Lisa Wareham is the featured f/22 photographer for the month of July. Like Lesley last month, I met Lisa in Missoula in the summer of 2007. Watching Lisa work and seeing the result of her creative vision was a treat and was something many of us looked forward to seeing when our assignments were due. At this time, Lisa is living in Butte, Montana pursuing her own photography career and also recently started the Butte Daily Photo photo blog earlier this year. I had the opportunity to ask Lisa some questions recently about her career in photography and the direction she is moving, which makes up this months profile.
When did you get started in photography and what started your interest?
I’ve been taking photos for a little more than four years. Photography was something which always interested me, but I never had the chance or knowledge to experiment with. When I was a freshman in college I had a few more credits I needed to take. I searched online for the different art classes, and the beginning photography course came up. It was already the first week of class, and I added the course 15 minutes before it started. There was a wait list of about 20 people, but I went anyway. The instructor told us we needed to buy a 35mm camera and about $100 worth of slide film. I bought a camera online on a whim, hoping I would get into the class. I brought the camera to class and the teacher added me to the roster. From then on I became more and more interested in photography as the weeks, months, and then years went on. It’s funny how taking a chance can change the rest of your life.
I never thought I was good enough to make a living at it, until I started working for my college newspaper, The Argonaut. It was my first semester as a photographer for the paper. I had to take photos at a powwow, and ended up in the bleachers with a wide shot of the grand entry. I used a long exposure, so the three men in the middle were pretty sharp, while the people circling around them were a colorful blur. This was the first photo after 2 years of shooting which I really thought might be good. To this day it is still one of my favorite photos.
What is the current focus of your photography and where do you want to see it going in the future?
Funny you should ask that, as that’s exactly what I’m trying to figure out! I really enjoy my studio work, the stuff that has concepts behind it. I think working in editorial photography, doing those kinds of portraits and illustrations would be a blast. That’s the direction I’m leaning towards, though I’m also considering advertising and starting my own portrait business. The only problem I see with the portrait business is that the main thing people want is to look good. I, on the other hand, enjoy the creativity of strange locations and angles. I’m not sure I could handle being stuck in the pretty parks of Butte when there are so many old mine-yards and abandoned buildings.
The studio work of still life of food was quite well done and an interesting concept. Have you continued to pursue this direction at all?
I’m actually working on trying to find a few odd props for an addition to the food photo essay. It has to do with salmon and how the food industry often adds red coloring to make the fish more appealing to customers.
Other than that, I haven’t done much of that kind of work lately. I have been brainstorming ideas and sketching things out, but haven’t had the time to put my ideas together in a photograph. I find it fun and challenging trying to find interesting concepts to photograph. For every 20 ideas there might be one idea that is actually good, and has photographic potential.
How would you describe your style?
Which one? Well, I guess my studio work is conceptual, exaggerates, and has humor. I’ve been told by people that it often has a kind of dark humor, such as my food photo essay.
My outdoor photos that appear on the Butte Daily Photo are also often kind of dark. I focus on the industrial side of Butte, which is not hard to find! But the history and industrial side of Butte is really the unique thing about Butte. I try as hard as I can to get past the cliché Butte images, such as the mine head frame at sunset and the Finlen Hotel. I do have a few images of the Finlen and quite a few head frames, but I think most of the time I’m successful at getting a unique view of them. So I guess strange or unique perspective is part of my style.
The Butte Daily Photo has been fun to follow. What gave you the idea to take on this project and do you have any objectives for it in the future?
Well, I started Butte Daily Photo for a variety of reasons. After attending the Rocky Mountain School of Photography’s Summer Intensive and Digital Intensive programs, I sort of had about three or four months of very little camera usage. In fact, it collected dust. So I knew I needed a project that would keep me shooting and get me excited about photography. And so the Butte Daily Photo started. I also started it as a way to get my name out as a photographer in Butte, and also so people from Butte that live elsewhere now could see what’s going on in Butte. I’ve had some nice responses from people from around the country.
My goal is to continue this project for a year. It has already been three months, so I’m 25% done. If after that year I want to continue it, then I will. But if I am exhausted with photographing Butte, then I might stop it, or hand it off to another photographer. It also depends on if I’m still living in Butte. I would also like to make a self-published book of the photographs. And even if I don’t sell any, I would love to make a copy for myself and a few friends.
Is there any one lesson you have learned while pursuing a career in photography which others can learn from as well?
Yes. You have to try! If you don’t put yourself out there, nobody will give you a chance because they don’t know you exist! I had an internship in Spokane a couple years ago with the National Resource Conservation Services. While I was living there, I gave a call to one of the local radio stations and left them a message to see if they had any photographic needs for some of their events. I was scared and nervous to call them. They called me back a week later and wanted me to take photos for the “Hoopfest Wedding.” Hoopfest is this enormous basketball tournament in the streets of downtown Spokane. Every year they choose three couples and they have a wedding on the main court. Anyway, if I wouldn’t have made that cold call, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity. I mean, how many people can say they shot a wedding that took place on a basketball court, with the brides and grooms in jerseys, and a shootout at the end for a honeymoon in Hawaii?
The following is two images Lisa recently took. The first is from the Butte Daily Photo blog and the second is some of her portrait work.
Mine head frames are an icon of Butte, and this photo shows the Bell Diamond Mine (left) through the frame of the Original Mine.
Images Copyright Lisa Wareham. All rights reserved.
You may see more of Lisa’s work at the websites below. I recommend following the Butte Daily Photo as it is quite a learning experience.
- Lisa Wareham Photography – photography for advertising, products, portraits, weddings and events.
- Butte Daily Photo – Your daily photo fix. Butte style.
I hope you enjoyed this months interview with Lisa Wareham and looking at some of her work. Be sure to check back next month for another f/22 photographer profile.