Leanne Surfleet's work captures a very personal journey dealing with themes of loneliness, nostalgia, anxiety & utilising light within narrative. She focuses her photography on capturing self-portraiture, started through curiosity, capturing self-portraits has become the signature of her work and has helped her in overcoming personal anxieties. A calming mechanism, Leanne's work is her form of escapism.
We asked Leanne about her work, and how film photography shapes her style and passion.
SFUK: Hi Leanne, thank you for sharing your work, could you tell us a little about yourself and why you shoot film?
LS:I'm a photographer mainly exploring self-portraiture and recurring themes of nostalgia & anxiety, as well as playing generally with light and its ability to hide and expose certain aspects of myself depending on how I'm feeling at the time. I shoot film because it just feels natural for me, I started early on with film and experimented with different films and processes which got me excited about photography. Going through college and university we were encouraged to try digital which I did for a little while but ended up selling my digital camera to buy more films & film cameras.
SFUK: Your work focuses primarily on self portraiture, exploring identity and notions of loneliness, nostalgia and anxiety. I notice in your colour film work (Self Portrait One) there is a sense of innocence and curiosity, perhaps the nostalgia aspect of your work, however the black and white series (Self Portrait Two) seems to strongly portray the loneliness and anxiety you mention. Do you find shooting different types of film, or indeed different formats, changes the way you interact with the camera?
LS: Definitely, I actually never realised I shot differently on colour and on black & white until once I accidentally shot a whole roll of film thinking it was colour and took it out and realised it was black and white, and none of the images made any sense to me. It was so odd, I was looking for colour to capture and different moods and feelings and they just didn't translate in black & white. But I agree, I definitely feel more nostalgia with shooting colour film and more of a rawness with shooting black & white. With black & white I look more for light, shadows, composition, lines and form and am more inclined to bare all, with colour I feel I work much more delicately.
SFUK: When do you choose to create work? Is there a certain time or feeling you get when you decide "I need to capture this"?
LS: It's getting more difficult these days as I'm working a full time day job and especially now we're heading into winter and darker days and nights. I feel very uninspired and low when it comes to the darker nights, I feel trapped as I love light and need it for my work. But I usually create work when I have free time and I just feel in the mood to play around with my cameras, or an idea of an image will pop into my head and I have to capture it on the spot.
SFUK: How does shooting film influence your style of photography? Would you create the same work with a digital camera for example?
LS:It's more the cameras I use that influence my style I think, there are certain scenes or portraits that I know will look amazing or best shot on my SX-70, just looking through the viewfinder is exciting and can persuade me into using specific cameras. For example, I have a Zenit E that I mostly use for 35mm and the viewfinder is so dreamy, just looking through it feels like you're looking at old photos from the 70s or something so its definitely inspiring and influencing me. I feel like I'd make similar work with a digital camera but it wouldn't feel as honest as I'd probably look at the photos and re-take them until I had a photo I liked, rather than shooting one or two shots honestly on film and dealing with the image that I receive when developed.
SFUK: When creating commissioned work for clients as you've done in the past, what advantages or disadvantages have you noticed when shooting film?
LS: It can definitely be a little more scary shooting film for a client as there's always the slight chance that the film will somehow be ruined in the developing process, or may not have even gone through the camera correctly but if you're confident in your craft then you have to go for it. It's always fun to shoot Polaroids too as you can then give them some idea of how your photographs are going to look or what your style is like while you're shooting. On the other hand if you're shooting for a camera or film company it can be a lot of fun to experiment and just go crazy with it.
SFUK: And finally, do you have any work in progress or future plans you can tell us about?
LS: I have a lot of new ideas in the pipeline for the future but at the minute I'm waiting on getting a studio to experiment and shoot in a larger space than my bedroom. I'm also working on a film swap collaboration with another great film photographer - but I'll wait until that one develops further to reveal any details.