Carissa Dorson: Conversations with Dad
From: Carissa <cldorson>
To: Dad <bcd000>
Sent: Jan 23, 2018, 4:37 PM
Subject: Photo conversations
Thanks for trying out this photo exercise with me!
One photographer sends a photo, and the next photographer responds with another photo which is inspired by the light, color, or subject matter of the first one. I hope that sort of makes sense!
Attached is a photo that I just took (see above), which you can respond to (see below). Hopefully it will be fun!
Carissa Dorson wasn’t expecting to be publishing a monograph with Kerher Verlag when she set out to connect in a deeper way with her father. As distance and personality often got in the way of their communication, Carissa decided to create a different kind of connection with her dad – a visual connection made through the exchange of photographs. The result is a wonderful unspoken photographic conversation that has given them a language to go back and forth in time and memory, giving insights into their lives that might never have been said out loud. Carissa has created a Kickstarter to offset costs of publication. Please consider supporting this terrific effort.
Conversations with Dad
From the time I could talk, my Dad and I didn’t have a lot to talk about. The way we connected was through activities, like doing a two thousand-piece puzzle, or watching a musical that he taped on PBS (he still does this, and we watch his recordings whenever I visit home). Now I’m in Los Angeles, and Dad is still in the same house where I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. We speak on the phone, but not much. Phone calls are not conducive to shared, silent activities.
He lived so much life before I was even born, but he doesn’t like to answer questions or tell me anything about himself. I remembered that we both love taking pictures, so I took a photo and sent it to him, and asked him to respond with a photo inspired by the one I took. At first he was hesitant. And if I’m being honest, I was too. It’s a big leap to try and get to know someone better, even if it’s your Dad.
But I had forgotten how creative my dad was. We have so much fun with our photographic conversation that we are still doing it. It’s a shared activity that isn’t silent. We get excited to see each new piece. We ask about how each one was taken. We talk about where the idea came from. Sometimes Dad sends an old one, and I get to learn a little about that time in his life. This series has been a gift to us, and I hope it brings you joy too.
As a cinematographer and photographer, I am drawn to visual storytelling. I strive to create work that is personal and relatable, that may bring people back to a memory or a feeling. I find comfort in photographing the minutiae of daily life. When I am struggling with my own fears, anxieties, and self-worth, it forces me to stay grounded and just exist in that split-second moment.
Having learned mainly on digital, I experienced magic when I shot my first roll of 35mm film. I have been chasing that feeling ever since—later moving on to medium format and experimenting with different cameras and types of film. The scenes I capture are often uncluttered with one clear focus, yet I always embrace natural light, softness, and imperfections. – Carissa Dorson
Carissa Dorson is a fine art photographer and cinematographer originally from Silver Spring, Maryland. She received her BFA from Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts in 2011, and then moved to Los Angeles. Her photography has appeared on the front cover of “Like Brothers” by Mark and Jay Duplass, as well as in the photo book, “Home” by Don’t Smile. She has exhibited work at Duncan Miller Gallery, Los Angeles Center of Photography, and The Darkroom Gallery. Her first book of photos, “Conversations with Dad,” a visual conversation with her father, is being published by Kehrer Verlag. Carissa is an established cinematographer whose work has garnered hundreds of millions of views online. Her latest comedy feature film, “It’s a Party” is streaming on Showtime.
Social Media: @cldorson
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