Things My Father Taught Me: Lisa Warninger

Lisa Warninger’s blog, Urban Weeds is a regular source of some of the most beautiful photography of some of the heppest cats strolling the byways of one of our country’s most prominent gems, Portland, Oregon. A city I have been dying to experience, Portland manages to portray itself as Alternative Central, this enclave where ideas and ideals flow like fine wine. A cyclists’ paradise, I love how bike tires manage to creep themselves into the edges of virtually every one of her photos. And it’s no wonder someone with Lisa’s eye, with her pure photographer’s ability has been able to find so much inspiration. Her patience is incredible. Her discoveries are enviable. She is a true artist. I’m thrilled she’s offered a bit of her time to this project.

Lisa’s shared some awesome old photos and lessons learned from her dad. Enjoy them, and enjoy Urban Weeds.


My dad is a “don’t sweat the small stuff” kind of guy and an inspirational nonfiction addict. He’s constantly reading something with a positive message. He lives that way too. I don’t. Not always anyway.

Growing up, if I were to complain to him about anyone else, or speak poorly of someone, he was always quick to point out their hard work, and that they were trying. I suppose that’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned, that we’re all doing the best we can and there’s no need to get angry with each other. Now I rarely take anyone’s mean words or their snappy attitude personally and can respond with compassion. Who knows? Maybe their puppy died that morning; I don’t know. That’s the thing, we don’t know.

He taught me to give people a break. A big one.

Around the time I turned six dad would take me along on photo adventures. He shot landscapes with a large format Linhof field camera. He would set up the camera and lift me up to look through the magnifier loupe. Images appear upside down on a plate of glass, and to see them you’d have to be under the black sheet, like those photos you see of Ansel Adams, only then I didn’t know who he was. I just knew dad, and that was alright by me.

We would wait, the right light, the right clouds, and at the right moment he would take the one photo, then quickly flip the film holder over and take one more.  They were printed quite large and he would sign his name with a silver pen in the bottom right hand corner, then he’d call me downstairs into his office and have me sign my name too.

He taught me patience and to wait until the time is right.

During his tour in Vietnam dad purchased and carried with him not only a Canon 35mm film camera but a movie camera as well. It wasn’t his duty, but documenting things seem to run in our very blood. The photos he took are not only historically interesting, but incredibly beautiful as well. I don’t know all the stories behind those photos, not yet, but that Canon became my first camera. It was simple, nothing fancy at all, nothing automatic, fully manual.

He taught me that I don’t need fancy equipment, but a good 50mm lens is nice. I still shoot on manual mostly with a 50mm. I’m a photographic minimalist, makes it easier to carry while I’m walking down the streets.

I don’t know how many family photos he took. Lots. We were made to line up, sit a certain way, one sister here one sister there, maybe arrange us by age. It was pretty normal, for us anyway. Slideshows were a common source of entertainment. Even my sister and I would create slideshow stories with our friends in high school. Now I love those photographs. I don’t think we ever really minded taking them. They are the documents of our childhood.

I used to sit with my Grandfather before he passed and go through all his photo albums, it was the one thing he could talk about for hours. He’d tell me the stories behind every photograph, who was who and where they lived and all the little things. Grandma was always missed, she would know the name of that hotel they stayed at, she would have remembered that neighbors dogs name. When papa passed a slideshow was created for that too, dad went through all the albums, and there are many. A lovely slideshow was made from Papa’s childhood all the way up to his passing, an entire lifetime in photographs.

He taught me how important it is to document your life, not only for you, but for those yet to come.

Dad always encourages me to go after what I was passionate about. He is always quick to tell me he’s proud of me. If he reads an interesting article in his daily read of the Wall Street Journal, he will neatly clip it out with scissors, write a note on a small yellow post-it and mail it to me.

I love you so much dad. Thanks for all the lessons. Happy Fathers Day. I will always feel very lucky to be your daughter, and I am proud to call you my dad.

Lisa Warninger