These are not your ordinary family photos 

Ramona is growing up.

At age 12, the fascinating subject of photographer Liséa Lyons transitions from little girl to young adult. The result is a darker and more somber body of work for Lyons, Ramona’s mother, whose third solo show, "Something Borrowed," is at the Heather Marx Gallery.

Lyons has been photographing her stunning daughter since she was 5 or 6. Using her daughter as a conduit of sorts, the New York-based photographer revisits and recalls her own childhood by recreating scenes and snippets of memory via Ramona.

The tenor of these newer works is significantly different from Lyons’ previous shows that feature Ramona. In one 40-inch by 40-inch print, Ramona, wearing a blue and white gingham dress, fills the entire frame. A dark sky above, she is crouched on the ground, her bare feet deep in a field of grass; it appears the young girl is moving to stand up. But she is also looking over her shoulder. Perhaps there is something out of frame we cannot see, or Ramona (or conceivably Lyons) is lost in thought.

This is not a frantic picture. It is quiet, yet potent. While Ramona isn’t seemingly in danger of physical harm, there is yearning, wonder and a bit of fear.

The fear is as much maternal as it is childlike.

"It’s sad to let go of your kids and see them grow," says Steve Zavattero, the gallery’s co-director, who adds that Lyons’ latest works express the photographer’s process of letting go of Ramona’s youth.

The new dynamic adds density to Lyons’ pieces, and contributes an "unfolding" narrative. Her work is reminiscent of documentary filmmaker Michael Apted’s "Up" series, in which viewers continue to witness the subjects’ growth and development. We watch her context change, and we also see how Lyons is responding.

Injecting into each photograph an intensity not unlike the polish of fashion magazines, "Something Borrowed" is beautiful to behold on a purely aesthetic level. But what continues to make Lyons’ work so attractive is that she is able to use the glamour that she produces in each photograph to heighten the emotional world each picture luminously captures.


Something Borrowed

Where: Heather Marx Gallery, 77 Geary St., Suite 201, San Francisco
When: 10:30 a.m. through 5:30 Tuesdays through Fridays: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; through April 28
Contact: (415) 627-9111 or

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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