Prison Photography: How do you characterise the PDX photo scene?
Lisa Gidley: I only know some of the people doing photography in Portland. I know the folks in the photo groups Lightleak and the Portland Grid Project. Even in these groups, we all have different aesthetics and approaches – analog/digital, B&W/color, portraits/other scenes. What we have got in common is that we usually capture recognizable pieces of the real world.
Although I love lots of postmodern art, photography that’s been obviously Photoshopped isn’t my thing. I feel a pretty strong allegiance to the more realistic and unfiltered style of photography, and I’ve got excellent company in Lightleak and Grid. Plus, they’re all cool people and talented photographers who keep me on my toes. Our regular photo meetings motivate me to make some decent work each month, since I know they’ll all be bringing some terrific prints. It’s great to have a photo community that spurs you to keep shooting. Like sharks with cameras: shoot or die.
PP: An Instax photograph of yours was featured atop Joerg Colberg’s recent piece The Single Photograph. You’ve been using this “Polaroid equivalent” for some time and I’ve witnessed the joy of Faulkner Short, Blake Andrews, yourself and others when using this instant-film camera. You’re involved with instaxgratification, a Tumblr of Instax photos by Blake, Faulkner, yourself and others. What’s with the Instax Camera craze?
LG: I think the appeal is similar to that of genuine old Polaroids. Especially in this digital age, there’s a thrill to immediately having a cool little physical object that doesn’t exist anywhere else (at least until you scan it). Once you’ve taken a shot, that’s it: no cropping or color balancing or special effects added after the fact. That finality is nice. The prints are compelling to look at and to handle — they’re proportioned well and have a satisfying heft. Plus, the Fuji lenses are sharp, the color saturation’s good, and from what I can tell, the prints are fairly long-lasting. It’s a fun system.
PP: Why do you make photos?
LG: It’s a compulsion! I love looking at all sorts of photographs, and I love the challenge of trying to make photos I’d like to look at myself. With the type of photography I usually do — where I rove around different places and shoot whatever interesting scenes I come across — the main appeal is the thrill of the hunt. It’s fun to wander with a camera with no idea of what I’ll find, if anything. I typically shoot on film so it’s a few days of anticipation before I know if I’ve captured anything decent. Getting the developed film back is the best thing. After that, it’s also satisfying to make prints and share the images online and otherwise try to get my photos out into the world, but those activities are secondary to the process of shooting. I’m usually antsy to get back out again. There’s always something else to photograph.