lila schaffler – my collections

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Lila Schaffler

My Collections

play this essay


Remember the story of that old photograph? It was taken at some show in the run-down Bowery years ago. There’s this boy sitting in the middle of some trashed mosh pit right below the stage. No one’s left but him and he’s sitting there in this chair, his mouth open and screaming.

You can almost hear it if you stare hard enough. Everyone else was gone, but here’s this boy with blood on his face from a pulled piercing, keg cups surround his tired shoes, cigarette butts line the floors, and he’s just there in the thick of it – alone and screaming to some invisible moon, some greater madness.

It’s just a picture really, but it tears your heart out all the same.

It’s what it’s like I suppose; pogo-dancing insanity, some band destroying the already torn cloth speakers with curses and riffs, ripped piercings, blood, drool, the yellow fuzz from keg cups splashing in eyes and crying… and just for that moment, everyone is in the same place long enough to feel the shit and glory of some fantastically well-orchestrated abuse.

In the end there’s just that one person left over for it all to come back to, the one person left who just eats it all, hating it, loving it, slipping away and coming back all over again, sitting there in that empty room and screaming.

How do you top that?  It’s not the photographer I admire, it’s the boy.


About the essay:

It seems have been taking my camera on walks since the age of twelve.  I have collected more images than I could even begin to put a number on.  I wanted to show some of my collections in a way that made sense to how and what I see.  There was nothing easy about the edit, and still I can’t be certain that I chose the right ones…But I suppose that’s part of the beauty of it all, when you really stop an look.  Some of the images have been exhibited, some published, but I’ve never quite had the opportunity to show them as I’ve wanted to, as an essay…A collection of sorts. My collections.



When I was ten my grandmother gave me an old Canon, I still have it till this day… And regardless of all its replacements over the years, I haven’t stopped shooting since.  I’m originally from New York, NY, where I learned, studied, practiced, and trained through University professors on top of many professionals. Presently, I’m located in Seattle, Washington where I run my own studio and business. However, I remain quite bi-coastal and often travel with my camera in hand. I have exhibited In New York City, Seattle, Portland, with several coming up, both nationally and internationally, as well as many publications.


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Lila Schaffler


Editor’s note:

Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

23 Responses to “lila schaffler – my collections”

  • Fantastical!
    No2 is succulent.

  • #14 is quite strong…
    the corresponding of the fish and the masks #07,#10 and #09 made me smile :)

    you collection opens a window to a world, I’m not familiar with .. some pictures make curious however.

    last but not least: congratulations for being published
    and thank you for showing your collection to us.

  • “Anxiety is the beginning of conscience, which is the parent of the soul but is not compatible with innocence.”–Angela Carter

    “to live like u are the music”-darby crash

    we spent the entirety of our lives collecting…with out eyes and ears, with our heads and limbs, with out tongues and teeth….stain and scent and memory and light and litter….all there, all of that, there…

    give me any person’s life story over any photograph any day of the year and that is what haunts…and that’s why i am still so drawn to photography….

    to find, if possible, the clues of what is at the heart of all things around us, the lives and loves and songs and said’s……

    loved the essay…no because it’s an ‘essay’ (screw that word) but because it is a way of waking…

    collecting the searches Lila has continued to do, her whole life…

    congrats on publishing, congrats on the story…

    and your statement simply kills…one of the best ive read in a long long time…

    i too admire, not the photgraph, but boys and girls, the men and women, the each of us over that of that…

    wonderful, and yea, it’s got soul! :))


  • I did not want this essay to stop. I wanted it to keep going, so I could keep looking and looking.

    You take interesting walks and step into strange places.


  • Personally, I couldn’t find a coherence in your edit. I couldn’t trace much of a link between the snapshots of your friends, the animal close-ups and fetish stuff. Unless of course your friends are depraved zoophiles – then it makes perfect sense. More of a (un)lucky dip than a collection.

    Well done on being published. It’s remarkable.

  • So you go through your photos, pick out a bunch of stuff, and string the stuff together. I’m really not very interested in a greatest hits collection. Much rather see a project, something more coherent. I guess David cued in on the “weird” aspect of these photos. Not sure what you would do with this other than show it on Burn.

  • I didn’t understand this essay or found its coherence, yet for some reason, I wanted to keep watching more more.

    Truth be told….what the hell do I need coherence for?? I have enough of that stuff in my daily life!!

    Congratulations Lila, I really enjoyed it.

  • …Thank you sincerely for taking the time out to view my work. It’s a truly amazing feeling to read some of the comments offered in response to my photography!!…So again, thank you for this. I’m thrilled and honored that I was given the opportunity to publish and share this work through Burn Magazine.
    ….I am thoroughly aware of the fact that there are people who will not find coherence or aesthetic enjoyment through the work in which I produce, everyone is entitled to there opinions and thoughts on the matter…Thank you for taking the time to look, regardless.

  • Watching this was rather like rifling through someone else’s box of photos. Interesting in its own way… titillating, excited, curious about what you might next find. But as others have mentioned, not really coherent as an essay, or even an “essay.” (whatever that is.)

    And as big a PITA as Jim Powers often can be… I have to admit to laughing heartily at that last sentence of his comment! ;^}

  • What if the “essay” is not what people assume it to be here? What if the essay were titled something different? or presenting something other than audiences expected? Traditional coherence doesn’t exist here, true, but what exactly is “traditional coherence” in an essay form? that it has a beginning, middle, end? that there is a point to illustrate? what if it is the way of illustration that is the point? i don’t think there is a right or wrong way to create a photographic essay, but i think this collection has a coherence in vision, if not subject matter.

  • How fascinating that such a lovely, sophisticated young lady can see the world around you in this light. Your knowledge and use of light is great! I love the way you focus on your subjects and the intimate relationship you create on film between model and photographer-very nice. You look to me like you could be one of the greats coming up quick. You’ve got a unique style and skill. I’d personally like to see your photos mixed with world journalism; you can really capture the moment. Good Luck!

  • for me, when i come to burn, i want to be engaged, inspired and motivated in my own photography. this piece just doesn’t do that for me.
    the images weren’t as good as i expected after reading the text. for someone who has had a camera with them since they were 12, i thought the quality would be higher. perhaps Lila was going for more of a ‘style thing’. perhaps.

  • Whoa, Lila, I don’t remmember that shit at all.

    You and I obviously come from different planets. Love the Llama pic though.

  • characters

    like your mix of B/W and color on your site… I’m curious however, why you chose to leave #25 in color on your site?!? I find it much stronger in B/W.. really love all the lines and shapes in that one…..

  • Lila,

    I love these sorts of images. People expressing themselves physically. Anyone who thinks of this as weird should think about it a little more deeply, as there is nothing strange or abnormal about it. One can look at any culture again, and again, we find people expressing themselves physically. We dance. We play sport. We paint. We comment. We look. Your photo’s capture that in my mind.

    Build up your web site so I can see more..

  • Lila,
    Your essay/collection, which includes some really nice shot, confuses me quite a bit. There seem to be a bit of everything in here; friends, artists, weirdoes, performers….and the style and content of each photo do also vary a lot. I can see influences from jeanloup sieff, diane arbus, susan meiselas and nan goldin, just to mention the first ones that came into my mind seeing your photos.
    All of this would be fine, if not for the fact that your collection does not make clear if you just hang around with some of the subjects you photograph (like Nan Goldin did for years) or if you pose models ‘ad hoc’. The importance of this, where you stand and what is your message, plays its main role when you want the viewer of your pictures to understand your world. You see, I believe it is important to understand what the obese naked person is doing (and I am not talking about captions here). If you would have kept a consistent style, ie one language throughout your essay, I would have understood your words.
    I have visited your website and seen all of it, and found the same issue there too.
    Thanks for sharing

  • I very much like the idea of photographers using select photographs in their portfolios to make essays. I would guess that most if not all very good photographers have their own idiosyncrasies that surface no matter what assignment or project they are shooting and someone with a good narrative sense can make a compelling story out of them. And what I love about photo storytelling is that the narrative connections don’t always need to be subject matter or content. They can be tone or movement or color combinations or mood or a host of other non-definable-with-words story elements.

    I thought the story in this essay was pretty straightforward. Fish in a tank, stuffed animals in a diorama, an animal in a pen, faux freakshow performance artists on a stage, young people hamming it up or getting wasted. “See the animal in his cage that you built? Are you sure what side you’re on? What if everything around you, isn’t quite as it seems? What if all the world you used to know, is an elaborate dream? And if you look at your reflection, is that all you want to be?” Or something along those lines.

    Or something completely different? Or that and a whole lot more? That’s what I like about the possibilities of narrative in the photo essay. Just like a good novel only more so. People will argue until the end of time about the meanings contained in “The Brothers Karamazov,” or even “The Grand Inquisitor.” Why not go for it if you’ve got something to communicate with your photos?

    Regarding the photography itself, I see a lot of skill but would like to see more originality. Perhaps I’m off base here, but it seems I’ve seen most of those pics before. But I guess that can be another argument for the photo essay. Once everything on earth has been photographed from every possible angle, putting choice ones together to create original narratives opens up a lot of possibilities.

  • I like it. The theme that strikes me through the strongest pics have to do with limbs and bodies and contortions of one sort or the other. That’s the stuff that stuck with me. I don’t know if I would suggest that others be edited out to gain coherence because I like the mental break that a visual dualism provides — with the faces and masks and so on. Thanks.

  • I love how each image has this “in your face quality”…not in an aggressive way, rather, in the way that seems like a child’s view of the world and all things unfamiliar. And I think the use of flash adds to this effect. I found the seemingly non-cohesive thread to the essay refreshing…but I do think that there is a unifying element, which is these stand-out moments of memory. Sounds lofty and contradictory, but what I mean is that I think that these shards of time thrown together aren’t just happenstance; they make sense to me and I didn’t want the essay to stop. There is a nice flow and curious quality to this essay, and it’s nice to be able to peek into someone else’s experiences and wonder about the wonder of the moment, their frame of reference and intrigue and what it could have meant. The nostalgia factor is why the populous take pictures; photographers take it a step beyond that to not only document, but to add a style, an art, a statement, a beauty to these things we see. I find this essay to be a lovely homage to both.

  • I dig this; I’m down. Like Mr. Black said, that is one damn fine statement. I commend you for that. I found myself drawn into this essay because of its unexpected turns, and that is a positive trait. You have a good eye for light and angles, and I would be interested to see your work progress. Congratulations and keep shooting.

  • I am just coming out of a David Lynch marathon so this pieces seems to resonate with me. The non-linearity and odd characters work well together like a Lynch film. If it was in color I think I would have liked it more. I ask myself why do we still photograph in B&W. Most of the great B&W photographers of the past were handcuffed into the medium, but now we are not. So why do we still shoot in B&W purposefully. It seems with movies we don’t see that same trend and I wonder about that. This is more for discussion than a comment about this work, but I guess I would ask you Lila why do you personally choose to present your work in B&W.

  • i have to agree with some of the previous comments – some strong images, but not a cohesive edit. for me, the animal photographs felt disconnected – i had to stretch to try to understand their relevance. i wanted to see either a tight edit of the documentary work, or a belloc-esque series of the dark erotica. all of these disjointed series do give me a strong sense of your aesthetic as a photographer, but overall the grouping doesn’t pack a punch the way it could, despite the intensity of the subject matter.

  • Lila

    Loved your really built me up, i clicked play expecting to match this intense cringing sense of the horrible last man standing, the one left after the destruction, after the fight, after the massive cool-aid party, the orgy, the 3 days of meth, the tsunami, the coup, the massacre..but i didn’t find that..i found well-fed and coifed performers of various sizes, shapes and kitschy acts (and believe me, i know that fetish world well–it’s not that i don’t get it). I found fish and a llama that resembled people in rather fascinating ways. But i never found the metaphorical last man screaming. I am very disappointed. Either you FEEL what you wrote a lot better than you have been able to visually express or else you don’t feel what you wrote and therefore your photos don’t connect with your words. If you DO feel it then i think, in the words of that old song by Salt n Pepa, “that ain’t iiiiiiiiiittttt” meaning, you missed. The photos are fine, nothing wrong with them. But as an essay they simply do not measure up to the amazing intro. You need to dig deeper, get in tighter..and by that i mean get closer to the nucleus of your own vision, whittle away at the fat until your blade scrapes bone..because Lila, i think you need to be this person and when you are, that’s when your words will do the nasty with your photographs:

    “In the end there’s just that one person left over for it all to come back to, the one person left who just eats it all, hating it, loving it, slipping away and coming back all over again, sitting there in that empty room and screaming.”


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