Lisa Guerriero speaks to Julie Grace Immink about her personal photographic journey with her aging father, for #SheSpotsSeniors
Please tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in photography.
I live in Los Angeles but I grew up on the Jersey Shore. Exploring the streets with my camera is how I began to connect to my surroundings. I bought my first film camera and began shooting when I was fourteen years old. Coming of age, I felt like an outsider but also wanted to belong. Photography gave me the ability to be part of something while also maintaining my autonomy.
For over ten years I shot film and hand printed all my work in a darkroom. As much as I loved the process I shoot mostly digital now with a Canon 60D.
Do you think being a woman affects your access to photographing strangers on the street?
Photographing strangers is my hidden talent, the stranger the better. Not sure if being a woman has anything to do with the ease of the process for me.
Quite a bit of your work includes senior citizens. What is it that draws you to photograph them?
My inspiration comes from anyone who is perceived to be on the outside of mainstream society. Sadly, seniors are often put into this category.
Is there a different mindset between shooting on the street and photographing your dad and his neighbors?
When I am taking pictures the connections I make with people and spaces are equally as important to me as the photographs. If I am photographing on the streets, or in someones home the process is exactly the same. I aim to make connections and hope it translates well into a photograph.
What inspired you to begin photographing your father and his neighbors?
After my parents divorce, my dad, Joey “Dice,” moved to a mobile home park in New Jersey. He lived there until last year, when he was hospitalized for mental health issues. It was then determined he could no longer live alone. We had to abruptly relocate him from the mobile home park where he lived for the past 25 years. He came to live with us in Los Angeles. I had a newborn baby, and my dad needed more medical attention then I was capable of giving. He needed assistance managing his insulin for diabetes, depression, etc. So, we found an assisted living facility down the street from us. He has adapted to his new environment and is doing well. I wanted these photographs to tell the story of aging and how community shapes our identity.
Joey’s New Jersey mobile home neighbors.
Did you find it difficult to photograph your father’s neighbors in their homes?
My camera gives me access into unknown worlds. The thrill of the connection to the people and their space motivates me to shoot. People fascinate me and I view it as a privilege to capture them in their natural environment. I do respect their need for privacy but I think that my subjects are honored to be noticed.
How do you compare your street photos to your ongoing “Transition” series?
On the streets I encounter seniors with various health issues every time I’m shooting. My feelings on how we handle aging and mental health in this country are present in both projects. My emotions just run deeper surrounding the photo series about my father.
My father will be relocating again within the next year to a new assisted living facility so, I’ll continue to document his adaptation to his new surroundings.
Guest Interviewer: Lisa Guerriero