i love the feeling of a camera in my hands. it means stillness and the opportunity to capture moments in time whether such moments are happy or tinged in sadness. some moments just are and to the naked eye they pass without impact. these are the moments that matter to me. “beauty” is everywhere but it is never always obvious, nor does it come in a form and shape we expect. i search for the hidden and what lies beneath the surface. i am so grateful i have this means of expression that is essential to my own self and purpose. it brings me joy to share what i see. perhaps, if i am lucky, i just might capture an image that will move another in an emotional way, helping bring their world into clearer focus.
– Photographer Lisa MacIntosh, from the About page on her website.
I first met photographer Lisa MacIntosh back in the spring, after musician friend Sarahbelle put the out the word on Twitter that she’d been photographed by Lisa, and that an image from that session would be included in Lisa’s exhibit at Post and Beam during the Contact Photography Festival. Lisa and I have kept in touch since then, and I was very happy to have a chance to interview her.
LWMC: When did you first pick up a camera and where did it come from?
LM: My very first camera was a Polaroid 7x-70. I was over the moon to receive such a great birthday gift… I believe I was 12 and the film cost my dad a small fortune. I loved the instant gratification of an image appearing as I happily waved it in the air. I love that Polaroids have made such a great comeback!
LWMC: And when did you discover that you loved the feeling of a camera in your hands?
LM: I think that feeling came about when I held my first film camera, my Canon AE1. My uncle was a crime reporter and photographer for the Toronto Sun and gifted that camera to me when I was 17. I’m looking at it right now as I type… it’s hanging beside a later model AE1 on a mannequin in my home office. I loved film, I loved the anticipation of seeing my images after they were developed, I loved looking at negatives… it all felt right.
LWMC: Has the way that you look through your camera change over the years? If so, how?
LM: Definitely! When I first started out, I pretty much photographed anything I saw. Back then, I had a real love for photographing landscapes. I have plenty of film shots of my first son Mitch, who was born during the film era… my second-born, Josh, was the digital boy, there are a lot more of him. Today, my love is photographing people.
LWMC: What drew you to photographing people?
LM: I remember that light bulb moment and the person I photographed very well. I believe that the idea of photographing people was just sitting in the background, waiting for the right time, for me to be ready. I spent many years actively involved with street outreach and working with youth at risk. I was and still am an avid listener and carry that over into my photography. I love to hear people’s stories. I love to talk and share while I’m shooting. I love the connection, the laughter, the sadness… I just never know what’s going to unfold, but I always hope that I can catch a glimpse of it in a photograph.
LWMC: Your style of portrait photography is intimate, in-depth – up close and personal, but not intrusive. You catch these fleeting moments in time to beautiful effect, almost like you’re recording the essence of your subject. What do you look for when you’re working with a subject?
LM: I love this question and thank you! Again, I think it relates to my past and my desire to really know someone. I have been so fortunate over the past two years to have been able to spend time with some truly amazing human beings. People feel at ease with me and feel that they can speak truthfully, share thoughts, shed tears. My goal is to capture the quiet moments, the contemplative moments, to really feel the laughter come through, to just keep shooting through all of the moments that make up a session.
LWMC: You prefer to work with natural light – and often in black and white. What can you tell us about your preferences, and the challenges these present?
LM: I love natural light and feel that it best suits my style of photography. I always tell people that if they are looking for a studio type session, big lights, big flash, then I’m not their girl. Honestly, it just feels too commercial to me. There are plenty of fabulous photographers out there that shine in that style of photography… it’s just not me. Every single image on my website is shot in natural light. I also don’t use Photoshop. I really hope that I can capture what I see in the moment and not have to rely on heavy editing. Being a natural light photographer does have its setbacks as well. Some days, the light just isn’t great and I try to work around that… I’m a big fan of a great window!
And black and white… well, what can I say about that. There is a beauty that black and white photography holds, a feeling that colour just can’t express. I feel that there is so much emotion in a black and white image that really draws people in… it’s truly my favourite medium. I always try to offer clients a good mix of both black and white and colour images.
LWMC: I’m the kind of person who’s not particularly comfortable being photographed – though I’m much better than I used to be. What do you say to people who don’t like having their picture taken?
LM: There really isn’t one thing in particular that I say, it really depends on the person. That being said, laughter really is a great ice-breaker!
LWMC: Do you like being photographed?
LM: Not particularly… thank goodness it doesn’t happen often!
LWMC: Tell us about your work with Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity.
LM: Giving back is a huge part of who I am as a person and as a photographer. I have a great balance of paid client work and volunteer work right now… I also have a really hard time saying no 🙂 The Ronald McDonald House is an incredible place and I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a giving organization. I photograph families on a monthly basis, and have witnessed so much beauty and strength there. I have never seen a child cry, but I do see heaviness and worry on many parent’s faces. These images are a gift to families that are away from home and struggling with a child’s illness. One beautiful boy I recently photographed passed away… I was so thankful that I had taken pictures of him and his family only weeks before, and they will always have those images that were filled with laughter and love and hope.
I recently photographed the Women Build for Habitat for Humanity and that was absolutely fantastic! I took thousand of images over the 11 days and met some incredible women. I’d do that again in a heartbeat!
As of last week, I will now also be doing Legacy photography for the Darling Home for Kids, a children’s hospice and respite centre. Again, giving back to families whose children are at the end stages of their lives… a true gift. I am so fortunate that I am able to share my vision with so many people.
LWMC: Any upcoming exhibits?
LM: Nothing planned right now. I had an incredibly busy six months… I think I’ll just take things as they come!
LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share with folks?
LM: Only that I’m grateful. Grateful for this gift that I have, and the heart that wants and needs to share it. Thanks so much Cate… can’t wait to photograph you!
LWMC: Thanks, Lisa! Looking forward to our session.
You can find Lisa MacIntosh – and view her work – on her website and follow her on Twitter.