By the Water with Lisa-Marie Kaspar
Working mainly with analogue film, Lisa-Marie Kaspar’s photography often revolves around the female point of view and telling a visual story. I had followed Lisa’s work for a while and had been intrigued by her plastic life series; an ongoing series about plastic consumption and pollution, to raise awareness of ecological issues. With a shared concern for the future of our planet, and with an appreciation for Lisa’s ability to create beautiful and captivating imagery, I was delighted when Lisa suggested a collaboration with Ara the altar.
As I plan, shoot and edit all of the product and model imagery for Ara the altar (with a lot of consideration for keeping the impact of the shoot as minimal as possible, whilst still being reflective of the brand), the idea of letting someone else into this world was at first a little daunting. Straight away, after initial conversations with Lisa, exploring the idea of her producing a mini-series featuring some Ara pieces, I knew that Lisa really understood my commitment to minimising waste and environmental impact. Lisa was very respectful of the approach that I adopt in my own shoots and was happy to work with these values in mind, to source props and wardrobe responsibly, to use natural materials and to utilise what she already had e.g. the model’s own wardrobe etc. We decided that the mini-series would feature the Phase collection; each of the four principle moon phases captured in 100% recycled 925 sterling silver. Both Lisa and I love working with water so we were keen for this to be woven into the shoot. Lisa discovered a beautiful mountainside location in Bolzano, Italy, where she was living during her exchange semester, making the perfect setting for what Lisa aptly entitled ‘By the water’.
With very capable tools for creating incredible imagery readily in our pockets, photography is something that many of us increasingly do. Whilst I see the value in taking a walk in nature without feeling the need to take any pictures, I also get so much out of capturing the beauty that I see, and being able to revisit it later. I think that taking pictures purely for pleasure helps us to connect with the world around us, and to look at things in a different, more considered way.
Lisa produced some beautiful images for By the water, capturing the beauty of the model, Mina, along with the Phase pieces. Lisa was such a pleasure to work with and I look forward to seeing where Lisa’s work and career take her in the future. I thought I’d put a few questions to Lisa about her journey into photography, and also explore the idea of producing imagery purely for pleasure, with slowness in mind.
Lisa – it is such a pleasure to speak with you for Letters of Ara. To begin, what first attracted you to photography and how did this become the path you decided to pursue?
Thank you, Lauren. I am happy to have been in contact with you for the past months and also about the collaboration we did!
I guess my answer to this question is an often heard one: I have always been kind of creative, loved art and drawing and have been interested in photography. However it was only in 2012 when I decided to pursue this interest wholeheartedly and bought my first (then digital) camera. And it turned out to be the best decision I ever made to be honest; I instantly fell in love with photography and haven’t stopped taking photos ever since. I feel like I have discovered my true passion and also profession in life. Even more so by discovering analogue film photography a few years after starting – I found my personal style for my work.
It just feels natural to me to pursue this path also as a career, not only a hobby, because it really is something I can imagine doing for the rest of my life without getting bored or tired of it!
How would you describe your photographic style and approach?
My photographic approach I often see as very intuitive. Of course I like to plan shoots, which camera and film I will use and so on, but I love to leave a bit of space for unforeseen things and making decisions in the moment. So I would say I have a kind of frame for each series or photo I’m working on in which I can move quite freely. Maybe my style reflects that as well. I am drawn to creating visual stories, incorporating emotions, often involving a kind of melancholy.
You choose to work primarily with analogue film. Why is this your preferred medium?
Shooting on film for me is like hitting the pause button for a second – everything seems to slow down, I’m looking through the viewfinder, waiting for the right moment to capture. This is what I love so much about this way of photography and what eventually made me choose it over digital photography for my work; you take your time, you value each shot. Analog photography just feels right for me and the way I see things.
Environmental concern features quite prominently in your work. Why is it important for you to work towards a more sustainable future, and for your work to be reflective of this?
I have been making personal steps towards living a more simple and sustainable lifestyle, for example going vegan, reducing my waste, switching to second hand and ethical fashion and the like. It was through a photographic project that I realized I could not only use my personal voice but also my voice as an artist and photographer to tackle the issues we have and to contribute to raising awareness about environmental pollution and eco-consciousness. That is why I have also been devoting my Master studies of Information Design to this topic and with photography as my main medium.
To me, this whole environmental topic is very important and I want to do everything I can to inspire people to change or adjust their habits, but also to show the not-so-pleasant sides and the paradox aspects some things carry, e.g. in my „plastic life“ series. Everything is connected and we need change on so many different levels. But it’s the easiest, to start with oneself. One of my favourite quotes I came across during my research is one by journalist Katharina Finke (loosely translated): „Those who see these connections, cannot go on as before.“
What are your thoughts around the idea of photography for pleasure, and do you have any advice for using photography as a way to slow down?
I’d like to say yes to photography for pleasure! If it makes you happy and brings you joy, go for it and explore your creative side, give it room to grow! I often think we take many unimportant things way too seriously and should take a step back, pause, and think of what makes us truly happy.
As I said, one reason I love film photography is that is slows me and the whole process down, I begin to observe and really see and just release the shutter if it feels „good“ or „ready“. So my advice would probably be to try an alternative approach to digital or smartphone photography. Get yourself an old analogue camera or borrow one, grab a roll of film, go for a walk and observe nature. Or make some cyanotype prints with the help of the sun. There are so many cool techniques to explore!
Do you have any tips for achieving a good capture or composition?
This is a hard question to answer for me, I have to say! As I tend to take photos quite intuitively, many things happen „automatically“ or subconsciously, for example when speaking of composition. Maybe I can say that a good capture, though it also lies in the eye of the beholder, is one that carries emotions, that makes you feel something. Wether it reminds you of a dear memory or the photo provokes an emotion in you or it simply pleases you aesthetically, I think it has to do with feelings. Don’t go for perfection, go for emotions, I would like to say.
What can we look forward to from you in the future, and where else might you like your work to take you?
I am currently in my last year of studies and I have planned something bigger for my final project – an exhibition about my work revolving around the environmental issues, which will probably take place early next year. I am really excited for that although there is of course so much to do until then!
I would really like to be so lucky and have my work exhibited around the world, working towards a better future and working with great, like-minded people! That’s my wish for the future. :)
Finally, how do you invite a little slowness or self-care into your life and work?
That’s a wonderful question. I know this might not fit in with the way we are living and thinking nowadays in this rushed world, but maybe that also is the reason why it has to fit in in the future: I take breaks whenever I feel I need to. Even if this means I have to take more and longer breaks than other people. I am slowly coming to accepting that this is how my mind and body work and I try to give them what they need whenever I can. Surely, this is a process, and I need to incorporate self-care also into other parts of my life, but I think this is the main thing I do to unwind. I hope to one day not feel the guilty conscience anymore that society taught us for so long, because why would it be wrong to listen to your body?