The Photographic Archive of Lina Rae Pearson

Selected Photograph Collections

Lina Rae Pearson, Photographer at Work


fig. a - Lina Rae with her Canoli 35mm film camera and Cycloptical Model-M lens by William Vernon.

Lina Rae Pearson, now recognized internationally for her large body of photographic work, long remained known primarily for her early career as a child prodigy narrator of books on tape. She recorded thousands of titles with her famously pure and pleasing voice, starting at the age of eight. Discovered by a producer who heard her reading aloud to her parents near the free samples he was busily obtaining at a mall food court, she began work immediately, and her mysteriously adult-like voice carried her all the way through her teenage years. She recorded book after book at an astonishing pace, barely stopping to socialize or study for her privately tutored schooling. At the age of fourteen, seeking a creative outlet beyond her all-consuming work, she picked up a camera. The camera was owned by her uncle, who had moved in with her family after suffering a mental breakdown. He was under the delusion that he was being followed by a former employer who wanted his yellow mug. At the same time, the relationship between Lina Rae's parents slowly unraveled, and they began a long and bitter divorce process. Overshadowed by this, Lina Rae's only source of social interaction was either with her tutor or her uncle. Lacking friends or any means of escape, Lina Rae used the camera to take numerous pictures of her insulated world. She developed an experimental eye for light and color, but also captured the dissipation of her family. Her uncle eventually left his yellow mug with Lina Rae for safe keeping and declared that he was departing for New Mexico to "harness the power of wind." In addition, he gifted her camera. The Model C2 Canoli was a rare Florida-made knockoff of the Canon A-1, known for its odd defects. Her particular camera passed company inspection despite having no built in rewind crank or viewfinder, and so she fashioned homemade ones based on the manual illustrations.


fig. b - The Canoli Camera

These early photographs taken by Lina Rae would remain hidden from public view for over a decade, as Lina Rae turned away from the spotlight following her parents' divorce. During her teenage years, she frequently rebelled, disappearing from her parents for weeks at a time. To this day she has not disclosed where she would run away to escape her life and work. Her photographs from this period show us mostly abstraction -- no recognizable persons or places. She refused to record any new books, or go to college, or even to bathe regularly. At seventeen, she emancipated herself from her embattled parents. They withheld from her the majority of her earnings as a child, eating away most of the money in the divorce proceedings and keeping the rest to support their new lives. Lina Rae needed money to live on her own, so she tried to work again, but her new cigarette habit had begun to alter her already-changing voice, and the demand for celebrity narrators of books left her with almost no work offers.


fig. c - Rare photo of Lina Rae on one of her secret excursions away from home, age seventeen. Photographer unknown.

Unable to secure any narrating work, her publisher persuaded her to write her memoir as a child star fallen from fame. Lina Rae holed up in a country home borrowed from her publishing agent, but the book she wrote accidentally turned into a self-help book with the potential for a franchise. Revise Your Voice put her back on the map, this time as an author. But at an early, scarcely-attended reading of the book near her temporary residency, a second wave of photographic inspiration arrived. There, she met the local one-eyed man known as Francis, who immediately recognized her voice from the books on tape he listened to throughout his childhood. Lina Rae found herself quickly drawn to the odd behavior of this young man who simply could not see the world we see. She understood that Francis wanted to show people his unique vision, and the had felt the same motivation behind her early photographs of a self-made, imagined world. So she began to photograph her outings with Francis, approximating his vision by manipulating the lens with trick photography, and processing the film with unconventional methods. In this way, two unexpected artists inspired each other to create.


fig. d - One of the earliest examples of Lina Rae's purposeful blurring of realities via Cycloptical lenses.

Her photography took on yet another transformation when Francis introduced Lina Rae to Bill Vernon, the experimental scientist who had developed a series of optics that could correct for multi-dimensional one-eyed vision, and translate it into something understandable to two-eyed humans. He called them Cyclopticals. Lina Rae, with her defective knockoff camera and a knack for repurposing it, found ways to attach the Cycloptical lenses to her camera. She and Francis used them to explore new ways of altering the image to expose a new reality in a new light. She also taught Francis to use the camera, and she has said that the very act of explaining the photographic process to someone outside of our known dimensions altered her own photographs in a profound way. In fact, it was during this time of greatest experimentation that she also took some of the most traditional portraits and landscapes of her career. This career, however, was still not yet in photography. But because of her time with Francis and Bill, her photographs would soon be "discovered." First, Bill made profound scientific advances in multi-dimensional vision based on her work. Then, she reemerged into public light with the encouragement of her two new friends when her photographs with Francis were first published as inserts in the book Revise Your Vision, which she co-authored with Bill Vernon. Since then, the demand for her work has remained high, resulting in numerous monographs.


fig. e - Lina Rae photographed at the opening of her show at the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation in Paris, France.

With her photographic work now out in the public and receiving accolades, interest grew in her rumored early teenage photographs. These finally became known to the world after an editor for Voice Magazine interviewed her about her prints in Revise Your Vision, and got permission to run a spread of images she took from the time of her parent's divorce. Those photographs, now exhibited as Hushed Voice, toured galleries internationally, and found unexpected success. Striking a resonant chord at the time, and touring for a year longer than planned, they became her most widely seen work. The original book made for the show remains long out of print and a rare find. After this success, mainstream interest in her entire catalog followed, which is now usually divided up into three eras: The Vagabond Years, The Cycloptical Years, and The Successful Years as she continues to photograph for art and fashion. Though it was her voice that captivated audiences at the beginning of her life, her vision has kept them close and held onto them forever. It's rare to find such talent in multiple arenas, but like Francis, she seems to come from another dimension entirely, from which new ideas constantly flow.

Excerpted from the preface to the book
Lina Rae Pearson, Photographer at Work
written by Virginia Grande.