“…bouncing off of what I find in the world, a form of visual poetry that tries to make sense and beauty of what I see out there.”
Lisa Kereszi (born 1973 outside of Philadelphia) is a contemporary photographer currently based in New Haven, CT (USA).
She studied photography at “Bard College” and the Yale School of Art.
“There is nothing as depressing as trying to have fun.”
Artist statement: “The work represented here explores the world of recreation and escapism. Over a period of ten years, I made trips to amusement parks, movie theatres, dive bars, motels, nightclubs, haunted houses, strip clubs and arcades to look at them in a critical way. I was interested in these buildings that house all of these desires and fantasies, and how the fantasy really comes to fail when they are looked closely at in the light of day.
These temporary structures that are built to contain and encourage a certain activity are often, themselves, thinly veiled and badly painted vehicles to suggest a world, and let the mind (and better lighting) take on the rest of the job. Someone outside of the photography world made a comment, upon seeing the work: “There is nothing as depressing as trying to have fun.”
I always liked that one way of looking at it, and felt like that made a lot of sense to me.
Lisa Kereszi, why did you become a photographer? And what does photography mean to you?
Probably because an English professor in college told me I didn’t have the love of language necessary to become a poet. He discouraged me so much, that I holed up in the photography department. Also, I can’t draw.
A photographer has many “tools” at hand to bring across his message: lenses, lighting, framing, color treatment etc. Can you elaborate a little bit on the techniques you used for this particular project in order to link form and content?
It’s not really a conscious thing, because form and content are inextricably linked. I just have a set of tools I usually use, that have become second nature to me, that I came to use almost exclusively over time – the Mamiya 7ii 6×7 camera and the normal and wide lenses, and the Wista 4×5 field camera with a 150 or a 135mm on it. I am moving the former setup to digital now, but not the 4×5.
In other words: How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
Reactive, bouncing off of what I find in the world, a form of visual poetry that tries to make sense and beauty of what I see out there, what I choose to point out, collect and bring home.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Probably Walker Evans. We share a common ancestor who came to America from England in the 17th century, so we’re cousins, not just photographically, but also genetically! His plain way of making pictures was ahead of his time. He was a cultural critic. I also love Brassai, Atget, Frank and Arbus and Eggleston. They all took common and uncommon things and transformed them into something meaningful, poetic and surreal.
What’s your favorite inspirational quote about photography?
Maybe Eggleston’s “I’m at war with the obvious.” Although it doesn’t sound very inspirational, I suppose. I also love Arbus talking about how photography is a “secret about a secret.” I suppose I do have a love of language, because both of these quotes are like poetry.
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
Like I said before, most of my work has been done with a Mamiya 7ii 6×7 film camera, or a 4×5 Wista field camera, but now I am trying the Sony RX1 and Pentax medium-format digital cameras.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
American Suburb X is a great trove of historical information. I am a lot less interested in what’s happening right now on most photo blogs, though. I need to pay attention to what’s in front of ME, and what has come before me.
What book about photography would you recommend?
Tod Papageorge’s “Core Curriculum”. It’s based on the life-changing lecture series he used to give 1st year MFA students of his at Yale. I never really understood or truly appreciated the work of some of my most influential photographers until hearing about them form him: Atget, Brassai, Evans.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to get started with photography?
To study what has come before you, while at the same time just going out, making a point to take trips or journeys just to photograph, without paying too much attention to what else is being made by your peers right now. Your voice is yours, not just a part of a scene.