Friday, 21 August 2015

Why is Rockabilly Photographer Liisa Morton All Hopped Up?

Liisa Morton outside The Black Cat Gallery, Toronto
photo by donna g
donna g: Your debut show and Zine are called All Hopped Up!, so we have to talk about the cars. How did you capture the shot entitled Highway, in San Francisco?

Highway by Liisa Morton
LIISA MORTON: I was travelling with the Swanx car club of Vallejo, CA. We had been at the Billetproof car show inHayward, CA earlier that day and were heading back home to San Francisco. I was riding along the highway with Swanx member, Guido, when I heard Steve O coming up from behind us. I quickly scrambled to get my camera and took a few quick shots. It was really tricky to do because we were all driving so fast! This photo was later used for the cover of the Royal Crowns' CD, "After Dark"

dg: Maya’s Ford Fairlane is a classic, and she looks so cool driving it. Do you know how long she’s had it, and does she drive it all the time or just at conventions? 

Maya by Liisa Morton

LM: Maya has owned her beautiful 1964 Ford Fairlane Sport Coupe 500 since about 1985. She did all of the bodywork and paint on this car, which she calls, "Kitten".  She still drives it and other classic cars too, including a 1961 Ford F100 step side truck, a 1952 Dodge Coronet, and a 1959 Willys Wagon. Her commuter car is a 2004 Golden Anniversary Ford Thunderbird.

Maya  started an all female car club with her Mom, Vida Lee in the early 1990's called "The Cherry Bombs". The idea behind their club was to have girls join who had expertise in a certain area, such as, auto body and paint, transmissions, or brakes, etc. they then supported and helped one another without having to rely on guys to help them out. 

I spent the day with Maya and Vida Lee in 2001 driving around San Francisco. Both Maya and Vida Lee are dj's and  we stopped off at a couple of their favourite records shops where I took some photos. They are two of the most interesting and inspiring women you'd ever like to meet!

dg: The cover photo really captures the joy of the scene. Tell me more about Misti and Janna and whose car they are posing on. 

 Misti &  Janna by Liisa Morton

LM: I just love Misti and Janna in this photo! They are so cute; they're having the best time. They had driven all the way from Texas to Marion, IN, in a beautiful baby blue '55 Chevy, that belongs to their good friend Amy, (who still owns it to this day). We all met at the James Dean Rockabilly Rebel Weekend, in Marion, IN, back in 1995. We struck up a conversation and they told me of their car mishaps that had occurred along the way, including tire trouble and a complete loss of reverse, which meant that they could then only park sideways! At one point during our conversation, Janna grabbed me by the hand and we all ran out to the parking lot to see the infamous baby blue Chevy. We chatted and I took a few photos. Love these gals!
dg: How did you end up in Marion?

LM: I ended up going to my first Rockabilly weekender in 1995, in Marion, IN after seeing a small ad in a roots music fanzine. I have always loved Rockabilly, but had not been to many shows up to that point. It's funny now thinking about it because I don't drive and had to take a plane, bus and taxi to get there! I can't explain it; when I saw that small ad, I just knew I had to go!

dg: You have several shots of people at home. How did you establish such an intimate relationship with your subjects?

Jessica & Mini Pearl by Liisa Morton  

LM: When I first started going to Rockabilly weekenders back in 1995, there was pretty much one taking place every month all through the Summer & into the Fall. There has always been a great sense of community and camaraderie at these weekenders & It was so much fun to reconnect and get to know people from all of the world, with similar interests. Over the years I have gotten to know some amazing people!

dg: What is the story behind the shot of the woman looking up at stage Rudopho’s in Silver Lake California?

Rudolpoho's by Liisa Morton

LM: I took this photo in 2001 at Rudolpho's, which was a very popular club in Silver Lake, CA. at the time. I had heard that there was a really great Rockabilly night there and decided to check it out. I went with Claudia, a girl I had photographed over the years. When we arrived the place was hopping with everyone dancing to a mix of Rockabilly and Doo-Wop. 

While the band played, I took a few photos of two girls talking to one another, near the stage. All of a sudden one of the girl's turned towards the stage, while a man near her threw his hand up into the air, and another raised his drink. It all happened in a split second!

dg: Dames in Dis Dress is such a fantastic shot. I love the way you managed to capture the three women in the light.

Dames in Dis Dress by Liisa Morton

LM: Thank you very much! The ladies in this shot, were a burlesque group at the time called, "Dames in Dis'Dress", In this shot, I used a flash & the background was darkened by the awesome photographer Steben Alexander, who printed this shot for me.

dg: One thing that strikes me is the number of couples in All Hopped Up. Do people meet each other as singles at weekenders or is this a lifestyle that couples enter into together?

José & Viyani by Liisa Morton

LM: A lot of people go as couples to weekenders but some couples have met at weekenders too.

dg:  Most of your photos are taken in the US, but you have a few pictures of Toronto in the Zine. Besides obviously being smaller, how would you describe the Toronto scene?

Heather & Santiago by Liisa Morton

LM: The Toronto Rockabilly scene is super fun and has grown a lot since I first started going to shows in the mid-1990's. Everyone makes sure to support the scene, as much as they can. At the zine launch you would have seen a picture of Johnny; he has been involved in the scene for many years and is a local dj. Heather(above) works at a vintage reproduction clothing store and has been known to sing a kickass Elvis song or two! 

There are always lots of great events going on which can be found on, which lists all things vintage and retro. There are lots of awesome bands that play in town such as Tennessee Voodoo Coupe, The Millwinders, The Royal Crowns, the Swingin' Blackjacks, Alistair Christl, The Hellbent Rockers and the Greasemarks. There are also lots of awesome vintage shops around like Flashback and Cabaret, as well shops that sell vintage reproduction dresses like Loveless, Rosie the Rebel and Damzels.

dg: Where can people buy your work?

Liisa Morton
photo by donna g
LM: My zine, All Hopped Up is available for purchase in Toronto at Kustom Life at 1364 Queen St. East (Greenwood Queen).  I am also in the process of setting up an etsy shop on my blog. Stay tuned!

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