Here at Lumitrix, we love to keep up to date with our photographers, to build a community and platform for photography lovers. We recently had a catch-up with Lumitrix photographer Lisa Cervone, who specializes in delightful animal portraits. We chatted to her about up-coming projects, her inspiration and what it’s really like to work with farm animals.
What exciting projects does the New Year have in store for you?
I have a whole series that I’ve been working on, but the weather’s been so bad I have to wait- it’s a series of Scottish Highland cattle, who are rare here. I’ve been out to the farm a couple of times, but they don’t want to come outside! So I have to wait for the weather to break- it’s minus 2 today!
Your Lumitrix work typically features farm-yard animals- why do these breeds have such a special appeal to you?
It never started out that way. I’ve been seriously shooting since 2008 and have always loved the classic, simple ‘Richard Avedon’ look. In 2011, I was asked to shoot some Detroit pit bulls for a gallery show. They were stray pets, with pathetic, sad stories, so when that finished, I wanted something light and airy. I went up to a farm, which is a dramatic change from Detroit city. I have to travel for an hour to get to a working farm, so it was sort of a head break for me. I brought a camera at dusk, and could be there for hours. I longed for that - it’s the sort of place that I’d like to end up living. There’s nothing more calming for me to be at dusk on a farm, lay on the ground and shoot farm animals.
How long does it take you to get that ‘one shot’?
The worst time, when I thought it would be cake, were the pigs! I’d been to farms as a kid but never put on boots and gone in the muck. I thought it would be a no brainer, but they were 800-1000 pigs. When I went in, it was a bit like Jurassic Park! I had no idea how brilliant they were. I went out there at least 5 times to get that shot of the pigs. (American Farm) The cattle were easier, as long as you stayed away from the bullies! We would be exhausted- it would be shoot, then run, run, run, over the picket fence. We quickly learnt which ones were more docile! You learn the tricks of the trade, like hiding fruit in your undergarments- the animals would see my big hair and say “here comes the fruit lady!” It was a whole lot of fun.
Would you ever consider branching out to different sorts of nature photography, for example, wildlife?
I have been thinking about that. I’ve been looking at other wildlife photographers on Lumitrix, I think they are so exciting. I’ve also lately been shooting young models, and although I’ve never been into fashion, maybe I’ll do something interesting with them. It’s out of the box for me, because I’m not a girly girl.
Your photographs have a comedic edge- do you feel that photographers should inject more humour into their work?
The way I shoot is kind of the way I am. My images of people are like those of animals. Really simple- it’s just what appeals to me. I’m attracted to the extraordinary- freckles, red hair, a larger nose. Here, everyone has a golden retriever- I like the ugly masts. I like to get a wry smile from them…
How long have you been interested in photography?
I’ve been a physical therapist all of my life, and shot since my kids were young. My father built a dark room for me, and I took the kid’s portraits and school portraits. From 2008, I took it very seriously and went to a lot of courses, and I just loved it. I was taught by Zack Arias to appreciate simple portraits with one light, and not to get caught up in the gear, so that’s what I still do. Then I did stock work, which I liked- it forced me to shoot in different lights and produce something the way they wanted- now I’m back to what I like.
What are you most proud of?
When I have one or two images per shoot that I look at and say: “That’s what I love!”. I love the look of an old mantelpiece with a huge print of a simple, flower, cow, whatever. I think it’s classic.
If you could choose anywhere in the world, where would you live?
Oh that’s easy, a standard joke here! I’m a sucker for Wyoming. I’m a mountains kind of girl- slower pace, quieter, it’s where I long to be.
What’s your idea of a perfect day off?
I love to be outside. If I was out West, I’d love to be outside hiking all the time. I also enjoy looking at old portfolios of Avadon or Annie Leibovitz. I like to see how they shoot- all photographers build on each other. That and a glass of wine, that’s really relaxing…
What is a sure-fire way to make you happy?
That shot which appeals to me, when you get the look, colours, tones, the feel of it. When I would love to see it blown up really huge somewhere. And when you’re out shooting and you get the one you think you’re really going to love. That makes me happy.
Do you find life as a photographer to be full of a photographic community, or more solitary?
Solitary- Michigan is not very creative. In New York, you have high end, intense fashion. In Portland, Seattle and California, it’s more ‘indie cool’, like Laura Austin’s work, I love that- very beautiful! In Michigan we were known for shooting the auto industry, but now the cars are gone and there’s nothing left. But there’s a community I met in Santa Fe, at a workshop that brings together the most brilliant photographers. I took a course there years ago and we still stay close in touch and help each other out- it’s amazing. You need those mentors.
Do you see a link between photography and home décor?
Definitely- I’m just so excited about Lumitrix’s coverage. I always lean towards UK magazines- you’re so far ahead in designs, homes, décor. For years I’ve looked at them, so now it’s so cool to see where our pictures are popping up. It’s fun for me.