It’s often been said that mathematicians do their best work when they’re young, philosophers when old, and photographers…? Lena Mirisola’s does what most talented young creatives do – explore and blur the boundaries of art and life. There’s plenty of learning that comes with “Experience”, but as we get older, life can become more compartmentalised, the lines drawn by different commitments and responsibilities. The creative fearlessness of youth is due to a willingness to explore and extend boundaries, which is one of the drivers of Mirisola’s talent. As she says, “My commercial work is a true extension of my personal work. My Young Wild & Free series was all shot for myself. They all went into my book to show to advertising agencies, but I didn’t shoot ‘for my book’ or ’shoot for stock’” It’s what gives the images such character and warmth.
We asked her about the one lesson she took from college and it turns out that that she is her second year studying photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design Art. Her work is is a great vehicle to explore our current theme of the ‘Local’, and if the photography feels very immediate, it’s partly because Mirisola’s models are people that she knows.
This sense of the local, the immediate, is partly due to to how she captures her models/friends interacting with the space and may be due to the sense of freedom imported from her experience of regularly shooting on film. She describes the thrill of film, compared to digital, is that you are not in control and yet her digital work still feels loose, relaxed, open.
So is photography an art of the young? Or the old? As writer Geoff Dyer has aid, photography has always been the art of abundance. And most of all for the viewer, photography has always been an art of surprise, of seeing yourself captured in a moment in time, from the landmarks of the family photo to the improvised performance of the selfie. Mirisola’s eye is a young take on the art of surprise.
A shot of a single object that expresses a powerful memory/event?
To anyone, a girl with a tattoo.
The girl is me, and both the photograph and the ink are so special to me. It was done on my first spring break ever in Chicago this March. This photograph marks a pivotal moment in my life. It was the first trip I took without adults. In 20 minutes, I pondered the idea, booked my flight, and didn’t ask anyone permission. It was the first trip where I shot film – and fell in love with the light leaks and scratches and unpredictability of it all. It was a trip I spent with the boys I call my family. And it was a trip that I got my tattoo, accompanied by Mikey, good friend and fellow MassArt photographer. The numbers are the F stops, which are numbers that represent how much light a lens lets into the camera to create an image. For me, photography is forever. That trip was the first spark that pushed me to leave my comfort zone and be free. And for that, I am grateful.
Three books that have inspired you?
Finding Vivian Maier curated by John Maloof
Women Are Beautiful by Garry Winogrand
The Americans by Robert Frank.
I’m no street photographer. I get uncomfortable at wedding receptions taking photos of the guests when they’re not looking. But boy, do I have the utmost respect for street shooters yesterday and today. I’m in love with the times that were captured by these greats.
Favourite photo you have taken?
Emily, Wildfire. And surprisingly there is not one studio/artificial light in this photo, I kid you not. Young, wild & free at its finest.
These people are incredible inspirations to me.
We are currently exploring the theme of the “Local”. You have many images that talk to this, you picture environments that feel very personal either to you or the subjects in the photos. The spaces seem emotionally invested, feel like part of a scenario. Is this something you work for?
I absolutely work for this. Every single location in my “Young Wild & Free” series has personal significance. All the urban work was shot in Boston during my freshman year at MassArt. Being away from home, meeting all kinds of new people, kindling friendships, and exploring our new surroundings together was all part of the project.
The rest of the body of work was shot in my small town, where my heart will always call home. Fields, beaches, these places that I spent my entire life visiting were now featured in my work. I can’t explain how much it meant for me for big time Art Buyers in California to be looking at photographs of mine with teens splashing in Forge Pond, driving a car with a Massachusetts license plate. This is who I am – A local East coast girl.
Did you study photography in college and if so what was the one lesson you couldn’t do without in shooting commercial photography?
I just started my sophomore year this week! I’m 19… haha. We don’t enter our major until this year, so I’ll remember this question down the road when I can properly answer it! Everything I’ve learned that has been vital in shooting commercial work so far has been taught by my dearest friend & mentor Miss Barbara Peacock “off the books”.
Regarding the ‘Film’ section in your blog, what does shooting with film give you as a photographer, as a technology and creative process. Does it shift the kind of content you shoot? And what do you think it delivers in the final image?
It gives me an element of surprise. As a digital photographer, I control the exposure, coloring, editing, everything. But when I shoot film… there are just some things that are out of my hands. There is NOTHING more exciting than getting a roll developed and impatiently looking at the tiny contact sheet at all the moments, light leaks, scratches, and underexposure.
In the final image, it delivers something different, something recognizably nostalgic but obviously contemporary. It’s just magical is all.
In terms of the emotional tonality, subjects and situations your commercial/advertising photography is very close to your personal work. When shooting commercial work do you see yourself doing something completely different (as we often do as professionals, adopting different voices, persona depending on the client), or is it an adaptation?
My commercial work is a true extension of my personal work. My Young Wild & Free series was all shot for myself. They all went into my book to show to advertising agencies, but I didn’t shoot ‘for my book’ or ’shoot for stock’. I shoot what concepts are in my head, and if my editor wants me to explore a certain concept, I incorporate that into the scene. It never feels forced or intrusive.
You often cast friends and family, how do you think this impacts on the image?
They’re all authentic. My models are the GREATEST people on Earth and the coolest and most wonderful friends. There isn’t any camera awkwardness. I don’t have to force my models to laugh and smile and goof off. It’s pure chemistry… all the fun it looks like they’re having in the photos, they actually are.
Shoot a campaign for Urban Outfitters.
For Lena’s site click here
For her work on Image Source click here