PROFILE: @MEMUSETOO

Photographed + Written by Alisa Speese (@memusetoo)

 

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"Hello, my name is Alisa Speese. I was born in a small town in Oklahoma, but my family moved to Kansas when I was young. While there, I attended grammar and high school. After university, I relocated to Chicago where I lived most of my adult life. I expatriated to Panamá in 2017 where it has been my home ever since." - Alisa

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"When I lived in Newton, Kansas, it was a very small town with only one high school. My father worked for the railroad and my mother owned a hair salon attached to our home. I was a precocious child and picked up a film camera at the age of 8. As a child, I made photographs of anything and everything. I sent film out for processing that returned photos of questionable quality, but there was creativity and imagination. I took photographs of my mother’s salon clientele and so many macro shots of insects, flowers and cracks in the sidewalk." - Alisa

 

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"During high school and university, I lost touch with my love of photography. After university, I used smart phones as a camera and began taking photographs again at family events and vacations. But I didn’t get serious about photography until 2018 when I found myself with more time as a retiree." - Alisa

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"While photographing family vacations, I have memories of wanting to have a person in each of my photographs. I recall asking (more like begging) my family members to pose in front of beautiful landscapes and attractions. At some point it became a chore to convince my loved ones to pose in every photograph, so I began sneaking candid photos of random people passing by the scenes I shot." - Alisa

 

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"As a self-taught photographer, I was uneasy photographing strangers. I had no knowledge of street photography back then. But as I learned more about the various genres of photography, I discovered that Street dates to the invention of photography in the early 20th century. I began researching the old masters, learning about light, shadow, gesture, layers and leading lines. And I gained confidence." - Alisa

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"I primarily make candid photographs and am intrigued by the activities and environments that my subjects move in. There are several districts in Panama City, each with a distinct look and feel. One of my favorite places to make photographs is in Casco Antigua, the Old Quarter, with its Colonial-era architecture, lively nightlife, culinary delights and cultural attractions. I enjoy capturing candids of the original habitants that preceded the massive gentrification, and the reaction the tourists have to the scenes and vibes of the area." - Alisa

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"I love the diversity of the Panamanian people which is as close to a melting pot as anywhere in the world. Panama is predominantly Mestizo, which is a mixture of European and Native American ethnicity. Additionally, it is home to six indigenous tribes which comprise ~8% of the total population. Approximately 10% are Afro-Caribbean people, who were brought here to help build the Canal. A small percentage of Panama’s population is made up of people who are mainly expatriates from North America and Europe. Panamanians are represented by the colors of the rainbow." - Alisa

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"My photographic work in Climb to Heaven explores the intersection of street and documentary techniques along with strong cultural interpretations. As a city person with minimal experience in small towns since leaving Kansas, I was suddenly drawn to explore the more remote areas of Panamá. Panama City is a cosmopolitan financial center with a skyline rivaling Chicago, and a place where I feel right at home. But I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and explore mountain life. The Climb to Heaven project is a work in progress. I travelled to places where time seems to stand still, and a feeling of nostalgia hangs in the air. Where one feels drawn to become enmeshed in the culture, people and lifestyle.  Moments that bring you directly into the world of local people. Where picking and roasting your own coffee and living simply defines life. Small fondas serving one meal selection each day and manage to operate with the owner and maybe one other worker. Mountain towns where everyone knows everyone and people gather in the squares to sit and chat. Towns built beside active volcanos or inside craters of extinct volcanos where cloud forests and vistas dominate the skies, and rich soil and rare flora and fauna prevail. Where you climb to heights of 3,500 meters and feel just a little closer to heaven." - Alisa

 

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"The towns featured are El Valle de Anton, Santa Fé and Boquete. In the future, I’d like to include other towns such as Volcán and Cerro Punta. I’d also like to retrace my steps through the three towns I have previously visited to capture new moments." - Alisa

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6 comments

Joy Cain

Beautiful, very very nicely done, not sure if it’s the simplicity of them, that grabs one’s attention, would love to have them all in an all white environment, where they become the main focus.

Gaynell "Bunny" Conwell

My friend, I am so proud of you! Not many can say they have found their passion and taken the time to master it. I admire your drive and determination, which is what makes you successful in all that you do.

Angela White

Love the photos and the notes. The quality is amazing! Who says retirement is boring?

Janet Nicodemus

Informative, compelling and well composed.

Wands

Absolutely fantastic!!! Keep it up – I had an interest in photography when I was young as well. Thanks so much for sharing your journey- your passion is reflected in your artistic photos.
Wanda

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