New work by Lasma Poisa

In this post I will discuss the early development of my MA Photography project. 

When I considered a photographic project to undertake for my studies, I initially wanted to continue the documentary approach to portraiture I had established in my previous work which included staged portraits that were made in collaboration with my sitters. I also wanted to challenging myself and employ strategies that were outside of my comfort zone; until now I had taken self-portraits and photographed family members in Latvia, but had little or no experience in photographing strangers. 

Having limited time and ability to travel, I had to come up with a subject that was easily accessible to me so I decided to explore a more immediate community. As an experiment I posted an advertisement on a Facebook group set up for cat owners in my local area, offering free portraits with their pets.

My aim was not to make work about cats, rather the animal fulfilled an important role as a strategy to gain access into stranger’s homes and, possibly, learn more about the people who had little more in common than owning a cat. With each shoot I had to establish common ground with my sitters and negotiate relationships, which created safe environments for taking pictures.

A common stereotype attached to ‘cat people’ is of being loners, yet somehow approaching this particular community felt safe. Perhaps, in my role as a photographer I myself became cat-like, being invited into stranger’s homes, wandering in and out, with a permission for observation. Each portrait I took was a negotiation and a collaboration with my sitter, a strategy I had developed in my previous work.

So far I have photographed cat owners at seventeen separate locations over a four week period. During the project I have learned to be quick in identifying “a stage” for the portraits to introduce narratives, negotiate the desired outcome, control lighting and direct the distracted sitter whilst getting attention of a continuously moving animal. In so doing I have found myself making different kinds of pictures, from staged portraits  to more observed documentary images. Initially these might not seem to sit together, but I am interested to exploring these different approaches as a form of practice as research.

Double Game by Lasma Poisa

Collaborative project with Rosie Day 

During the collaboration micro project week I worked with Rosie Day, a student from my MA cohort I felt shared a similar approach to photography, both, conceptually and in terms of contextualising her work. When discussing our ideas, we considered timezones as we live 8.5 hours apart (Rosie lives in Portland, US, and I live in Manchester, UK). However, we settled on the image association 'game' where we would respond to each other's images, an approach inspired by the collaboration between French artist Sophie Calle and an American writer Paul Auster. We decided that I would create the first image and Rosie would respond to it. Other than that we had no other indication as to where the project would take us and how it would resolve itself. 

The first image I created was intuitive, I felt it offered a potential for the beginning of something; for unraveling, like a cocoon, from the wardrobe. After Rosie's response the narrative unfolded effortlessly, although the week was very challenging, labour intensive, yet rewarding. 

Within this I used several strategies, including portraiture and constructed images that were performative, with surreal elements. This involved me finding sitters on very short notice and negotiating with them to pose in scenarios that held the potential of placing them outside of their comfort zone. These images also bring back the energy from my previous work in terms of storytelling and symbolism. 

I really enjoyed working with Rosie and challenging myself. I found it inspirational to respond to her images and creating narratives. Technically this week was really beneficial for me as having limited time to create images meant that I had to come to terms with a camera flash, which I am very grateful for now. I would like to bring together strategies used during this week, both staged and observed, and potentially explore others in my future work, creating portraits that bring a more surreal quality to the pictures. 

Re-making the Global image by Lasma Poisa

 Ecce Solem, 2017

Ecce Solem, 2017

Thinking of contemporary global images immediately made me consider viral media or global networking images that are being shared online. Memes have become a social phenomenon where images are shared and moulded without caring of who the author is.  They tend to be trivial and offer little intellectual value as their sole purpose is to provide entertainment, however they can also be subversive and show cultural movements therefore serve as a mirror as well as a window to the world.

In 2012 an image of Ecce Homo, a fresco by a Spanish artist Elias Gracia Martinez went viral after a failed restoration attempt by an elderly volunteer Dona Sesilia Gimenez in Sanctuary of Mercy Church in Borja, Spain, consequentially creating the Monkey/ Potato Jesus meme.


Popularity of this image lays, perhaps, in our own fear of failure and how one small mistake can lead to others, gain momentum and unravel in disaster. Disaster being a common theme of recent global political affairs (such as Brexit etc). Inspired by this, I decided to reappropriate another viral photograph of Donald Trump looking and pointing at the sun during the last solar eclipse. I used various images of Trump to create a collage focusing on stereotypical points of ridicule (each one, pointless). The whole purpose of memes and thr spectacle of viral media is to distract us; to look at the wrong thing, blind us to the important issues of global politics. Important images of global conflict (Syria, Ukraine etc) become invisible and ineffective in the mass stream of banal images.

Unseen Micro Project by Lasma Poisa

As part of our face-to-face event in Amsterdam we were asked to work on a collaborative micro project of our choice. Our group was named after Robert Frank which is why we decided to create work based on an observation of a place (Amsterdam) from an outsider’s point of view, inspired by The Americans (1958).

I decided to make a comment on tourist photography on tourism as a whole. I used an old Agfa 1MP camera to make a statement on the quality of tourist images. Being a tourist myself, I asked strangers to photograph me in places that are not considered to be picturesque or aesthetically beautiful. I posed awkwardly for each image commenting on our alien status when we go abroad.

Unseen References by Lasma Poisa

Unseen Amsterdam by Lasma Poisa


My first Critical Research Journal  entry, the beginning of the journey into my masters studies. Welcome to whomever happens to stumble across this page. 

I Introduced myself with this image at my first face-to-face event organised by Falmouth Flexible MA Photography course in Amsterdam. This image is from the project Turning of the Sun, a body of work that explores the idea of ‘home’ in its broadest sense; examining themes of childhood, myth and national identity.

Since 2014, I have been returning to the place of my childhood in Latvia. The photographs I took attempted to portray a particular sense of place; both one from my own memory of childhood, and the place as it exists today. Merging documentary and performance, these images embraced ‘play’ as a strategy for making pictures. Asking my sitters (often family members) to pose and consider the photograph’s construction, my images are a negotiation rather than mere observation. The images articulate my relationship with place and memory, but also consider wider themes of national identity. The title, Turning of the Sun, refers to continuous change and the cycle of the seasons, that is so important in Latvian culture deriving from its pagan roots. It also refers to the succession of familial generations and my own return to my birth land.