One, One Thousand | Southern Photography


American Folk
by Lisa Elmaleh

Go back to the photographs

Project statement:

Traditional American music is a lyrical history of American heritage. Found often in rural cultures in and around the Appalachian mountains, this music can be found being played on porches, at dances, at festivals, and in church meetings. The melodies are oft times simple, and the lyrics often resonate with the stories of life: love, hard labor, slavery, farming, tragedies, death, and god. The songs are passed down from generation to generation.

I photograph musicians who are players of traditional American music using the tintype photographic process, a popular and affordable photographic process commonly used in the late 1800s. The tintype process utilizes an on-site darkroom and a large format antiquated camera. Because of the nature of my process, typically, a whole day is spent with each subject – each 8x10 tintype is hand coated, exposed in a large format camera, and developed on site in a darkroom in the back of my pickup truck. The tradition of American music echoes in the historic nature of the tintype photographic process.


Bio and contact:

Lisa Elmaleh is a Brooklyn based large format photographer. Using a portable darkroom in the back of her truck, Elmaleh photographs using the nineteenth century wet plate collodion process. Elmaleh is a recipient of the Ruth and Harold Chenven Foundation Grant (2012), the Aaron Siskind Foundation IPF Grant (2011), The American Folk National Park Artist Residency (2010), the Goldwell Artist Residency (2010), the Camera Club of New York Darkroom Residency (2008), and the Tierney Fellowship (2007). Elmaleh's work has been published in Harper’s Magazine, Dear Dave, Rattle Journal, NPR’s The Picture Show, and Visura Magazine. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts and the Center for Alternative Photography in New York City. Her work has been exhibited in various solo and group shows throughout the United States and internationally.


Lisa Elmaleh is a Brooklyn, NY, based photographer.
To view more of her work, please visit her website:
You can also contact Lisa by e-mail: