Looking below the surface with Lisa Beskin ’99MFA
Lisa Beskin ’MFA99 is making a name for herself as a photographer, and her unique images capture a perspective that often goes unseen. “I started taking underwater photographs during the strange pandemic summer of 2020,” says Beskin. “Mostly unemployed, I was spending a lot of time face-down in a neighborhood lake, breathing through a snorkel and looking through a dive mask.”
Beskin received her MFA in poetry from UMass, going on to publish a collection, My Work Among the Faithful (Lynx House Press, 2004), and a chapbook, Prussian Blue (Factory Hollow Press, 2011). While her emphasis these days is on photography, she says, “I like to think that some of the artistic values I learned in graduate school translate to my photographs—a willingness to show the less obvious, to provide surprises, to interrogate the work and make it as fresh and strong as I can.”
Her poet’s voice still shines through in how she describes her work. “On a whim I bought a waterproof case for my smartphone and began recording what I was seeing: outrageous colors and delicate tableaux, otherworldly scapes, ranges of light and clarity, murk and gloom,” she says.
In the few short years Beskin has been taking these photographs, her work has been displayed in several galleries, and one of her pieces was named a winner in Mass Audubon’s Your Great Outdoors 2021 photo contest. She follows the seasons, and in winter, she photographs the icy surfaces of the ponds she swims in during the warmer months. Her work aims to see the world as it is, and she uses only natural, ambient light. “Underwater light is astounding,” she says. “One day the sun may hit the plants just right, and another the water might be too turbid, the particulate matter occluding the light. I must live with whatever’s happening right that second, which is not bad practice during these difficult times.”