"Olympic National park is alive with the frequent rainfall and streams. In this image of Madison Falls, I edited it to show the water that constantly feeds the new growth."
- Alisha Clarke
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“My art gives me purpose and a love of life.”
Alisha Clarke embraces life’s challenges and transforms photos into powerful, emotional works of art. Born in Indianapolis, IN, Alisha began experimenting with photography as a child as a form of play. She explains, “I found an old pack of enlarging paper and was fascinated to find I could watch the paper change shade when exposed to light and would create images by putting paper shapes on top of the paper to block the light. It made me appreciate the concept of painting with light.”
Raised in a family that honored and respected the arts, Alisha followed in her mother’s footsteps by creating pottery and also studying painting. In her pre-teen years, she began developing her own film and prints. She received a partial college scholarship for her photography and later learned the in’s and out’s of digital photography as the technology emerged, mastering programs like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.
Alisha’s childhood dream was to be a photographer for National Geographic magazine, because she loved learning about different cultures and finding beauty in every place she visited. However, the need to earn a more steady income took her into the IT field. Alisha’s career in IT led her to work in fundraising for various universities.
It wasn’t until 2015 when she was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer that she was unable to pursue this profession further. Alisha shares, “When faced with a disability, it can feel like I have been rejected by life... no longer able to work a traditional career.” However, photography gave her a purpose in life and a reason to continue to grow. Despite the great hardship she was facing, Alisha found the silver lining in her diagnosis, which was her ability to now follow her dreams.
“The Philosopher Joseph Campbell who studied spirituality and myth, often said “Follow your Bliss”. I suppose I never truly learned the meaning until I was faced with my own disability. Art has allowed me to find beauty even in the challenges of disability and brought me a lot of happiness. I feel like I’m finally following my bliss.”
In her photography, Alisha’s goal is to record a feeling. Rather than focusing on a single moment, she hopes to take the images she captured and edit and enhance their qualities to exude a certain emotion. She explains, “Often a daytime image becomes night or elements are added or removed until I feel I have been successful at expressing the feeling.” In addition to manipulating the camera, lenses and lighting, she edits the images using a graphic tablet connected to her computer that lets her paint into the image with colors, lighten, darken and add shapes as one would with a brush or colored pencils.
Though Alisha takes thousands of images everywhere she goes, most are never used. She is extremely careful with which ones she chooses to transform, as this is her favorite part. “Although the camera can take an image in a fraction of a second, those images never satisfy me like the images I spend many hours or days on. Those creative images give me the most joy to create and share,” she expresses.
Alisha has always thrived in challenges and the education involved in overcoming those challenges. Despite living with blood cancer and Parkinson’s disease, she continues to strive for better. Throughout her health experiences, Alisha exclaims, “I have found that I am capable of finding my own beauty even when faced with difficult challenges.” Alisha has volunteered with an organization called Flashes of Hope, to take photos of children in hospitals and their families. Even before facing her own disabilities, she was amazed at the strength of the kids and at the joy a simple photo shoot brought to their lives.
Reflecting on what she hopes for in the ArtLifting community, Alisha expresses that she wants to make an income that will allow her to travel and explore more beautiful places. She now lives in Tucson, AZ with her wife and their dog, who love to go camping and visit National Parks. In addition to her career in IT, Alisha has studied sociology and social justice education, which she is passionate about. She expresses, “As a transgendered person, I feel very sensitive to any group or individual who struggle to find dignity and purpose amid social challenges.” Whatever arena that Alisha finds herself in, she is sure to succeed and influence.
ArtLifting champions artists impacted by disabilities and housing insecurity by connecting their art with socially-conscious customers . Learn more here.