Lisa Elmaleh is a Brooklyn based large-format photographer whose current work is an exploration of the landscape of the Everglade, an essential part of her personal history as a South Florida native. Using a portable darkroom in the back of her truck, Elmaleh photographs using the nineteenth century wet plate collodion process. She is a recipient of the Ruth and Harold Chenven Foundation Grant (2012), the Aaron Siskind Foundation IPF Grant (2011), The Everglades National Park Artist Residency (2010), the Goldwell Artist Residency (2010), the Camera Club of New York Darkroom Residency (2008), and the Tierney Fellowship (2007). Her work has been published in Harper’s Magazine, Dear Dave, NPR’s The Picture Show, and Visura Magazine and exhibited in various solo and group shows throughout the United States and internationally. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts and the Center for Alternative Photography in New York City. Lisa Elmaleh was recently selected as one of PDN’s 30 new and emerging photographers to watch.
Lisa utilizes her personal history as a means of investigation to explore the Florida Everglades, the only ecological system of its kind.
Though conserved as a National Park, the Everglades is a disappearing environment, with more than half of it now repurposed for fresh-water agriculture. While there is no promise of its ultimate survival, these pictures will remain as historic documents that contemporize notions of the traveler and explorer, proving fluid boundaries between researcher, operator and artist.
Compositionally, the images mimic photographs from governmental geographic survey projects of the late nineteenth century. Framed carefully in conversation with historic image-making, attention is given to the edges of the compositions that peel and curl towards the center. The gaps and folds in the emulsion reveal the wet-plate collodion process, as does the quality of the soft and brilliant light that results from long exposures.
This is a method rooted in history: cumbersome and difficult, it passed out of favor with the invention of film. Emaleh returns to her roots, both geographically as a native of South Florida and metaphorically as a photographer, in order to resurrect a dying ecosystem and photographic methodology. The resultant images show a deep love and admiration for a strange and beautiful environment born out of a desire for preservation.
Feature by Sarah Pollman. Sarah is an artist and writer living and working in Boston, MA. She is a current MFA candidate at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University with an emphasis on photographic history and theory. She is the founder and curator of 3200K, a printed fine-art quarterly dedicated to emerging photographers working in analog media. Her photographs have been shown, published and included in corporate and private collections across the United States.