Imagining Lisa Law By Simone Lazerri Ellis
Lisa Law celebrated her 31st year as a professional photographer in 1993 with the release of her award-winning documentary Flashing On The Sixties in the home video market. Flashing On The Sixties won the GoId Plaque Award at the l99I Chicago International film Festival, was invited for a special screening at the 1991 Woman’s in Film Festival in Los Angeles, and won a Silver Award at the 1992 Worldfest Houston. Lisa’s book of the same title sold out two printings.
Her career as photographer began in the early sixties. Camera in hand, and working, assistant to a manager in the rock and roll scene, she began taking pictures, Whether she was back stage with The Beatles, Peter Paul and Mary the Kingston Trio, Otis Redding, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Velvet Underground, The Byrds, taking promotional photographs of Janis Joplin and Big Brother, or at home making dinner for house guests like Bob Dylan or Andy Warhol, her passion for photography grew into a profession.
Since that time, Lisa has specialized in documenting history as she has experienced it. As a mother, writer, photographer and social activist, her work reveals distinctive communities of people, including the homeless of San Francisco, the El Salvadorian resistance against military oppression, and the Navajo and Hopi nations struggling to preserve their ancestral religious sites, traditions and land. She continues to document any musical events and the musicians of today as well as current political activists. She plans to publish three follow-up books of the subsequent decades in scrapbook form like her book, Flashing On The Sixties.
Lisa’s work has been published in over 50 books and on 22 record albums, CDs and
Lisa Law lives on her memories. Timothy Leary squinting at the sun at the Human Be-In in San Francisco. A young Harrison Ford fixes the wiring at at a friend’s house in Hollywood. Ken Kesey perched like a Valkyrie on the hood of his painted hippie bus (Named “Further” as it loses to Wavy Gravy’s in the Great bus Race outside Santa Fe. The ’60s zeitgeist seems to have appointed Law its official photographer. She was always in the right place at the right time, always knew everyone involved and always had her camera. “Back then, when I shot a picture, I didn’t know how important it was going to be,” she says. “Now I know.”
Law came to Santa Fe in 1974 with her four children, whose names read like an ascending mantra: Dhana Pilar, Solar Sat, Sunday Peaches, Jesse Lee Rainbow. That’s when she started selling photos of her friends-memories were already in demand. Today, Law’s extensive archive is used by everyone, from public television to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. UNM uses her Flashing On The Sixties as a history textbook.
But Law, 52, is not exclusively into the ’60s; she’s also an active advocate for teens of the ’90s. And she’s concerned that Santa Fe seems to have so little time for its youth. Recently, she helped Mark Rendleman raise $69,363 for the CCA teen center.
Santa Fe can raise $100,000 for AIDS patients that come here to die,” she says. “Why can’t we raise that for the living?”
Soon she’ll be living north of town in Embudo, working on her next five photo books in a house she’s building on land she and her children own together. Her purpose in life now? To get her remaining images—her “other children”—out on their own. –R.U.