Carol McCusker for Lisa Robinson
|Lisa Robinson grew up in the heat of the south which is why the cold of the north has become her subject these last few years, specifically the transformative power of snowstorms. "Growing up in a place where the summers are long, I could only imagine a word that turned white," she writes. Now living in New York, as well as traveling to places that promise snow, she has created an elegant series of photographs titled SNOWBOUND that makes one feel anything but bound. On the contrary, their minimal subject matter, serene compositions, and reduced palette expand the senses.
What drew me to Robinson's photographs was my own experience of snowstorms, which first and foremost, force stillness. Daily Routines are disrupted. Street and air traffic cease; a quiet descends. By erasing familiar streets, sidewalks, and gardens, snowstorms create a palimpsest for us to decipher from our living room windows. The skeletal trees, the absence of people, and winter's destructive potential make it a season emblematic of death. Walking in the winter landscape can evoke contradictory feelings of dread and comfort. The cold emptiness terrifies; its still beauty soothes.
The 19th century romantic landscape painter, Caspar David Friedrich, once wrote, "an artist should paint not only what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him." In other words, art should render the world while also conveying a feeling about it. This is Robinson's mission. Venturing out alone with her camera and tripod, the photographer walks like an archaeologist, looking over the altered terrain for signs of former life. She hunts for shards of visual poetry that reassure or connote unease, taking pleasure in small things we generally look through or drive past.
Robinson delivers what one hopes to see (but is harder to find these days) in an emerging photographer: knowledge of her medium, a rich and varied inner life, fearlessness in vision, and an in-depth study of her chosen subject so that something can be revealed. This is currently so out of fashion it seems radical. Robinson's photographs, when seen together, enfold the viewer in frozen tundra that is alive with metaphors that might be ironic or exultant but never disaffected. Winter as the season of death is not denied here — neither is the idea that renewed life is not far behind.
Museum of Photographic Arts