Wiltse focuses on women and children from Bangladesh to Bolivia to the Philippines


Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers in the field.

Violence erupted after students protested against the presence of army troops at a stadium at Dhaka University during a football match in Bangladesh.
  • Lisa Wiltse / GlobalPost
  • Violence erupted after students protested against the presence of army troops at a stadium at Dhaka University during a football match in Bangladesh.

As a documentary photographer, I believe my role is to be fully present: aware, patient and invisible. When I overthink the moment, the moment is gone. I love to study people and the way they interact with one another and with their environment. I wait for visual narratives and unedited human emotion to unfold.

I thrive on the element of surprise. I try not to go into a situation with a script or visual in my head when I am about to photograph. I will research as much as I need to and leave the rest to firsthand experience. I try to keep an open mind and allow the story to unfold as I tell it. Photography constantly renews my perspective on the way we live and who we are. This inspiration comes from the vast community of passionate photograhers and most importantly from the people whose stories I have the privilege to tell.

My focus has been mainly on the lives of women and children who have never had the opportunity to live the way they are entitled. I try to empathize with my subjects and bring to life moments in which I have strongly reacted and was able to document a meaningful image.

I utilize photography to bear witness on such global social issues as the environment, famine, drug violence, youth culture and poverty with the intention of suggesting empathy and/or social change.

I love the idea of photography and its power to communictate. It is, therefore, a tool I have to use responsibly. My intention is not only to shed light on their struggle, but also to present the full spectrum of their experiences and capture deeper, truer visual references that are distinct and personal.

There is more to see — something different and revealing and instructive and beyond the mere fact of suffering — something all around these women, men and children and before them and after them. Something complicated and not only "bad" but good and interesting and smart and alive and worth preserving. All lives, even those many consider wretched and deprived, are "lives" still and there is beauty and courage and, yes, even joy in them.

About the photographer:
Lisa Wiltse was born in Weston, Conn., and graduated from the Art Institute of Boston with a BFA in Photography. In 2004 she moved to Sydney, Australia, where she worked as a staff photographer for the Sydney Morning Herald until 2008, when she moved to La Paz, Bolivia, to pursue her freelance career. She has traveled extensively, focusing on documenting everyday life in marginalized communities in places such as Bangladesh, Uganda, the Philippines and the U.S.

Her work has been recognized by Photo District News, the National Press Photographers Association, the Sony awards, Magenta's Flash forward photographer and she was the recipient of The Walkley award in Australia. She was selected as one of eight photographers for Pour L'Instant in Niort, France, in 2009. Her work been published in The Sydney Morning Herald,The FADER, Time Magazine, Internazionale, Private photo review, The Sun and The Australian Financial Review.

She is currently working on a long-term project in Bolivia's El Alto, a poor sister city of La Paz, that could perhaps be the first large urban casualty of climate change. It is one of Latin America's fastest-growing urban areas. The majority of the residents of El Alto are migrants who left behind failing subsistence agriculture and disintegrating kin networks to make a decent living in the city.