Lisa Carletta: from Mons to Brussels, from London to Milan
Why do one thing when you’re good at so many? At least, that’s what we think when we look at Lisa Carletta’s portfolio. This photographer slash director from Mons covers quite the range. Commercial shoots for Ikea? Sure. Editorials for Vogue Italia? Why not? Portraying artists like our national treasure Stromae? Of course. Fine art compositions, breast cancer awareness campaigns and 3D Animation art projects? Check, check and triple check. And there’s plenty more, but this paragraph has to end at some point, doesn’t it? It's clear: Lisa has already run a fascinating course at the age of 39. It all started with a fairly basic photography class in school when she was 12. About a decade and a half later – overarching the rest of high school, a degree in advertising and a few internships – it would turn out to become her career. Not bad for an autodidact. It started in Belgium, but soon the sirens abroad lured her away. First Paris, then London where she studied fine arts at the esteemed Royal College of Art. Today, she lives closer to her roots: Italy. Travelling between, Milan, Paris, London and Belgium, she keeps on rolling.
The range of your work is hard to summarize in a couple of words. How would you introduce yourself at a cocktail party?
- L. I would keep it short: photographer and director. I could introduce myself as an artist as well. But I wouldn’t do that. Sounds a bit pretentious, doesn’t it? (laughs)
You’re a self-taught photographer and director. There are easier ways to start a career. How did that happen?
- L. I was looking for a fixed job in advertising, but I didn’t feel as if there were chances for me. As I was very passionate about photography, I decided to take the leap and just start. I was already 27 back then, so quite late. But that’s the way it went. Victoire Magazine, part of Le Soir, was my first big break. They gave me a change by handing me a very broad theme like Christmas or cinema, and a whole lot of freedom. They let me develop my ideas and concepts in near total freedom. That way, my portfolio grew, and other agencies started contacting me. That brought me to Paris. After that, the ball kept rolling.
That doesn’t sound like you’ve been minutely working out a masterplan for your career?
- L. No, not at all. I’m always just going with the flow. The same goes for London. I visited the Royal College of Art because one of my assistants wanted to do a master’s degree there. I immediately fell in love with the school. So, I applied and was enrolled there. That was in 2015, when I was already working as a photographer for about 7 years. When I left London for Milan, it was quite similar. I felt like I had finished something, and because of Brexit the whole mood in the country had changed. I wanted to reconnect with my roots, my identity. As I’m both Belgian and Italian, I decided to move to Milan.
Belgium, London, Paris, Milan. Worlds apart?
- L. There are differences, as well in ideas as in the way things work. Belgium is very well organized. Italy not so much (smiles). It’s much more chaotic, I would say. And London treats young people differently. There are many more opportunities for them. Age doesn’t seem to matter, as long as they think that person fits. My first project at a London agency, the account was 22 years old. In Belgium, you’ll need more patience. And then there’s the creative differences. Belgians are much freer in the way they think and talk. We’re not afraid to talk about anything. We dare to go far, for instance in dark humor and irony. That’s a big contrast with Italy. There’s a more conservative mindset, I think. Take the mortierbrigade campaign for Brussels Mobility, with the old guy who won a fortune by betting on alcohol and drug related car crashes. That wouldn’t work in Italy.
Is that part of our creative identity?
- L. Yeah, the dark humor and irony are important parts of that. We’re not afraid to laugh with ourselves, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. In Paris, for instance, that’s rather different (laughs).
You’ve been living abroad for a while now. Ever feel like moving back?
- L. (hesitates) Eh, the door is never closed. I actually loved every city I’ve lived in: Brussels, London, now Milan… But I go back home often, for family and for work. So, I don’t have to miss it.