A CHAT WITH PHOTOGRAPHER LISA EISNER

The Former Fashion Editor Talks About Inspiration and Los Angeles

For our 2011 campaign, Lisa Eisner shot Devendra Banhart at John Lautner’s incredible Rainbow House, and this summer she had a pool party with the new face of Oliver Peoples, Amanda Hearst, at the heiress’ ancestral grounds in Sam Simeon.  But photographs (and video) are hardly the only feather in Eisner’s creative headdress.  The former editor at Vogue and Mademoiselle launched her own publishing company in 1999, Greybull Press, and exhibited her multimedia show Psychonaut at M+B gallery in 2010.  She also happens to be one of the most stylish people alive— but don’t just take our word for it: Eisner’s friend and neighbor Tom Ford included her, along with Beyonce, Liya Kabede and Julianne Moore, in his list of “the world’s most inspirational women,” whom he also invited to walk in his now-famous comeback show in 2010.  We chatted with Eisner about her own inspirations and her Los Angeles.


You've been spending some time in some incredible houses on these OP campaigns. I know that you are a Lautner fan, were you surprised or impressed by Hearst Castle?

Well I am a big collector of lot of crap, and ‘collector’ is the big word at Hearst Castle. Hearst was practically a hoarder. He had so much stuff, like warehouses full of antiques.  He would go to New York and just buy boatloads of antiques.  I was sort of fascinated with his taste.  It reminded me of the auction of Cher’s house in Malibu— lots of church pews and church relics, a lot of religious overtones, very heavy, dark rooms, heavy dark wood.  You felt like you were in a heavy jewelry box.  I couldn't wait to just be outside!  I tried to get some ghost stories out of some of the guides, but they said there were no stories— I don't believe it.  It’s such a movie set and such a fantasy, a perfect Hollywood setting of what all the money in the world can buy.  My favorite thing was the zoo with all those exotic animals at one time, like polar bears.  And if you do have a chance to see the zebras, well you just can’t believe it— it’s the same group of zebras’ DNA from the original group, the same family.

I have this belief that there is no ‘one’ Los Angeles, that every person there is living in their own vision of the city, their own singular subculture, that the city they see may overlap with that of another's, but is mostly unique. You have this wonderful vision of LA as a bohemian paradise— incredible people in golden sun, golden cars and velvety pools... How did you come by your vision of LA?

The vision just came to me living here.  I’m not in the movie world, so wasn't inspired by the Hollywood part of LA.  I wanted to find the other part, the history of a not-so-old city... I mean ‘old’ here is like 1930's.  LA is such a baby.  And we are closer to Mexico than we are to New York and Europe, and you can feel that— closer to Vegas too and you can feel that.  It’s a total comic book, no rules.  It’s a make-up-whatever-you-want kind of place, but there are influences: the mid-century airy, clean inside-outside architecture, the Spanish colonial which was always part of LA— the old Hollywood part.  It’s all in the books for me: books on architects like Cliff May, Wallace Neff, Richard Neutra, Greene and Greene, Quincy Jones, Paul Williams, Lautner, and then all the off-shoots of those guys.  Oh, and don't forget the geniuses like Billy Hanes.  The most inspirational person was my friend Tony Duquette. He was the total real McCoy— his house, the way he entertained, his attire, everything -  a total original.  Talk about making up his own world— he made up his own tribe and culture!

You've spent time immersed in sub-cultures (Shriners, Rodeo Girls) and even charted a new one with Psychonaut... Who do you have your eye on these days?

Well, believe it or not, I’m into full-on nature right now: my back yard, gardens, birds, flora, fauna, my soul.  I’m almost a birder, but not quite there yet.  I love feathers and also pow-wows.  The Native American in their regalia in these ceremonies are all exotic birds.

Any good flea market finds of late?

Flea markets stay the same… but each time you go it’s another adventure; you just stay open and let things come to you.  It’s a sort of Zen, finding what wants me to discover them.


 

 





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