooting in a small space with limited props mirrored my cancer experience: with illness at the center of daily life, photography was (and still is) a way to escape it.
Shooting in a small space with limited props mirrored my cancer experience: with illness at the center of daily life, photography was (and still is) a way to escape it.
Now that I’m in remission, I am thinking about moving some of the same techniques and concepts out into the world again – outside the green room. I haven’t yet decided if it’s a continuation or a sister project, but it’s something that is very personal to me and I’m not quite yet ready to let it go.
We have the impression that the picture where you sit on a chair has a metaphorical meaning of something that you have overcome in your life. It looks like you’re sucked in by a time travel machine from behind. So, does this portrait have a metaphorical meaning?
Yes, definitely. As I underwent surgery, then chemotherapy, the hardest thing for me to accept was the ordinary routines we all do to stay alive: grocery shopping, work, paying bills – all these mundane tasks felt ridiculous in the face of cancer. But I also marvelled at how these things kept me sane too. And photography, for me, is part of the everyday. There is the private world of illness, and the public sphere of living, and I attempt to show that through Dwell.
How did you get the inspiration for this lovely project? Was it a film? Or a specific music?
(Thank you for your kind words!) The soundtrack for the earlier Dwell images was New Order’s Movement, and each time I photographed in the green room, I’d have New Order/Joy Division playing low in the background, reminding me of my dark, brooding teenage years.
I’d have New Order/Joy Division playing low in the background, reminding me of my dark, brooding teenage years.
The most challenging task working with limited space is not repeating images – 19th century spirit photography served as inspiration, particularly The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult and Faces of the Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography.
If you had the last pack of Oolaroid film and the last Polaroid camera in the world, how would you use it? Where? And what would you photograph?
The last eight frames would be a small project documenting the girls I grew up with, standing in front of their childhood homes in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. It’s a project that’s been in my mind for years, and knowing it was my last chance, I’d make it come to fruition – an ordinary little Main-Street-USA kind of town, filled with extraordinary women who have shaped me into the person I am today. Polaroid was around when we were kids, and it’s my primary art medium now – using that last pack to tell stories would bring it full-circle.