Location: New Zealand
Lisa Powers was born in the south of France. Her lineage is French/ Italian from her mother’s side and American from her father’s. The family moved to New York when she was ten years old.
She began learning photography when she quit her day-job as proof-reader in a small advertising agency for a job as the cleaner/janitor in a large commercial photo studio. Her ambition was to become a professional freelance commercial photographer, and she learned by watching the studio photographers shoot in the daytime, then shooting for herself with models at night. She learned more by artistic experimentation than technical correctness, since she had no technical knowledge. This was in the film era, before digital cameras.
For the next thirty years she was one of the few women working successfully in commercial photography, an industry which was/still is largely male-dominated.
Then she did the "BIG SCARY" thing… She sold what she could, packed what could be shipped, and relocated to New Zealand. It took a while for the dust to settle but when it did she took her photography in a new direction: Fine Art.
She now defines herself as a professional Photographic Artist. And she’s also shifted from calling herself “a New York photographer in New Zealand” to “a New Zealand photographer from New York”. It makes a difference.
"I don’t capture pictures, I create them from nothing… not as one would perceive them in reality but as imagined images. To do this, I build from an idea. Choosing the right model to direct is crucial. I am completely self-taught and perhaps because of that, I am fearless. I love mixing analogue film elements with digital effects. Sometimes I print an image and re-photograph the print with filters on my lens for added effects. Experimentation is my motivation."
I created a series of photographs representing my interpretation of WanRong, in hopes of giving her the recognition she never received in life.
The last Empress of China was the beautiful and American-educated WanRong who was selected (against her will) to marry Emperor PuYi when she was just 16. PuYi selected his bride from photographs of eligible young girls. The photographs that were presented to PuYi were not of fine quality and he chose a girl who was inappropriate for his wife as she was only 12 years old. PuYi’s family then selected WanRong for him and they married. His original choice, the 12-year-old girl, became his concubine. WanRong was trapped between her sophisticated modern Western education which she embraced, and the confinement of Chinese Imperialist culture in the Forbidden City. After only a couple of years of marriage, PuYi and WanRong were forced out of the Forbidden City by the Japanese invasion of China and installed as Emperor and Empress of the Japanese puppet state, Manchukuo in Manchuria. WanRong had no love for her husband PuYi and had affairs with his aides. She even gave birth to a daughter but the whereabouts of this child are unknown. It's clear that WanRong was not permitted to raise her baby girl as PuYi was enraged at her infidelity. There were rumours that PuYi killed the child, and rumours that the child was given away. WanRong was in such despair that she started using opium as a sedative. In 1945 (around the end of WWII) the Soviets invaded Manchuria, where Manchukuo was located. PuYi fled for his life leaving his wife behind. As as a result, she was captured by the Chinese Communist guards. She lived in different internment camps and eventually died of opium withdrawal and malnutrition in prison in 1946 at age 39. Three years later, when PuYi was told of her death, he couldn't have cared less.
To this day, her remains were never found. She vanished completely.
I hope to honour her in these photographs.