Lisa Powers

About me

I was born in France. I immigrated to New York with my family when I was ten years old. I was raised primarily in New York and California and consider myself an “American with roots showing”. Early years were spent trying to integrate into American school-culture, “torture-culture” for me. I had a talent for languages, and for lack of any other, I majored in English at college. This, at first, appeared to put me on a fast track to a teaching career, however, I chanced to see a “Help Wanted” advert looking for a proofreader in a boutique advertising agency, and I was hired. Within a year, I became more involved in the creative side of advertising and was given opportunities to hire photographers, models and crew for photo shoots.

It was an exciting time for me, and marked my first step on the journey to becoming a photographer. A year after being hired, I left my job at the ad agency and was hired by a busy commercial photo studio as the cleaner/janitor. There, I learned about lighting, exposure, films, developing and printing… and (the BEST part) was that the entire studio, with all equipment and spacious darkroom, was available to me at night…after everyone else had gone home. I lived in the studio’s small, upstairs storage room, but it was Paradise to me!

I saw the studio’s vast space with its huge infinity cove as an oversized canvas…. I loved the look of vintage movies, so I experimented with all the different lights and the effect each lamp had on different films… I didn’t know the rules. I mixed daylight with tungsten; I pushed and pulled film processing; I played with many photo filters etc, and earned a bit of money shooting model’s portfolios. Having my images in models’ portfolios was a ‘couch-potato’ way to get my work to art directors, and I soon started getting assignments.

Working “On Assignment” is, in many ways, the best and the worst thing for a creative photographer, perhaps for ANY artist. The BEST part is, or certainly was, the money. Advertising agencies were paying huge fees to photographers, and they were charging huge fees to their clients. The WORST part is that a consortium of decision-makers can sometimes dilute one’s creativity and style.

I always loved watching movies, and (pre-DVD’s) always in the cinema. That heavy red curtain with gold braids as thick as my arm would quicken my pulse. Jean Cocteau summed it up as “The Red and the Gold.” of MAGIC. I still prefer to see movies in a cinema, but occasionally will watch a selected DVD on my home-theatre. DVD’s are great learning tools, and I wanted to shoot with movie-lighting! I wanted to create single-frame movies!

Asian films were also favourites… especially post WWII Japanese films, showing the transition from traditional Japanese to Western styles in urban centres. I loved the soft light filtered through the shoji screen windows and sliding doors.

Bertolucci was my big influence for his colour in “The Conformist” and “The Last Emperor”. To my great joy, in an editorial assignment for Art & Antiques magazine, I actually worked with some of the last emperor, Pu Yi’s garments!

In 2004, I felt I needed to leave the US, and decided to relocate (with my four kitties) to Christchurch, New Zealand. I’d been a successful commercial photographer for many years and would continue to take assignments, but felt it was time to journey inwards and backwards… to practice “seeing” rather than “staging”. Oftentimes now, I shoot pictures randomly, spontaneously, and intuitively… especially wandering through the streets of earthquake ravaged Christchurch…then it’s time for quietly sorting, editing, arranging and grouping my images for books, for exhibitions, or simply for the walls.