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Lisa Elmaleh Shares Portraits From the Border

Lisa Elmaleh Shares Portraits From the Border

Lisa Elmaleh Shares Portraits From the Border


Ms. Elmaleh taught students the wet plate collodion process at Fairfield Farm.

Staff Writer

November 15, 2023

Teo Everts '26

On Tuesday, October 24, professional photographer Lisa Elmaleh opened All-School Meeting with a harrowing story of a migrant who walked through the Sonoran Desert for three days without water on his journey to the United States. 

In 2022, Ms. Elmaleh spent five months on the U.S.-Mexico border volunteering with humanitarian organizations and photographing migrants and their rescuers. Working exclusively with an 8x10 film camera, Ms. Elmaleh’s practice requires a longer set-up does use of a digital camera. The slower process allows her to pay homage to the person standing in front of the lens, showcasing her respect for their journeys, experiences, and resilience. 

“I am making a historic document of this moment in their life. Migration is a chapter in a person’s story; it is not their entire story. The 8x10 camera, with all of the time it takes to set up, gives us time to converse, and it is in this setting I hear stories—harrowing, intense, violent journeys, stories of loss, memories of a home where this person cannot return to,” Ms. Elmaleh said. 

During the week of October 23, Ms. Elmaleh installed her exhibit, Promised Land // Tierra Prometida, in the Tremaine Gallery and taught photography students. On the night of October 24, Ms. Elmaleh held an artist talk open to the school in the Faculty Lounge, showcasing the 10-minute film she produced from her time on the border. 

Ms. Elmaleh said, “As photographers, it is our duty to make visible and humanize these struggles. I want people to think about how and why people are forced to flee and the ways a country like the United States continues to demonize and reject those seeking refuge and protection.” 

Ms. Elmaleh is an expert in a photo production process called wet plate collodion. The technique, invented in 1851, yields a unique aesthetic still preferred by many contemporary artists. 

During the week of her residency, Ms. Elmaleh taught the wet plate collodion process to Lower Mid, Upper Mid, and Senior photo classes. The classes traveled to Millerton, NY, and Fairfield Farm. 

Phoebe Hackett ’24, a student in Senior Portfolio, said, “Talking to the professional artist behind the artwork was an invaluable experience that helped me reflect on the intentions behind my own portfoilo.” 

Ms. Elmaleh’s work won the Arnold Newman Prize, awarded annually to a photographer who adds a new vision to the field of portraiture photography. 

Her exhibit will be on display in Tremaine through January 14.

Teo Everts is a staff writer for The Record.

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Editor's Note: This article was recovered from The Record's online archive. There may be stylistic and visual errors that interrupt the reading experience, as well as missing photos. To read this article as it appeared in print, view our print archives.

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Editorials are written by members of The Record's Executive Board. They typically center on issues related to the school or student life on campus.

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