Obsessive Collectors

Crista Leonard Interview

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When asked where she’s from photographer Crista Leonard says: “half English, half Canadian but bred between Andorra and France”. Maybe because of this multiplicity of roots Leonard knew pretty early in her life that she wanted to apprehend the world by traveling, by discovering other worlds, other cultures. Her images dreamily combine the depiction of everyday life with a non-restrictive sense of space, open as the Pyrenean landscapes that permeated her eyes as a child. Photography suspended in the abyss that separates –or does it connect?– what we see and what we believe seeing.

How do you think growing up in Andorra has influenced the way you look to and capture the world though the lens of your camera?
        I think there’s a lot of space in my images, which is interesting because when you look at someone who has grown up in a city, their images tend to be more cropped. I guess those varying spaces give you a different sense of unconscious perspective.

Which is your favourite Andorran spot to let yourself lost in it and why?
        Andorra is, despite a lot of awful building, a really beautiful country, so anywhere in the mountains is a good place to lose yourself.

Last trip that has proven productive for you as a photographer?
        Actually my recent trip, I’m writing this on the plane home; I’ve just come back from my grandmother’s funeral. Whilst I was there, I realised it was the last time we would be spending time in her home so I photographed every angle, trying to capture the light, the smells… It occurred to me that this is inherrently why I became a photographer.

Some of your images have an ethereal, dreamy feel; ever been reached by inspirational images while in bed?
        I definitely like the idea of trying to bridge the boundary between being awake and sleeping!

Why do you think photography has been reverting back to analog in recent years?
        I think that digital cameras were perhaps a bit premature and pixels were no match to silver particles in capturing depth and light. I think that’s changing though and thanks to such a keen interest in analogue, digital manufacturers seems to be paying close attention as to how to create that same depth with a digital camera.

That said, which are the pros of working on digital?
        I’ve actually really been coming round to digital in the last months. Oddly enough, I think that there is a saturation of analogue images because of the rise in popularity of old cameras and film; digital offers a different solution, and because it’s different it demands a completely new approach which I find is helping me creatively. And then there are the obvious advantages: speed, quantity, etc., etc.

Which are the main challenges for a photographer nowadays and how do you deal with them?
        I think the basic challenges remain the same, how do you get enough regular work to be able to survive! But of course the difference between now and 20 years ago is that digital photography has meant that there are so many more photographers and the competition has created this super elite and everyone else… Basically.

Internet is a huge window to show your work, but there’s something special in printing mags don’t you think? Which’s your point of view on both “platforms”?
        The Internet is the fastest way of showing your work, and if you’re savvy enough, you can get Internet famous pretty quickly. But print is what I strive for because you see your images really coming to life, they themselves become objects; digital platforms just can’t achieve the same level of consumption, consumption in the sense of cutting the images out, touching the paper.

When you are commissioned to do a shooting for a magazine how do you prepare for it, which is your method when approaching to the subject?
        I’ll often be the one to approach a magazine with an idea, although sometimes it’s the other way round. This can be a collaborative process, for example I often work with set designer David De Quevedo and we work very well together. At other times, I can be inspired by a story or an object and go from there. I’m lucky enough to have a good relationship with the magazines I work with and we trust each other, which is the best thing ever, the worst thing ever is when you and a client don’t see eye to eye.

Which photographers have inspired you or the ones which photographs have touched you emotionally?
        Philip-Lorca diCorcia for his cinematic use of light and his near Renaissance portrayal of modern day subjects; Alec Soth for being a tremendous photographer with a great documentary eye; Yelena Yemchuk for being such an imaginative and evocative fashion photographer, and then the obvious ones like Paolo Roversi and Sarah Moons.

Of all the people you’ve photographed so far, anyone that has specially impressed or captivated you?
        There are always models who are more magnetic than others, but I can’t say that I’ve found that elusive sitter who permeates in your brain long after the shoot has finished.

Where are you currently living? Could you pick 5 spots (stores, bars, galleries, restaurants…) we shouldn’t miss? Places that unite a cool interior design and a nice service, proposal?
        I still spend a lot of time in Andorra, otherwise I divide my time between Barcelona and London. If in Andorra, I would pick the Pessons restaurant in the Grau Roig ski resort, it’s an old Andorran farm that’s been converted into a restaurant. In Barcelona, I like to walk around and find those really small little bars and stop to have a vermouth, otherwise Parc de la Ciutadella and the mountains up to the north of the city. In London I like to go to the British Museum, the natural history museum, walks on Hampstead heath, walks along the canal, the Palm tree pub in Bethnal Green, pretty much any pub in Hampstead, summer picnics on Primorose hill.

// See Crista Leonard photos here.

Crista Leonard Interview

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Published on 28/03/2014