Book Review: Conversations with Dad by Carissa Dorson
The story of a daughter and her father building a closer relationship through their shared passion for photography
I’m personally at a time in my life when my oldest child, Alison, is graduating college this month – and I can’t help but wax nostalgic. Conversations With Dad by Carissa Dorson is the salve for the moment. When one feels the bittersweet-pains when their child grows up, stumbles on the sidewalk of life, picks themselves up and keeps going – it’s helpful to embrace the stories of others who explore similar themes of life. Dorson lovingly captures slices of memory and life which create the vignettes that flash through my own mind.
Conversations with Dad is a moving story about a daughter and her father, and their relationship with each other. Today many young people still feel a gap between generations and communication can be challenging. Los Angeles based photographer Carissa Dorson was trying to overcome her personal gap with her father by looking for something they have in common. She remembered that they both love taking pictures, so she sent him a photo and asked him to respond with one of his own, inspired by the one she took. For two years they have been sending pictures to each other, ping-pong-like from East Coast to West Coast. Their ongoing visual conversation has blossomed into a closer relationship, in which they talk more and engage in each other’s lives. The photos themselves are beautiful, clever, and reveal more about them than words ever could.
“Photographic conversations are ideal for anyone. Better yet, for two people—although even a solitaire version might produce some surprises and satisfaction. In my case, it is with my opposite-coast daughter who knows that Dad isn’t that good at small talk and can sometimes go for days without checking email. This is an activity that can offer a special form of communication with a parent, child, sibling, partner, friend, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, or uncle. (Heck, our world leaders should try starting photo conversations with each other. Surely, this would lead to a new Era of Good Feelings and world peace.)
I am not sure exactly what I thought when Carissa first mentioned the idea for our unusual conversation. Probably that I wouldn’t be very good at it. But I already had fun coming up with my first response to her initial picture. Then, her next photo amazed me by including something surprisingly similar while being totally different. This set the pattern for our conversation, leaving us anticipating the creativity, insight, odd twist, or simple beauty to be found in the next response. I think we surprised one another and ourselves…”
“Ever since I could talk, my dad and I haven’t had much to talk about. The way we always connected was through activities, like doing a 2000-piece puzzle or watching a musical that he taped on PBS. (He still does this, and we watch his recordings whenever I visit home.) Now I’m in Los Angeles and Dad is still in the same house where I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. We speak on the phone, but not much. (…)
But I had forgotten how creative my dad is. We have so much fun with our photographic conversation that we are still doing it. It’s a shared activity that isn’t silent. We get excited to see each new piece. We ask about how each one was taken. We talk about where the idea came from. Sometimes Dad sends an old one, and I get to learn a little about that time in his life. This series has been a gift to us, and I hope it brings you joy too.”
Carissa Dorson is a fine art photographer and cinematographer based in Los Angeles, Calif.. Dorson is an established cinematographer whose work has garnered hundreds of millions of views online. Her latest comedy feature film, It’s a Party streaming on Showtime.
Conversations with Dad by Carissa Dorson
Texts by Carissa Dorson and her father
Designed by Sally Ann Field and Kehrer Design
Hardcover, 96 pages, 53 color ills.
Published by Keher Verlag – https://www.kehrerverlag.com/en/carissa-dorson-conversations-with-dad-978-3-96900-011-3