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From Harry Potter to Living the Dream

Lissy jumped at the chance to leave school during spring break of second grade. Growing up in the Toronto area with her two brothers, once they left school, listening to mom read the published Harry Potter books (books one to four at that point) soon became a favourite activity.

For the first year or so at home, Lissy professed to hate reading. But without the pressure to learn to read and with the pull of a great story, Lissy’s road to reading began in earnest. 

She started listening to the Harry Potter books on CD in her room while sewing costumes for her stuffed animals and creating wire jewelry. A new book release in the series was a cause for family celebration. She marked all her favorite places in the books and wrote out many of the signs, letters, and songs found in the storyline. Sometimes she wrote them by hand, sometimes she typed them. Sometimes she followed along in the books. Then one day she decided to try reading on her own and it wasn’t long until she announced herself able to read! She could often be found curling up with a book in any cozy spot she could find, and she’s still an avid reader.

Her love for Harry Potter eventually branched into a love of music, interestingly by way of fan fiction, in a great example of those wonderful yet unpredictable connections. When she was thirteen she began going to shows, seeing many alternative bands at small clubs around the US and Canada over the years. She was also in the Girl Guides program from the age of eight, volunteering with the younger girls, and culminating in being awarded the Canada Cord at seventeen. From the age of sixteen she volunteered weekly at the local SPCA thrift store. There weren’t any local support groups back then, so Lissy and her family met up with other homeschoolers/unschoolers at conferences in the United States, and her mom hosted the annual Toronto Unschooling Conference for several years.

Lissy became interested in photography around the age of 14. She took photos and explored pictures in magazines, books, and online. She started her first self-portrait 365 project on Flickr when she was 15, spending hours each day working until she had a photo she was happy with. It was an incredible learning experience, and she received lots of encouraging feedback.

At 16 she was approached by a photographer’s agent in Toronto and signed with her for commercial work. When asked on her blog if she planned on being a photographer for living, and, if she hadn’t discovered photography what would she have done, she replied:

A month after turning 18, she went to New York City on her own to explore the photography and art community there and see if she’d enjoy city life. She had plans for two months, and ended up staying six. She loved it, and at the end of 2013 she came home just long enough to complete a US O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa application, a 700-odd page tome. Still 18, her application was approved for the full three-year term, and the afternoon her paperwork arrived by courier, her mom drove her back to NYC for a client meeting the next afternoon.

Lissy draws inspiration for her enchanting photos from childish things—tutus and tea parties and battling imaginary dragons—and she enjoys turning those adventures into her art. She likes to take things that are big and scary and put them into a fantasy context so they don’t seem so real. She hopes her photos help people maintain a childlike spirit and persevere in the face of a challenge.

Lissy’s images can be seen on several book and album covers, in magazines, in stores, and have even inspired a music video. Her work has been exhibited internationally. One image was the face of the UK National Theatre’s production of Antigone. She has shot ads, editorials, and fashion campaigns and currently has an online presence of over 80,000 followers.

-Lissy (Elle) Laricchia is a 20-year-old photographer from Ontario, Canada, living in New York City. She was recently selected as one of Flickr’s 20under20.

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