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Lisa Franklin: Just A Click Away

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Lisa Franklin: Just A Click Away

By Jerrie Jerné Morago

The Gap, San FranciscoLisa Franklin works in the long tradition of street photographers who document the American social landscape.  She says, “I didn’t so much choose street photography as it chose me. I’ve always been interested in people, in what makes us each unique and yet alike. I love our idiosyncrasies and have an appreciation for the absurd--very subjective, I know. My Aunt Florence and Uncle Leo, both artists and avid people-watchers, taught me to sit still and observe.”  Lisa has offered us variously a lone man sitting facing a wall, a complex shot through a beauty shop window, a shopper among manikins—the moments and details of life.  Basically, she shows us ourselves.

With camera in hand, Lisa heads for San Francisco.  “I have lived my whole life in the suburbs but have always loved San Francisco, visiting the city since childhood, when my mother and I would make a day of seeing a play, having lunch, and shopping at the Emporium. GraceGravitating toward the city for photography seemed only logical.  Most of my shooting is downtown, near Market Street. It’s amazing the different types of people you’ll see if you stand still for five minutes--everyone from the hip-hoppers in baggy pants to the elite in furs.”  Lisa often finds that an ideal shot is just a click away.

Asked how she decides on a photographic subject, she explains, “I am drawn to a moment that feels like it stands out from its context—a street magician tantalizingly proffering a dollar bill, as in my shot The Almighty; stilt walkers taking a break; an elegant elderly woman making a gesture all her own while an astonished man on a billboard looks on. Like most photographers, I know the moment I want when I see it. I rarely go in search of a particular shot. The discovery is half the fun.”  

Stiltwalkers“Being somewhat shy, I initially feel I’m being rude, but after a warm-up period and reminding myself it’s legal to photograph in public, I hit my stride and, like the best street photographers from whom I draw inspiration, Garry Winogrand, Helen Levitt, and Vivian Maier among them, I don’t hesitate to raise my camera and shoot.  I’m often fairly close to my subjects.  They usually know I’m there, although surprisingly people can be fairly oblivious to what’s happening around them. Viewers of my work often ask whether I get permission from my subjects. The answer is yes and no. I’m mostly interested in candid shots—asking outright would destroy the moment. I sometimes motion to my camera as a way of seeking permission.  If someone says no, I simply walk away.”  

Lisa prints in black and white only. “With this kind of photography, color can be distracting.  Black and white distills the image down to the story and lends a documentary feel to the photographs.”   Lisa’s museum-quality work would look appropriate hanging next to Arbus or Lange.  Riverfront Art Gallery is pleased to show her important work.