This post is part of the “Broad Strokes” series, highlighting the work of female photographers and Leica. This exhibition will take place at the Leica Gallery in Los Angeles, from April 2nd until May 2nd as the Official Exhibition of Month of Photography Los Angeles. It includes works from Tanya Alexis, Lesa Amoore, Cira Crowell, Sandra de Keller, Lisa Leone, Eva Napp and Tasya van Ree. We gathered with Lesa and talked about her involvement with Broad Strokes, her use of the Leica X-U and her interest in the subject of water.
You’re background is mainly in fashion, what led you to become a photographer?
I was a top model and had worked with top fashion and advertising photographers when I met my children’s father, who was a street photographer who was assisting Peter Beard at the time. He bought me an analog Nikon and a macro lens, so I began to explore on my own. Those two decades (modeling and post modeling) had me immersed in imagery and circles of photographers. I was styling and doing creative direction for a while thereafter, when a designer friend asked me to shoot his fashion campaign. A few months later, an editor asked me to shoot a cover of a magazine. That was about 5 years ago, and got serious about producing my own imagery. I shoot mostly black and white, and it took me a few years to find my style more commercially, which is still quite minimalistic, but more colorful and considerate of the marketplace at times.
Share with us your experience in photography. Who were your influences?
I didn’t have formal training in the classic sense; I learned it through immersion. I spent years in the darkroom with my ex husband who had started studying with William Klein at age 14, and Marc Riboud at 16. I remember some great conversations with those two iconic men, but my ex-husband taught me a lot. Since I’d been in front of the camera for so long, and understood lighting pretty well by then, it was really just a matter of my learning the technical aspects of cameras. My eye had already been pretty well developed. Once I decided to get serious about photography, I reached out to photographers I respected and asked for suggestions here and there. The best suggestion I received was to “spend a year just finding the light”. So, that’s what I did. Early on, I also had the luck of having some really successful photographers that I’ve known and respect along time agree to assist me; as well as a couple of cinematographers.
You have a wide scope of work, can you share more details about the genre you shoot the most?
As I mentioned above, I shoot a lot of beauty and portraits, but I also shoot fashion and fine art. When I first started I did more street photography, and took my camera everywhere with me, but my focus now is on beauty and celebrity photography, and my fine art that I’ve shown and am showing is more in that realm at the moment. Of the series I have done, The Eva Project is a series that features two themes: the first reflecting different states of objectification; the second challenges the current paradigm of femininity in media. I also created a 10-segment series of one-minute videos that is themed in a distorted view of relationship between a co-dependent and a malignant narcissist (played by actor Daniel Sharman). This series for Leica, Fair Un Reve, is the second of exhibitions that points to a more romantic view of life. The first one was The Swan Sittings (featuring supermodel Bella Hadid). My longest running series (Wet By Amoore) I’ve shot over the course of the last four years. So, together with the commercial work I do, I tend to go in different directions yet my shooting style is pretty similar.
The body of work you’re showing at the Broad Strokes exhibition; can you share the details behind these images? What equipment did you use?
They were shot on a Leica X-U. No other equipment was used aside from the camera. I didn’t use the on camera flash, either. The storyline was one of fantasy. In french Faire Un Reve translates as “To Make A Dream”, and this was a dream of two female characters, and two worlds (above ground, and under ground). I used the camera underwater, above water, and halfway immersed in water to get the effects and tell the story. One character is of the water, the other of the land. Together, each faces a vulnerability when out of their respective elements and gain strength from one another, or uses their strengths to guide the other in their element.
The element of water is pretty consistent across your pictures. Images 1-4 show the soft, floating bodies in the water, suggesting very soothing postures. How were these achieved?
I’ve been shooting water for as long as I’ve been shooting, and It’s a constant theme in much of my work. This was the first time I shot immersed with my subject matter. Sarah Hay is an actress from the stars show “Flesh and Bone”, but firstly she is a ballerina. She is amazing with movement, and so she became my water character. Dorith Mous, a seasoned top model, was my land character. In one image, entitled Le Moment Venu” (translating as The Moment Came), Our land character has decided to join the water character underwater. The scene depicts as having fallen into the water, and the water character swimming to support her.
What is your creative approach to your photography?
I take to it very simplistically. I have a developed eye, and tend to remove elements when creating an image, and focus on the most important elements of what I’m trying to capture in a scene that I am not constructing myself. While I appreciate wildly over the top photographs and wide scenes, I try to bring the viewer into an image through the eyes of my subject. I work with water a lot too, which is the one added element that is repetitive in my photography. I shoot very straight forward on the one hand, although composition is where I tend to play. I am also very aware of the implications commercial photography has on society and women. It’s incredibly important to me to give my female subjects strength, rather than diminish it. I don’t like to see women being shot in inferior positions, which can be anything from the angle of the head, to the angle of the camera. It’s also important to me, having been a model, for my subjects not to feign drama and emotion, I’d prefer it’s real, or eliminate any gesture of it.
Images 6 and 7 show two young women in an almost vulnerable moment, with water running down their bodies. What are you trying to depict here?
These images are about protecting each other, and the combined energy of that protection. They were taking on land, with water raining down on them. In one image, The water character is the protector, in the other image, the land character. In both, there is a love and energy that plays upon the yin and yang of water and earth via these two characters.
The composition and color contrast of the images 9-14 prioritize blues and greens in contrast with the female subjects, please share your objective and the creative process behind these images.
It’s often taboo to use a lot of green in the fashion magazines with female models, however, it is a large part of nature, and females are often considered the keepers of mother earth. Green is the color of the heart chakra, and blue is the color of language though quite calming to the spirit. I shot with the Leica X-U above water using the underwater setting, which pumped more cyan into the imagery giving me a more fantastical feel. The images were shot nearly in the tones that they appear in, though the contrast was adjusted.
Thank you Lesa!
About Lesa Amoore:
Lesa Amoore is an american photographer and visual artist based in Los Angeles, California. Amoore began her career in imagery as a top fashion MODEL, affording her the opportunity to work closely with iconic fashion photographers and creative teams. Amoore has appeared on the covers of Vogue, Elle, and Photo Magazine.
After some years as a stylist/brand consultant and celebrity entertainment correspondent, in 2010 a designer called to ask her to shoot his advertising campaign. Since, her work has appeared in international publications (including Elle, Marie Claire & Glamour), for advertising, and on exhibition. Journeying into moving imagery in 2014, Amoore partnered with Jarred Land (Red Studios) and Debranne Treu to form ALT MEDIA.