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1005 Langley St

Victoria, BC V8W 1V7

1005 Langley St

Victoria, BC V8W 1V7

Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm

Lisa Oppenheim

Burning of the Imperial Refinery, Oil City, PA

  • Artwork Info
  • About the Artist
  • About this Photograph
  • Artist Docs
  • 1876/2012
    Unique photograms, exposed and solarized with fire

  • Lisa Oppenheim was born in New York in 1975. She received a BA in art and semiotics from Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, in 1998, and an MFA in film and video from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in 2001. In 2003, she completed the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program for studio art. Using materials from public archives, photographic anthologies, and the Internet, Oppenheim engages the full breadth of photography’s history and traces the technological processes, consumption, and circulation of photographs from Henry Fox Talbot to Flickr.

     Oppenheim’s work explores the interactions between an image, its source, and the context in which it is encountered. The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else (2006) originates from photographs of the setting sun taken by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, which Oppenheim found on the image-sharing website Flickr. Holding each photograph at arm’s length in such a way that it aligns with the horizon of the setting sun in the artist’s native New York, the artist reshot the images as the sun set within the frame. Presented as a 35 mm slide show, the significance of seemingly quotidian sunsets shifts with the knowledge of who captured them and where. Cathay (2010) juxtaposes a fragment of a 1915 Ezra Pound poem that was loosely constructed from a translation of an eighth-century Chinese poem with a more literal translation on two synchronized 16 mm films. At times substituting words with corresponding scenes from New York’s Chinatown, the work creates a visual conversion that highlights the inconsistencies in meaning that necessarily result from translation. In Oppenheim’s Smoke series, which includes A sequence in which a protester throws back a smoke bomb while clashing with police in Ferguson, Missouri (Tiled Version I), 2014 (2015), the artist crops found photos of fires or explosions so that only the fields of billowing smoke remain. The resulting compositions initially suggest innocuous cloudscapes. However, the works’ titles, taken from the captions accompanying the source images, retain references to the fraught circumstances those images capture. Solarizing the prints by exposing them with the light of an open flame, Oppenheim connects the content of the work to the process of its production.

    Oppenheim’s work has been the subject of solo presentations at the California Museum of Photography, University of California Riverside (2009); Kunstverein Göttingen, Germany (2013); Kunstverein in Hamburg (2014); and FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France (2015). Her work has also been included in group exhibitions such as the Liverpool Biennial (2006); Free, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2010); A Different Kind of Order, The ICP Triennial, International Center of Photography, New York (2013); New Photography 2013, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2015); and Photo-Poetics: An Anthology, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2015). Oppenheim lives and works in New York.


  • “I want the viewer to ask, ‘What am I looking at? How is it made?’ Somehow, that provides a way of critically reading how images come to all of us through our daily lives.”

    - Lisa Oppenheim   

    Lisa Oppenheim creates photographs and videos that connect historical imagery and techniques with the present moment. Her process often begins with online research, to source images that she reinterprets using old and new technologies. Oppenheim also employs unusual materials as negatives – fabric, lace, slices of wood – directly recording the objects’ specific textures to create near-abstract compositions. Through her experiments with analog darkroom and digital methods, Oppenheim gives photographic images new forms and new contexts, inviting us to question and to wonder.

    Oppenheim began this project by downloading images of volcanic eruptions and industrial pollution from an amateur stock-video site. She output the video sources to 35mm motion picture film and used the negatives to make prints that she then scanned to make her video component for the series, “Smoke”. Oppenheim also exposed her photographic prints using the light of an open flame. This process creates a dramatic solarized effect: light and dark are reversed, thereby linking the subject matter of the photograph with the process of its making.

    Adapted from:

  • Artist CV (PDF)
    Artist Bio (PDF)