Natural Innocence

Lisa Britton shows nature through the eyes of a child

Aug 5, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Photographer Lisa Britton has been recording every day of her almost-5-year-old daughter Angela’s short life. She often concentrates on Angela’s exploration of the natural world and has chosen works with that theme for Seeing Nature, her exhibition of color photographs on display at Parkside Café in Walnut Hills.

“Even before Angela was born I was working on a daily project,” Britton says via e-mail. “On January 1, 2004, I made a New Year’s resolution to photograph myself every day of that year. I became pregnant with Angela early in that year and so the portfolio obviously became about the pregnancy. By the time that Angela was born in late September, I was accustomed to making a photograph every day and simply switched the camera from myself to Angela.”

Her daughter’s early interest in nature jibes nicely with Britton’s own interests. Prodded into picking a subject to explore when working toward her MFA in photography at University of Cincinnati in the early ’90s, she gravitated to nature.

“I love the meditative quality of it,” she says, adding that a number of visits to Japan have helped to develop that interest. “There’s an ‘in-the-moment’ mindset in Japan,” she says, a mindset compatible to the way she likes to work.

“I chose to make this particular project about Angela because she was the obvious choice as I adore her and am immensely proud of her growth, intelligence and sweet nature,” Britton continues. “I looked for interactions with nature: not only about nature itself or Angela herself but the intertwining of both. Her way of looking at the world is one of beautiful innocence and yet sensitivity.”

Britton, 51, became interested in photography nearly 30 years ago through a chance visit to a photographic darkroom in Germany.

“I was enthralled by the magic of the process and instantly knew it should be part of my life,” she says.

Both she and her husband, Ben, were in the Army and stationed in Europe at the time. When they talked about what they might do with the rest of their lives, Ben suggested she try photography.

But there’s no money in it, she replied. Ben thought there could be, and in fact both have made successful careers in the field. Ben, specializing in new media, is an associate professor at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. Lisa is now a part-time member of UC’s photojournalism staff and also teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. The family lives in Clifton.

When Britton was offered the opportunity to show at Parkside Café, she thought the audience would be largely family-oriented and that images of Angela would be interesting to them.

“This exhibition is really about universal values of enjoyment of nature,” she says.

Britton says she can’t predict how long she will continue photographing her daughter.

“There have been times when I have considered stopping, but for me this is like a gift for her, to show her her own self, to document her interests and her adventures,” she says. “She is a very bright child, full of ideas and creativity. She often revisits photographs of herself as a younger person, or even recent photographs. It’s something she likes doing very much.”

It seems the Brittons have communicated their interests in photography to their daughter.

SEEING NATURE is on display at Parkside Cafe, a breakfast/lunch restaurant in Walnut Hills , through Sept. 11 . Get venue details here.