Renes Box © Lisa Nebenzahl

Lisa Nebenzahl was one of the photographers chosen in the 2018 Rfotofolio Selections.

“The idea of making a shadow into a 3D object was compelling and transformative and I appreciated all aspects of this project’s presentation–it reminded me of the boxes that held my rock collections in my youth. To capture something that is ever changing in such a unique and thoughtful way made this work even more intriguing.” Aline Smithson


Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

Raised in Evanston, Illinois, I now live in the middle of the country in Minnesota, where I’ve lived since late 1970’s. My path back to photography began in the intensive-care unit of a hospital when my oldest friend, who was terminally ill, introduced me to her attending nurse as her best friend and an artist.

Prior to that, my 35-year career working as a documentary producer and raising a child consumed most of my creative energy. My studio practice had been dormant for over thirty years. The road to re-engaging with my creative practice began a year after losing my friend. 

In the last five years I have returned to my creative roots, focusing my attention on developing a visual language upon which to build a body of photographic work. The dignities of death and grief have led me to a new kind of freedom and courage.

My current practice involves experimentation with the elements of chance and surprise. I work with multiple-layered montage photography, alternative and historical printing processes, and photo constructions. I have photographed in the same room for four years, observing, hunting, and capturing the ever-changing life and habits of shadows.

Tree Clouds © Lisa Nebenzahl

Where did you get your photographic training?

I studied photography and video at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I was a studio assistant in my early days. When I re-engaged with my photographic work, many years after my student days, I picked up my iPhone and started working.

Why do you create? 

Engaging in work is the closest thing I know to making sense of the world around me.

Who has had an influence on your creative process? 

I look to artists who I have looked at my whole life for inspiration: Magritte, Cornell, Man Ray and Rauschenberg for informing my interest in perception; O’Keefe for living a life of your choosing. My friends and mentors always inspire me to keep working and pushing.

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time. 

Wynn Bullock’s “Child in a Forest”, 1951. The Family of Man book had a big influence on me as a child. I even cut my parents book up and made my own with essays about the images that I liked. “Child in a Forest” was a magical and mysterious image to me; the light, the questions I had about the child, all of the richness and mystery one could ask for.

© Lisa Nebenzahl

What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson? 

“Crow”, 2014 is one of my first constructed images. The crow died in my yard one winter and had this beautiful and haunting presence in the snow. I finally trudged out to photograph it. That image was put away for a few years. I found it in 2014 and felt the power and mystery of the image. My decision to place it in the context of another image and stitch a pattern around it led the way to a new body of work that allowed me to work with the elements of chance and surprise. Experimentation has been my guide.

What makes a good day for you creatively speaking? 

Work days in the studio with the feeling of endless time. Music is always involved.
Chasing the light, either at home or on Lake Superior.

If you could spend a day with any other photographer or artist living or passed who would it be?

Man Ray, the quintessential artist.

Catch Line © Lisa Nebenzahl
Palm and Magic ©

How important is the photographic community to you?

Essential. As an educational media producer in a museum for many years I saw the threads of influence and the conversations between photographers. As an artist I now have my own community of artists and image-makers. I wasn’t really paying attention to the richness of the photography community until I went to my first photo review and met other photographers who were dealing with many of the same issues I am. The support from my community is so meaningful to me.

What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?

Honestly, when I began working again it was the iPhone 5 that allowed me to capture the natural world in the way I wanted – spontaneously and up close. After that my Epson 3800 printer which I bought not knowing what I would do with it. I began using the printer as a print-making tool, creating ‘over-prints’; prints that were put through the printer up to six times. These unique prints were my earliest works.

 Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future? 

In the last two years I’ve had grant support to explore historical processes, mainly platinum-palladium and photo gravure. My mentor, master-printer Keith Taylor, has been an amazing teacher to me throughout my study of these processes. I’m hoping to continue exploring both of these processes. 

Whats on the horizon?

This last year has been a really productive one for me and the one ahead looks to be the same! I have a show this year with my mentor Keith Taylor which is very exciting to me. In the fall I will be showing work with a wonderful photographer, Mary Ludington. This winter I’m participating in a residency in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I will be working with images my father made there in 1966 as well as creating cyanotypes.

Thank you for sharing your time with us. 

To learn more about the work of Lisa Nebenzahl please visit her site at Lisa Nebenzahl. 

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