(‘Photographers You Should Know’ is a column where I highlight an amazing photographer who I believe deserves more attention and awareness)
I can’t remember the exact time that I came across Leanne Staples’ work but I know I’ve been a fan ever since. Leanne is a street photographer extraordinaire whose fascination with photography came with the camera her father gave to her when she was only 12 years old. She currently lives in New York, New York and you can find her out and about with her Nikon D300.
The thing I like most about Leanne’s work is the uncanny ability to capture a variety of moods in her work. Where as some street photographers simply point, shoot and call it art, she clearly puts a lot of thought into what her photos mean and how it speaks to the viewer through the eyes. I could stare at the photo above all day and not get tired of it. She really goes beyond the street photography tag itself and delves into photography as art. There is actual meaning here, something being conveyed that is arresting. She goes beyond the city itself, beyond the appearance of a person and frames the image in a way that actually speaks out.
More importantly, you FEEL something, even if you don’t know what it is. You’re spoken to without any words being used. And I think, for an artist, that’s one of the biggest accomplishments you could ever experience.
I had a chance to talk with Leanne and ask her some questions about her work.
RE: Besides the world of photography, are there any other art forms that influence your work? Any filmmakers or novelists that you take inspiration from?
Leanne Staples: I studied both film and literature. So yes! In the early days of my film studies I was very much influenced by Truffaut, Wertmuller, Chaplin and De Sica. Now my favorites in film are Woody Allen, Martin Scorcese, and both Francis Ford & Sophia Coppola.
In literature my biggest influences are Patti Smith, Rimbaud and William Gibson. That said, in both film and literature I could add many more names.
At what point in your life did you realize this was something that was more than a hobby? Do you remember the moment when photography went from something you tried out to being a passion, a central thing in your life?
I was fascinated from the moment that I picked up a camera. But it wasn’t really until I starting shooting digitally and sharing on social internet sites that I really felt that there was a method for exposing my work as well as feeling that it was okay to take chances and make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes can be beautiful or they become something that you learn and grow from. And there’s nothing like having an audience!
Are there other areas of photography that you want to explore? Any style/technique on your wishlist that you haven’t had time to try out yet?
I have thought about doing portraits. Both studio and street portraits. I adore the work of Avedon and Albert Watson and I have been formulating ideas about how I would go about doing portraits. Since I don’t have a studio and I have always worked with available light, it is more likely that street portraits will come first.
I noticed that you started out shooting in film and made the transition to digital…what was the biggest advantage for you in making this transition? What convinced you?
I definitely hesitated about going digital. You could say that I had a rather purist attitude about film. Shooting digital, as I alluded to earlier, means that I have been willing to take more chances and taking more chances has definitely advanced my photography.
As well, I tend to be a bit impatient. There’s nothing worse than waiting for film to be developed only to find out that you didn’t quite get the shot or some other technical problem occurred. Probably the biggest advantage is that processing is an absolute joy and I am able to get the results that I want without having to spend more time on processing than shooting. And of course, it’s cheaper!
What is your favorite location to shoot at? Is there a certain part of New York that is your ‘go-to’ spot?
I don’t know that I have a favorite spot. Mostly below 14th Street in Manhattan and many parts of Brooklyn. Perhaps Coney Island would be my number one choice. But more important is searching out light, shadows, reflections, street art, signs, patterns, bicycles, interesting people and umbrellas.
I would like to thank Leanne Staples for chatting with me and encourage all of you to check out her work! You can gaze at her work at the following locations: