Something about me...
Monika Lightstone, a fine art photographer, has applied her fascination with music, culture and spirituality to create world-class imagery.
A Montreal native who graduated from McGill University with a distinction in Film History and Communication, she studied art as a visual means of communication. With the English department's permission she transferred over to Ecole Des Beaux Art Montreal, sister University to the Paris Campus, for part of her BA. The art and writings of Wassily Kandinsky inspired her painting and the riveting human condition of Kathe Kollwitz, her drawing. She was also poetically and visually inspired by the French New Wave of Cinema devouring films directed by Anges Varda, Jean Luc Goddard films, Truffaut the Italian director Felinni and Swedish director Igmar Bergman. Like Kandinsky she was born Jewish, and possessed a feverish mind for the discovery of that which comes from beyond understanding. Before graduating university Lightstone attended lecture sessions and met Anais Nin who further shaped her way of seeing the world. She asked Anais, "How will the world ever evolve towards the good?" and Anais replied, "When we see in the other that part which is also in us."
She began her career in film, first at Pathe Studios in Montreal and then at the National Film Board of Canada. Her editing career began with Alliance Films. Monika quickly worked her way up the ladder from assistant work, sound editing and finally editing. In the 1980’s, she married and moved from Montreal to Los Angeles. In 1986, she worked on the sound design for John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China, which was a contender for an Academy Award nomination. Making her way through the Hollywood post-production rooms, her tenure included Paramount Studios, Golan Globus, The American Film Institute and others.
In 1998, she produced and edited Fun, a feature film, which won the Special Jurors Award at the Sundance Film Festival, and the following year was a contender in the Sundance writer/director workshop.
In 2002, her world took an about turn. LIghtstone discovered the esoteric writings of Hasidic Philosophy. Her interest in the Theosophical Society from the earlier days of reading Kandinsky was replaced with a passion for the kabbalistic writings of the Hasidic masters. Remembering the stunning images of pre-World War II photographer Roman Vishniac, she picked up her camera and became obsessed with photographing the faces and culture in the world of Hasidism in LA. Fifty years after Vishniac’s world was nearly destroyed, she began to document the rise of Orthodox Judaism from the ashes. Soon she even embraced Hasidism as a way of life, finding the rhythm of unity she admired in her encounter with Anais Nin in Hasidism
During those years she became the key photographer for Chabad of California and won the battle as a woman photographing men. "If female waitresses can serve men food," she defended, "then how is being a professional photographer any different?" Her cinematic eye for storytelling was crafted by years of film editing in the motion picture industry. She says ”I see the world unfolding in my lens as if I were the voyeur in some bigger picture. I look for the beauty in all I see. This is what I share with you. My love for life.”
In 2008, Lightstone approached Abbey Neidik, DLI Productions, in Montreal wanting to create a film of her journey, in order to help break the stereotype of the Orthodox woman. Together they shot and produced Shekinah,The Intimate Life of the Jewish Woman, which won the Crown Heights Film Festival.
In 2010, Lightstone was introduced to Joel Eckles who booked both the iconic Room Five and Hotel Café. Joel was captivated by Lightstone’s warmth and artistry and in turn introduced Lightstone to the Los Angeles singer songwriter community. Monika soon became a prolific photographer capturing live musical performances with the same passion she photographed Hasidism. She covered the ending session of the acclaimed Television Show “Duets” starring Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Robin Thicke, and Jennifer Nettles . In 2018 Lightstone shot for Haley Reinhart, Casey Abrams, Journey, Deadland Ritual-Geezer Butler, Matt Sorum, Steve Stevens, Franki Perez. actress Lori Singer, Journey’s drummer Steve Smith, Athena Andreadis and Chris Pierce’s Blues Opera “Reverend Tall Tree”, Scott Page-Pink Floyd.
The last ten years Monika Lightstone has been using her intimate approach to imagery to explore a thread between music and Hasidism – a burning inspiration that has taken her to the Middle East and Europe. Two unlikely worlds, two trains on her track, which have captured her passion. It’s a work in progress.