Leanne Staples is primarily a street, social documentary, urban landscape photographer & artist. She was given her first camera at the age of 12 by her father. For many years her concentration was mainly as an architectural photographer. It was, as she has said, “an obsessive pursuit for an unreal purity.” One day, after being annoyed by people walking into her shot, she decided not to fight it anymore, to shoot people passing by the buildings. Without knowing it, that began her venture into street photography!
She started out in film and after some skepticism about digital, she finally made the transition in 2006. A self-described gonzo photog, you can find her on the streets with camera in hand searching for the perfect backdrop in which to shoot. A few things that she is always seeking out are shadows, reflections, patterns, motion blur, clouds, graffiti, interesting people and of course architecture.
Following interview is an attempt to know the person behind persona of this world class celbrity.
Question No. 1. How would you introduce yourself briefly? (Including your gear and editing program)
I am a photographer, artist and writer and I have been shooting for 25+ years. My gear consists of a combination of DSLRs and film cameras. I process both digital and analog photos in a combination of Lightroom, Nik Software and a handful of other apps.
Question No. 2. How would you describe your photographic vision in few words?
I consider myself to be an intuitive photographer rather than a technical photographer. It’s always about feeling the shot.
Question No. 3. You are a mature photographer, with lot of experience.Why did you decide to specialize in street photography? Was the choice deliberate?
Actually, I never decided to specialize as a street photographer. I started with a focus on architectural photography. But I became impatient waiting to get photos without people in them. So street photography was accidental for me as I had no knowledge of it until many years later. I prefer to call myself an urban photographer as all my photos feature the urban environment with or without a human element.
Question No. 4. Do you think a formal training in principles of art and elements of composition is as necessary for a photographer as for a painter? How did you learn this art? From books , academy or just from senior photographers?
If all people were the same that would be an easy question to answer. I’ve never had formal training in photography. It is possible that my education in cinema and literature had an influence on my work. Mostly I have learned by not knowing the rules and feeling free to experiment. Formal training tends to teach technique but falls short when it comes to creativity which cannot be taught.
Question No. 5. What are your future plans in photography? Any specific area or interest in which you want to experiment?
To keep shooting and experimenting. My muse leaves breadcrumbs of ideas for me and I follow and see where that takes me. So even I am not certain where that will take me.
Question No. 6. In your collection I have noticed, the basic subject appears to be ‘Life in a cosmopolitan city with its streets and buildings. Human beings per se don’t appear to figure in your gallery. They appear to be a part of a cosmopolitan culture. They are always projected with a back ground of street life rather than being the main subjects. How would you explain it?
Yes, the urban environment is the subject of my work. Sometimes that includes people when it advances the feeling that I am looking to express. When I shoot I see in frames as if it is a film and the location, lighting, mood etc are important to the overall shot.
Question No. 7. Can you name most important photographer who inspired you and changed your vision and approach to art?
There is no single photographer that I would credit. First of all, I was shooting for many years before I even looked at the work of other photographers. I could say that Cartier-Bronson allowed me to see soft focus as acceptable. Or that Helen Levitt allowed me to believe in the work that I was already doing. But in a way I am probably more influenced by cinema.
Question No. 8. What artistic influences, apart from photography have had influence on your approach to art?
Film, literature, poetry, art and music. I am constantly finding pieces of inspiration in all the arts.
Question No. 9. What is your definition or concept of art? Would you label yourself as a ‘fine art’ artist?
Art is a form of self expression. It is my passion and a part of my life that I could not give up. I find that verbal communication is limited but visual art is defined by the viewer and how they relate to it or not. I don’t know what “fine art” is. Unless that is what a privileged few decide is worth a lot of money. So, no I don’t consider myself a “fine artist.”
Question No. 10. What do you think are the benefits of social media in promotion of today’s artist? There is a frequent complaint that most of the celebrities are not personally present on media. Their publicity managers keep them alive on social media. How you can manage so much time on social media?
I don’t actually spend all that much time on social media anymore. It is a double edged sword. On the one hand it has democratized art. Artists can gain exposure and people who don’t normally go to galleries or museums can view art. Before social media we would only know about the works of the famous artists. Now we are bombarded by all kinds of images (mostly advertising) and people rarely spend time to look at and really understand and decipher the meaning of images in society. It would be nice to think that artists could make a living through art. But social media really hasn’t changed that.
Question No. 11. Do you prefer Black and white medium for most of your pictures?
I adore black & white as I find that it is more expressive of the human element. I am inspired my noir cinema and literature. I tend not to value “true” colors. That said, my alternative landscapes feature colors that are over the top, rather psychedelic.
Question No. 12. What is your photography routine? How much time you spend in it and how you are able to manage it with your busy professional life?
My routine is sporadic. I go through times of shooting all the time and then times when I am processing all the time. It’s really about mood and stealing time. But I tend not to process photos right after I shoot them. I will let them sit for awhile before really looking at them.
Question No. 13. Lastly any other lesson/advice you would like to give to an aspiring minimalist should learn?
Learn the so-called rules and then throw them out. Experiment, experiment and experiment. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and only settle for your own vision.