When San Francisco based photographer Lisa Kristine was a child, she pored over “National Geographic” depictions of tribal peoples in faraway lands. Now she has photographed every one of the indigenous groups that once captivated her young imagination. From Papua New Guinea to Ethiopia, Laos to Tibet, Kristine has journeyed the globe to photograph people and places seemingly untouched by our modern world.
“I’m drawn to people who have been living closer to the earth and have very, very old traditions, [people] that have not in any way been altered by modernism,” she explains in the Spark episode “Think Globally.”
A California native, Kristine learned to take black and white photographs when she was 11 years old. Her world travels began in the early 1980s, when a visit to Greece as a teenager morphed into an extended journey that eventually led her around the world, starting with Italy, Israel, Egypt and Thailand.
Since then, Kristine has visited more than 50 countries across six continents. She spends months getting to know her subjects before documenting their private worlds on film. She always travels with a translator and never photographs subjects without their permission.
Traveling the world, visiting places and people that so many of us will experience only through photographs and stories, Kristine is drawn to the human capacity for creating meaning and the different ways global communities produce and perpetuate meaning through religion, tradition, philosophy and culture. She has recently been drawn to capturing America – her own country – in this same way.
Lisa Kristine’s vibrantly colorful photographs depict scenes as simple as a single arched doorway in Morocco and as enigmatic as a geisha’s red smile. Using 4×5 analogue cameras of different sizes, Kristine emphasizes natural light. She is known to spend hours waiting for the light to shift so that it colors her chosen scene in just the right hue. And although she does use a tripod for scenes that move and with large-format cameras, she prefers taking handheld shots of her subjects as they work, pray and perform daily tasks.