Carissa Dorson – Conversations with Dad

Review by Gerhard Clausing

Communicating with one’s parents can be quite a chore, no matter at what age we find ourselves. And for a girl growing up, her dad is that special guy who usually serves as the first example and model of what men might be like later on in her life. This can also be the first time that cultural norms are evident to a daughter: Dad may not be as communicative or emotional as a young girl might hope for.

Lucky for Carissa Dorson, when she left her home in the Eastern United States in order to establish herself in the film industry on the West Coast, she found a unique way of exchanging ideas with her father. Skilled at storytelling and communication, she decided to prompt him with one of her photographs in an email in order to see if she could get a meaningful reaction.

And sure enough, she got an interesting reply, and so this exchange of visual and verbal cues and responses became a regular event. Over the course of time, Carissa Dorson found that Dad was very creative and was able to share, via new and old photographs, part of his previous history and also his inner processes that Carissa had not previously seen and felt. Dad shared some musings about his old days in the military in Europe, some thoughts about the challenges of daily life, and more. Carissa did similarly, and the exchange of visuals and words became a fruitful exchange, in which their shared love of taking pictures became the link that was the facilitator for further closeness between them. She also was able to bring her fellow, Shane, into the mix.

Now comes the even greater endeavor: how to share this with the world out there so they can see the joy of these activities, share the details, and possibly even institute something similar? She decided to create a self-published photobook that chronicled the entire process, with some design help. Dad even wrote an afterword for it, in which he advocates this kind of exchange especially for politicians, who might actually start appreciating each other more…

This project first got my attention when I was a juror for the Los Angeles Center of Photography’s first photobook competition in 2019. We exhibited the project, I reviewed it, and we encouraged Carissa Dorson at that time. And here we are, in mid-2021, and the book has made it to a major publisher, with all the quality ‘thereto pertaining,’ and well-deserved. Crowdfunding was a major factor in making it possible.

This delightful photobook now has a larger format, nearly a hundred pages with more than 50 images, and a superb presentation, both regarding the high quality printing with a semi-gloss effect, a layout which makes a study of the exchange most enjoyable, and the interspersed emails between “Carissa” and “Dad.” Most notable is the fact that the charm of the personal exchange, a two-year process of appreciation and getting to know each other even better, has retained all the personal intimacy as it is shared with all of us.

This photobook is a superb example of turning a personal narrative into a public one – highly recommended.


Gerhard Clausing is the PhotoBook Journal‘s Associate Editor and a photographer and author.


Carissa Dorson – Conversations with Dad

Photographer/Author:  Carissa Dorson (born in Boston, MA; lives in Los Angeles, CA, USA), and responses by her Dad

Publisher:  Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany; © 2021

Language :  English

Hardback, illustrated cover, with sewn binding; 96 pages, unpaginated, with 53 full-color photographs; 21.5 x 21.5 cm / 8.5 x 8.5 inches; printed and bound in Germany. ISBN 978-3-96900-011-3

Photobook Designers:  Sally Ann Field and Kehrer Verlag


Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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