Location: San Francisco, CA
Lisa Wiseman has been shooting constantly since the eighth grade. Her unique fine-art approach to fashion, advertising and editorial photography has resulted in numerous accolades and awards, including selection as one of PDN’s 2009 30 new and emerging photographers to watch. A select client list features a variety of high-profile names like Axe Body Spray, GQ, Marie Claire, Newsweek, Wired and more, and Wiseman’s unbridled enthusiasm for the craft of image making suggests that there are even bigger and better things on the horizon.
I’m a San Francisco native, and I went to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco for my second bachelor’s degree (BFA). I graduated in 2007. I enjoy living here, which is important because, for me, living someplace I’m happy is critical to producing work that I’m excited about. Enjoying my environment is integral to my work life.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned either from a teacher or mentor?
To be excited about everything, to constantly be interested in what’s around you, and to never stop shooting. I’ve been shooting for 17 years. I started when I was really young and have been shooting almost constantly since then. The earliest person I remember fostering this openness and excitement was my eighth-grade photography teacher. He taught us to love photography by trying everything. He would let us come in on Saturday mornings for hours and experiment with advanced techniques. He nurtured us and let us shoot whatever we wanted to shoot and concentrate on our interests rather than specific assignments. My other mentors since then have also mirrored this same excitement and his desire to never stop shooting.
What was your first job?
My first national job was a fun feature for Marie Claire in 2008 that included portraits of amazing women in three cities: SF, Tampa and NYC. It was a story about women who had been laid off, before the economy had crashed, and it was about these women turning something negative into something positive. It was a really fun project and it was nice to be working with a magazine that valued my aesthetics.
What advice would you give to a photographer who is still in school?
Be engaged! Your teachers are your best resource and often will become your colleagues and friends, so enjoy getting to know them. I think the people who really participate in their education get a lot out of it and can more easily figure out how much they love photography.
What inspires you about photography?
People have called me a “beauty seeker.” I’m constantly looking at things. That’s a true pleasure for me. There’s a fine line between knowing what you’re going to see when you hit the shutter and knowing there’s always a little room for surprise and magic when you look at the image. You can make a commentary through other mediums. With writing, you get to choose what you’re going to say, or with painting, you get to put the paint down, and with other mediums, you get to make all the choices. With photography, there’s some serendipity.
What makes you go out and shoot?
I feel exceptionally lucky that I get to spend my life looking, and the luxury of looking makes me excited about reproducing and saying something about what I see. Primarily, I’m looking for mood and emotion in whatever I’m seeing around me. It can be in something banal like a kitchen counter, or it can be something more complicated, but at th
e core, there are always the same things that I’m interested in: the way the light moves over something or the way shadows move over something. I’m always looking for a certain mood or emotion that is coming out of the interplay of the light and the dark, technically and metaphorically.
What do you like best about the whole process?
Viscerally being in the moment of shooting. It’s the ultimate rush for me. I’m meticulous about all the parts of the process. I’m careful about the minutiae of exactly how everything is set up in my camera and I’m detail oriented from start to finish, but shooting is the part that makes me most happy. The other parts are icing on the cake.
What kind of camera equipment do you use?
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II, the EF 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L USM, EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM, EF 85mm ƒ/1.2L USM, the Polaroid SLR 690 and my iPhone. I love Polaroid. I think it’s wonderful, and I love that it’s different every time. I just shot some editorial on my iPhone. One of the artistic directors loves my iPhone “Fauxlaroids,” and he asked me to shoot a travel story using my iPhone with the ShakeItPhoto app.
What’s your favorite piece of Canon gear?
The EF 85mm ƒ/1.2L II USM is my dream lens! I rent it regularly. I think it’s the sharpest and sexiest lens that Canon makes. The glass is sharper than everything else, but somehow everything comes out looking beautifully creamy.
To see more of Lisa Wiseman’s work, go to www.lisawiseman.com.