Hill photographer to the musical stars, among others

by Len Lear
Posted 7/2/21

Professional photographer Lisa Haun was once assigned to capture the image of musical superstars like Paul Simon, Joan Jett and a young U2 front-man, Bono, during the band's first trip to the U.S., and she even stumbled upon a chance to photograph famed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg ("Howl") during her 35-year career as a photographer.

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Hill photographer to the musical stars, among others

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Professional photographer Lisa Haun, 63, who grew up in Chestnut Hill near the corner of Ardleigh and Mermaid and graduated from Mt. Airy's Cecilian Academy in 1974, was once assigned to capture the image of musical superstars like Paul Simon, Joan Jett and a young U2 front-man, Bono, during the band's first trip to the U.S., and she even stumbled upon a chance to photograph famed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg ("Howl") during her 35-year career as a photographer.

Which bands were her favorites? “That’s a big question,” she said last week. “I generally didn’t get to spend a lot of time with my subjects, so I didn’t often know them well. It helped to work with people who were comfortable in front of the camera, and that’s difficult for most of us. My favorites are based on how happy I was with the resulting photographs, so I’d pick Bono, Divine, Henry Rollins. There’s a lovely photo of Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera on the Staten Island Ferry where you can just the Statue of Liberty in a window behind him. A lot of choices.”

Now a Glenside resident for the past 18 years, Haun started out doing portraits of musicians for several small publications. Although she now does the occasional landscape, most of her current work is botanical, mainly close-up portraits of individual flowers and birds.

Haun was at Allens Lane Art Center from 2008 through 2014 as their administrative coordinator and then went back to run the box office for their theater for several years. “It’s a great place,” said Haun, who also had a solo show at Allens Lane Art Center, has been part of several group shows at the Cerulean Gallery in Center City and had a solo exhibit at the Schuylkill Nature Center of portraits of birds from their taxidermy collection. She has also worked for ADM Gallery in Northern Liberties, helping to put together the photography side of their group exhibits. Her own work was included in a few of the shows.

Dandelions are a flower homeowners often remove from their lawns, but Haun's close-up image of an ordinary dandelion looks like an interconnected web of white fireworks or the structure of a chemical compound in a science textbook.
Haun got her start in photography while studying communications at Temple University in the late '70s. She took a photography class that included free use of a school Yashica-Mat camera, a popular box camera from the era. In three weeks she was hooked. She sometimes worked at WRTI, the school's then jazz-only student-run radio station, and took photos of local bands.
She started sending her photos to local music fanzines and getting them published. Haun graduated from Temple in 1980 and continued to take photos of local bands and balance part-time work to pay for her rent. She sent her portfolio to larger fanzines.

In the 1990s Haun began working as a photo researcher for Sony Music in Manhattan. At the end of the '90s, she moved to L.A., but within three months, a book deal and music industry job fell through. Haun came back to Philly in 2002 because "I was kind of homesick."

It is most difficult to make a dependable living in any of the creative arts, even worse in the past 15 months, so “day jobs” are often needed just to pay for the basics. For example, Haun is now the office manager for an architecture firm. She also ushers at music venues on the side. “If you’ve been to World Café Live or City Winery,” she said, “there’s a very good chance I took you to your seat...

“Like all of us, my world for the past year became a lot smaller. Fortunately, I work closely with my subjects and was able to still find beauty and joy in small moments at home.”

Haun's photos are virtually all extreme close-ups. "What I want to show,” she explained, “is that there are beautiful things all around you if you stop and look. It's heartbreaking in a way because it doesn't last forever, and we don't always stop to look … My mother had the greatest impact on my life. She had a great eye for composition and a real knack for interior design.”

For more information, visit lisahaun.com or her Instagram account. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com.

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