When Lisa Siciliano bought her neighbor’s camera on a whim in 2002, she had no idea that such a small decision would alter the course of her life.
“I always felt like this completely creative person that had no outlet,” Siciliano says. “I had never even thought of taking photos before. It definitely wasn’t my childhood dream; I had never taken a class. It just happened and it changed everything.”
Siciliano brought her new camera to shoot her husband’s band at the Fox Theatre, where she was a waitress. Within a year of taking those first photos, Sicilano was hired by Red Rocks to be house photographer, jump-starting her unexpected career.
“It was a complete fluke,” Siciliano says. “I had taken this one amazing photo of James Hetfield from Metallica, and when Red Rocks saw it they hired me on the spot. I had very little experience and had to teach myself while I was working.”
Since then, Siciliano has shot hundreds of shows in her signature black-and-white style, making a name for herself in the male-dominated world of rock ’n’ roll photography. She is currently the house photographer for Boulder Theater, Red Rocks and the Wells Fargo Center.
“There’s hardly any other women; it’s just a tough field to get into,” Siciliano says. “I think women are just not as interested, and if they are they can get sort of turned off really quickly by the roughness of it and the male group mentality.”
Any resistance that Siciliano has met seems to have had the opposite effect.
“It’s made me a way better photographer to have to constantly prove myself,” Siciliano says. “It’s really made me be on top of my game. When I started, a lot of people didn’t take me seriously, and some still don’t. That’s why I carry my portfolio in my purse, so I can just whip it out and show the disbelievers.”
Siciliano will exhibit her work at George’s Food and Drink on Dec. 10 as part of her fifth annual Rockin’ in a Winter Wonderland show. Seventy-five of her distinct black-and-white photos will be on display, showcasing shots of such diverse musicians as B.B. King, Dolly Parton, Marilyn Manson, Iggy Pop and Alicia Keys. Five bands — Statewide Emergency, A New Brain for Arnie, Bella’s Blues Band, Ibby Cline and Ego Vs Id — will be performing throughout the night.
“People ask me all the time why I shoot in black and white and why I shoot film instead of digital. I don’t know — why doesn’t Led Zeppelin play hip-hop?” Siciliano says. “It’s just the look I’ve created and the look I like.”
Siciliano believes that the medium of film allows her to capture more depth in her photographs, but her preference for film goes beyond the aesthetic realm.
“I feel like shooting film makes me slow down a lot. I have to really pick and choose my shots, which you don’t have to do as much with digital. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but I do think that digital has made some people lose a bit of their compositional skills,” Siciliano says. “I shot Roger Waters at the Pepsi Center on my birthday and there was this photographer behind me that had his camera on machine gun mode, holding it over his head, shooting then looking, shooting then looking. If you’re just trying to get as much as you can and then go through it later to see if you got anything, it’s just not the same.”
Siciliano’s work speaks for itself, declaring the time and patience she employs to wait for the perfect shot. Her photos are striking studies of light and shadow, of movement and emotion, that simultaneously portray a sophistication of composition with the grittiness of rock ’n’ roll.
“When you’re shooting a concert, there’s only certain shots that are magical,” Siciliano says. “It only happens at certain times, but I always know right away when I get it. There’s that moment when you and the band and the light all connect; it’s an amazing feeling.”
On the Bill
Rockin’ In A Winter Wonderland takes place at George’s Food & Drink on Friday, Dec. 10. Doors at 6 p.m. Musical guests include Statewide Emergency, Ego Vs Id and Bella’s Blues Band. 2028 14th St., Boulder, 303-998-9350