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Jessica Brandi Lifland

April 18, 2012

Jessica Lifland. Photo © Vasna Wilson

The best photographers are also storytellers, and based on her photos of Western ranch life, and from cowboy poetry gatherings, Jessica Brandi Lifland is a consummate storyteller. A San Francisco-based photojournalist, Jessica’s work has been published nationally and internationally in USA Today, The London Times, The New York Times, The Toronto Star, Newsweek, Time, and Le Monde.

Jessica’s work has taken her all over the United States and the world including West Africa, the Middle East, Kosovo, and Burma. Her most recent travels brought her to Haiti where she worked on several stories related to the sixth month anniversary of the devastating earthquake there, including a story for USA Today.

During the same trip she was also in the Dominican Republic with the non-profit Operation Smile, which she has worked with since 2007. For them, she documented a medical mission as they repaired cleft lips and palettes on children who otherwise would have had no access to this surgery.

Her most recent project documents the lives of the cowboy poets of the American West in affiliation with the Western Folklife Center, which she hopes to make into a book. She has won numerous awards and participates in exhibits around the country.

Jessica is an instructor of photojournalism at the City College of San Francisco. She is the founder and director of San Francisco’s monthly Photonite. Jessica’s work is represented by Polaris Images.

1. What is your hometown?

Lawrence, “Lon-Ghi-land”, New York. Was born in Manhattan but I don’t remember that. Grew up in suburbia a quick bike ride from the beach and a 50 minute train ride from Manhattan. Both were great influences on my life. The city stretched my mind and opened my eyes while the beach fed my spirit and soul.

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

Sometimes Charlie Brown, Sometimes Lucy, Sometimes Snoopy.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.

Laura Linney. Friends and I have had many discussions on this topic over drinks.

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

So much great photography but which one single image? Some of my favorite photographic works include Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange and the series of cowboy images by William Albert Allard for National Geographic.

Oh I know what else. The collection of Bernini sculptures on display at the Galleria Borghese in Rome. They had a profound influence on me in college as an art student.

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

With a 1 year old, I haven’t had much time for reading lately but it seems the last book I completed was “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall and the next one up sitting on my night table is “Rightful Place” by my friend Amy Hale Auker.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

Well…in all honesty at the top of my “Most recents” in my Youtube list is “Menamenam” by the Muppets and” The Phonics Song” by Kidstv123 as well as “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” by the same folks. Katie entertainment.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

Just saw a pre-screening of the beginning of Brave by Pixar a couple of hours ago and I got choked up in the first scene (silly I know) because the young child Merida reminded me of our daughter Katie who I haven’t seen awake in more than a day and won’t see for at least another day because of my work schedule this week. I imagine she’ll be like Merida in spirit (already is at 1 year old) only with lots of black curly hair not red curly hair. The setting of the film, although Scotland reminded me of Ireland, which has become so significant in my life as it is where my husband is from, where his family is, where we got engaged and where we were married last September.

8. Cat person or dog person?

I have a cat named Elko. As in Elko, Nevada. He is a brat. I love him but thanks to him, I no longer believe having a cat makes me a cat person. Oh look there he is…plotting to drink out of my water glass as soon as I fall asleep.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

Truth be told, but in a kind way.

10. How do you define sin?

A really really rich fattening delicious dessert

11. How do you define virtue?

Do unto others…

12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

Cremate me please. Dump me over the Golden Gate. Instead of a headstone, I’d rather my photographs represent me.

Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

Margo Metegrano or DW Groethe

Jessica Lifland
Jessica Lifland’s blog from the 2012 Cowboy Poetry Gathering

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2012 21:22

    Great answer to #9. Sometimes it’s very hard to tell truth from opinion and sometimes the truth is cruel anyway you say it. I guess that’s when it’s a good time to shut up–it took me years to figure that one out.

  2. April 18, 2012 08:04

    I love this!

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