A true photographer looks beyond the normal day-to-day. The right eye can elevate any event, from a picnic to a party poker game into something more aesthetic, more intriguing. Yet such an eye is never satisfied, and continues searching for the perfect shot. A house, a stream, a bird in flight — in colour or sepia, stark black and white contrast. A good photographer is unpredictable. Their images provoke thought and imagination…
A few weeks ago, I had an e-mail from a reader, who was eager to show off some of her photographs. I was intrigued by her Flickr nickname, and as it turns out, the lady has some pretty exciting ideas about what a photograph should be. If you’re looking for puppies, rainbows and ‘moose in sunset’ type clichés, you’re in the wrong place – but for that very reason, Lisa caught my attention.
I asked her if she wouldn’t please let me interview her, to find out what you can do as a photographer to break the mould, and develop a unique photography style. Luckily, she was happy to help…
“My husband Mike has had a talent for photography for over 20 years”, Lisa Burkhart recalls, explaining why she decided to get into photography – but while Mike was off photographing beautiful sunsets, stunning landscapes and other things of conventional beauty, Lisa decided to look a little bit beyond.
When her husband was out looking at the world through the diopter of his camera, Lisa felt a little bit left behind, got her claws into a Canon AE-1 Program camera (Which really makes me cheer inside, since I started my life as a photographer with the marginally newer Canon A-1 – brilliant cameras indeed: I still have mine, and it works really well. However, I digress…), which she’d load with black and white film.
“People keep telling us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, Lisa laments, and wonders why so many photographers seem drawn to the same things. Surely, there should be a stronger sense of fun and individuality about all of it? Looking beyond colourful butterflies, fields of daisies, perfect rain drenched red roses, and vibrant sunsets, Lisa explains she has a different vision: “I am drawn to the “less obvious” beauty. The allure of an old abandoned house has much beauty and mystery with the tattered, torn curtains that flow like ribbons in the breeze through the busted out windows.”
“I have always found abandoned houses to be very intriguing and inviting. Although they are now dark, still and void of any sign of life, I know that when I am taking the photograph I am capturing the essence of memories, laughter, tears, joy and sorrow from the families that the house once sheltered and protected”, she says, and continues that she also finds beauty in “old forgotten graveyards, where cemetery cherubs always seem to haunt us with their fixed stone statue eyes. Eyes that seem to watch our every move and give us that uneasy feeling… yet at the same time comfort us in our time of sorrow as we kneel and weep in front of them.
“Although the headstones fade with the years, their memories are forever preserved in the hearts of those they left behind. The photographs are a timeless capture almost as to say ‘You are not forgotten’.”
So what better way to re-immortalise these memories, than with a photographic fervour? “What about that big, old, tangled, spooky tree that gives out an eerie presence”, Lisa wonders, “We’ve all seen them, the one that when you see it you reflect back on your childhood and have vivid images of that huge beautiful, dark, scary tree that stalked you from outside of your bedroom window… The tree with shadowy branches that looked like long arms reaching for you, making you pull the covers over your head and pray for daybreak.”
Lisa is the first to admit that perhaps some of her photos don’t have the technical perfection that you can find elsewhere – but I’m sure the fact that she’s trying to break free of the photographer’s mould more than makes up for it.
To see more of Lisa’s photos, check out Spookyfoto on Flickr! (all photos in this article are © Lisa Burkhart)
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