Lisa Cassell Arms portfolio Merged Landscapes:New Lands was chosen as a Work of Merit in the 2021 Rfotofolio Call. We are please to share her work here.
Would you please tell us about yourself?
I live with my husband in beautiful Vermont where I grew up, and where we raised our family of three children. I graduated with a degree in Film from New York University and subsequently worked in television advertising production and film rights acquisitions. After moving back to VT (and a hiatus raising kids), I segued into culinary arts, cooking and recipe development which led naturally to food photography and the publication of a cookbook. At this point in time, I am feeling more creatively inspired than ever before and I’m grateful to be able to focus on my work in nature, gardens and landscape.
Where did you get your photographic training?
I became enamored with photography as a young teenager and I worked my way through the complete set of the Time-Life Library of Photography books that we had in our home. It was a great early education in the mechanics, principles and history of photography. Starting with a very cool Polaroid camera in the 1970’s, and moving quickly on to my first “real” fully manual camera, I set up my first darkroom in our bathroom and it was all trial and error from there.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
Wow, so many. This list doesn’t even scratch the surface. I have always loved the dreamy, early works of Steichen. I continue to look at Weston, Cunningham, Kertész, Horvat and Doisneau. Right now, I’m really loving work by Cig Harvey, Sally Gall, Wendi Schneider, and Erik Madigan Heck.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
I’m not sure that I can identify a single image, but I can certainly say that Henri Cartier-Bresson was an early inspiration for me. I had a large print of Séville, Spain hanging in my apartment for years, and there was something about the geometry, form and visual poetry in that image that made me see photography in an entirely different way.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?
The series of images I’m working on now (working title: Connectivity) has been a little mind- blowing for me. The series is comprised of my own landscapes from my archive, composited with images I found that were taken by my grandfather in the 1930’s. The similarities in form, location and composition just blew me away. For me, it’s kicked off a process of thinking about the thread of connection; collective and shared experience across time and geography.
Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Rfotofolio Call.
My Merged Landscapes:New Lands series is also about connections.
In the series, I combine two landscapes into a single merged image. Distant from one another on the globe and separated by time, the images speak to one another. Pairs may share some commonality, perhaps in form, topography or mood. Some may be analogs to one another, merged back to back as if in mirror image, but placed together, they enter into a conversation. A visual dialogue between shapes and shadows that suggests a new and hybrid land with a history to be discovered.
Inspiration for this series comes from my fascination with antique stereoscopic image cards. Long and horizontal in format, two images appear side by side, merged in the center. They often depict exotic locations, captured from slightly different angles, suggesting an edit, or slight glitch in time. My merged landscapes mimic the stereoscopic format and hint at the enigmatic and slightly unreal quality that I’ve loved about those early, mysterious images.
What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?
The quiet and solitude of shooting in natural spaces early in the morning. As an early riser, I am in heaven when the early morning slant of light reveals things that would otherwise be invisible, and the physical act of making the photo becomes lost in the absorption and elation of just seeing.
How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?
I switch to an odd lens that I never use and make myself use only that lens. Frustrating, and maybe no good pictures come from it, but it eventually helps me to see differently.
What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?
I’m not at all a gear-head, but I’m quite attached to my Sony mirrorless cameras and my workhorse Zeiss 16-70mm f4 lens. Also, I can’t live without Lightroom (and the full Adobe suite).
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
I would love to try large format photography. I rarely use a tripod, and the intentionality of large format, the slowing down of the process is appealing to me. But, oh so expensive to get started!
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
It definitely slows me down and takes me out of my own head. Even when I don’t have a camera in my hand, I tend to notice visual subtleties- forms, gestures, a quality of light perhaps. I’ve learned to take my time more, pay attention to the poetry that can be found in the mundane.
How has the pandemic influenced your work methods? Or has it?
It has. Like many people, I’ve been working in a very solitary way for the past few years. I’ve spent much of my time immersed in the natural world, local nature preserves and in gardens. But interestingly, for the first time I’ve also found a sense of community around photography during this time. Thanks to all the available online photo groups and workshop offerings, I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone and have participated in critique groups and interactive workshops where I’ve been able to benefit from different perspectives and be introduced to other work and practices.
To learn more about the work of Lisa Cassell-Arms please visit her site by clicking on her name.