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Photography Alumna Lisa Wiseman Selected for PDN 30

It’s hard not to notice Academy of Art University School of Photography alumna Lisa Wiseman lately.  With her selection as one of PDN’s 30 photographers to watch, a recent Newsweek feature, and a series of recent gallery shows, her work is making waves and gaining national attention. 

Success is no stranger to Lisa.  She grabbed first place in the Academy of Art University Spring Show each of her three years as a BFA Photography student, a good foreshadowing of her current achievements. 

The PDN 30 are chosen based on recommendations from people in the industry, so the honor is particularly prestigious.  Lisa said that she was ecstatic to find out she’d made the list. 

“It’s pretty spectacular.  I feel privileged to be among people who are so talented.”

Although she seems like a natural, Lisa didn’t originally have her sights set on photography as a profession.  She said that her first glimpse into the societal impact and importance of photography came in a freshman seminar class while she was pursuing her undergraduate degree in Sociology at UC Berkeley.  The class reviewed photos from a different decade each week and discussed them.

“We talked about how they were socially critical and why the image influenced what was happening at the time,” she said. 

It was an enlightening look into photography as a means for social commentary and the effect photography can have on current events.  It was also the first time that Lisa saw the possibility of making a career out of art.

After finishing her degree at UC Berkeley, Lisa attended the Academy for her second bachelor’s degree, this time in photography. During her time at the Academy, Lisa developed her unique style with the guidance of instructors who became her mentors. John Vano, John Deyto, Caren Alpert and Jim Wood were all instructors who were influential in her evolution as a photographer.  Of her early projects, she said that she was more focused on emulating a style than shooting from her perspective.

“I was trying to be a ‘fashion photographer’ instead of being me,” she said. Lisa’s work is now based in both portrait and fashion and is quiet and subtle. “My work is filled with a sense of longing and nostalgia. I am interested in how tiny details of ourselves and our surroundings make us who we are and how these details perpetuate both true and false identities."

Over time, her style has evolved in a way that’s not only a reflection of her unique tastes and perspectives, but is also commercially successful.  She’s just wrapped up solo shows at Gallery 645 and Eclipse Gallery in San Francisco.  The limited edition hardcover book Something Like Home was published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at Gallery 645.

In addition to her gallery presence, Lisa has shot for clients as varied as Walton Isaacson, Marie Claire, Wired and Newsweek.  Her shots of poet laureate Kay Ryan in Newsweek recently hit newsstands.  On her blog post about the shoot, Lisa said that the Newsweek piece was a wonderful assignment because she got to photograph someone who she finds “truly lovely and interesting,” and she also had a great deal of artistic freedom.  The result is a stunning series of photographs that truly capture the essence of their subject.

When asked for advice to current students who want to achieve success as professional artist, Lisa recommends that they stay involved.  She said that students should get to know their professors and their fellow students by engaging them in class and after class. 

“Your professors are amazing resources and hopefully future colleagues and friends. You want to be the person that people know.  You want to be out there as a photographer, no matter what stage of your career you’re in.”

In addition to staying involved, she suggests that photographers shoot regularly for themselves as well as for their classes and clients. 

“You get better when you shoot, especially when you are able to shoot things you care about,” she said.  “The bonus is when you get an assignment that you really like, but since commercial work isn’t always like that, it’s vital to keep doing your own work.”

Clearly, the approach is paying off.  The Academy congratulates Lisa on her current success.

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