Lisa Elmaleh

Lives in New-York (Usa)






As urbanization increasingly becomes more prevalent in America, American rural identity and culture becomes obscured. Since 2010, I have been creating tintypes of musicians who play traditional American folk music in and around the Appalachian Mountains. This project grew out of a love of the land, American folk music, and the traditions of Appalachian culture. By creating this documentation of American traditional music in Appalachia, I am hoping to preserve an essence of a culture in transition.


Because of the nature of the tintype process, a whole day is spent with each musician - each 8x10 plate is hand coated, exposed in an antiquated large format camera, and developed on-site in a small, makeshift darkroom in the back of my pickup truck. The process of my travels and finding musicians to photograph is organic and collaborative, I find new musicians to photograph through gatherings and dances, community centers, or by suggestions of the musicians I have photographed.  The tradition of American folk music echoes in the historic nature of the tintype process.


The work is a historical document of Appalachian culture, in the tradition of Doris Ullman's portraits from Appalachia, as well as a historical photographic process, the nineteenth century tintype process. My work is deeply rooted in tradition and history.  My respect for age and history is a common thread that runs deeply and ties all of my work together.


This project will result in a culminating book and exhibitions, which will show tintypes from this body of work, as well as feature live performances from the musicians involved in the project, making the exhibitions a collaborative effort.  I plan to show these works in venues and cultural centers where the music is played.  My vision is for the work to be an homage to the community and musical tradition it depicts.


My hope is for this work to reach a broader, international audience as well, to educate people of this rich, traditional rural culture, a culture of American heritage.  The Prix Virginia would be an essential factor to realize these goals.