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 Tanya and talked about her involvement with Broad Strokes, the powerful story of a loved one, and how this influenced her life and photography.

You are an avid Leica user. What equipment do you use and how did this fascination grow on you?

I currently use a Leica MP and a 35 Summilux. Occasionally, I will use my 50mm Elmar-M, but lately the 35 has been my go-to lens.  I have used film as my medium for personal work for years, mainly because it makes me happy.  I usually use Ilford HP5 or Delta 3200 for black and white and CineStill 800T or Fuji 800z for color.

Every time I put my camera around my neck, I smile.  It is the same make and model that someone I loved deeply and whole-heartedly used.  When they passed away, the camera stayed in the family.  A year after his death, I was still saddened by the fact that I wasn’t able to use the camera. In a way, that camera was a very important part of our relationship. So, I treated myself to an exact replica of his camera, and I have carried it with me almost every day since I received it.  It was this special man, much like the camera, which always made me want to be a better photographer.

What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you? 

To me, photography is magical.  We all see things differently.  The world around us, much like our perspective, constantly changes and shifts. Photography is a partnership, a form of meditation. It requires one to be hyper-aware of their surroundings, the relationships between all things; both within and without.

In exchange for this focus, the universe allows you to witness brief moments of perfection, evoking feelings of great joy and connectedness. My approach is one of gratitude and respect for whatever comes into my frame. Whether it be a person, an animal, or a building.

I will often sit and meditate before going out to shoot street photography. During these few minutes of quiet, I will ask to be sensitive and aware of all that surrounds me, so that I may be drawn to something that I want to record.

Life and photography, how can you describe them?

The only thing we can be certain of in life is that it will change and shift and mold into something different. Life goes by so quickly.  I like to create images that show the world as I saw it the moment I clicked the shutter.

In reference to the images shown here, I have always loved NYC, from the time that I was a little girl.  It fascinates me that you can be surrounded by people and still be completely solitary. When you are riding the subway before having coffee or when you just want to be alone, the solitude can be a good thing, and other times – the city can feel heartbreakingly alone.

In recent years, I have suffered some great losses, two of my greatest champions in life, of which I am still slowly healing. I have felt completely alone more times than I can count, but surprisingly, I have also felt a deeper appreciation and admiration towards those who are able to share their everyday life with those they love so dearly. While I am still currently seeing life in a solitary space, a shift is coming…as evidenced from the last image in this set.

This person influenced you dearly, both professionally and personally. Would you like to share more?

In the Fall of 2013, I met a man at the Leica Store in Los Angeles.  A man unlike anyone I have ever met. Over the next two months, we talked and talked and talked.  About everything.  Often about his newly order Leica á la carte MP.  He helped me grow a great deal as a photographer.  And before either of us knew it, we fell head over heels in love. The first half of 2014 was more wonderful, challenging, beautiful, enjoyable, and magical than I could have ever imagined. In February, he received his Leica MP.  I am not exaggerating when I say we would sit on his couch talking about photography while I held his camera.

On the morning of May 23rd, I woke up early to go to yoga. Usually I would quietly head out so that Michael could continue to sleep, but on this morning, I gave in to the urge to walk back into the bedroom, kiss his forehead and say, I love you. I turned back to look at him before I left, there was a smile on his face. After yoga, I had a voicemail from him. He talked about the new coffee he made this morning and then he thanked me for making him a better person. I called him back on my way to work. Michael was on his way out to the place where he kept his motorcycle, so he could go for his usual Friday ride with the boys, as he so lovingly called them. We had a 20 minute phone call about yoga and coffee.
I arrived at work, but I didn’t want to stop talking with him. I wasn’t ready to say good bye. So we talked for another 10 minutes. Finally the time came to say our last good bye, I told him to be safe. We hung up. That morning was one of my happiest.
Around 4:00 P.M., while out running errands, I received a phone call. A friend of Michael’s called to tell me that Michael had been in an accident, and that he was gone….
There is a quote by Gabriel García Márquez that reads… “If I knew that this would be the last time I would hear your voice, I’d take hold of each word to be able to hear it over and over again. If I knew this is the last time I see you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you know it already.”
I am so incredibly grateful that I was able to share my life, my world, and my heart with him. I am a better person, because of him. He taught me to love with an open heart, with kindness, and most of all he taught me that the two most important aspects in life and a loving relationship are understanding and being present. And, he reminded me to fully appreciate the little things. We could be eating tuna salad and rice crackers, and a huge smile would come across his face, the kind of smile that lights up the world, and he would say, “This is the greatest meal I’ve ever eaten.” And, he meant it.
© Tanya Alexis
There are no photographs of the two of us, but there is a photograph that contains both of our photography taken on his MP. It is an accidental double exposure, the very last frame of film that Michael shot was of me sitting happily at Paris Photo, and the other half of the image is first frame that I ever shot with his camera, an interior of the VIP space at Paris Photo. It was completely unintentional, and yet, it couldn’t be more fitting. (Above image)

How did you become involved in the Broad Strokes exhibition?  

Serendipitously.  I stopped by the store | gallery to say hi since I was nearby.  I walked up the stairs to the gallery and Paris told me they were doing an upcoming show with female photographers, they had six, but they could have seven, and then she asked me if I wanted to be in the show. This is my very first show.  As long as I have the opportunity to share my work and the way I view the world, I will be happy.

You’ve worked on different projects in New York, how does the city inspire you compared to a city like LA?

When I shoot for just for me, I walk around for hours, searching for something…a moment, pretty light,  magic unfolding…and people.  I think the biggest difference shooting in NYC is the people, I definitely photograph a lot more people when I walk around the city.  In Los Angeles, it tends to be more skies, trees, light, and buildings.

The MP is a sturdy, 100% mechanical machine. Why is this camera your go-to equipment besides the fact it has a strong personal aspect to it? 

For starters, I have really gotten used to the meter and knowing how to use it to be in sync with the way I see things.  And, truthfully, it just feels like magic.  Every single time I have my MP around my neck, I feel complete.  And this is probably partly do to the personal aspect, but photography is personal so it is hard to separate from that.

What other projects are you working on and is there anything you’d like the readers to know?
I am currently working on infusing more of my own energy into my photographs.  Allowing myself to be so open and vulnerable that the film records what I am feeling at a specific moment in time.  It isn’t so much a project as a shift in how I view my photography… Although, now that I think about it, going back and re-shooting images I have previously photographed sounds like a good idea for my next project…
For all of your readers….never forget that your view on the world is unique.  Photography by nature is being vulnerable, because you are allowing others to see through your eyes…even if only for a frame or two, and it’s about failure.  There is so much truth in the saying “it only takes one great shot.”  No one needs to see the other shots, so experiment, play, do things that may not work at all, tilt your lens up, down, to the side, learn your gear, so that you can in time instinctually know exactly what you need to do in order to get the shot that you want.
Thank you Tanya!

About Tanya:

Tanya Alexis’ start in photography came first though the example of her father, an avid amateur photographer.  Then on her 13th birthday, he gave her an SLR. Since childhood, Tanya Alexis has grown her passion, aptitude and natural eye for photography. She enjoys her work in portraiture, and it has blossomed into a lucrative, award-winning career. Her personal photography work is like seeing into the quiet soul of the world, through her awareness and exploration of the coming together of perfectly timed moments.

Tanya Alexis’ passion, curiosity and patience keep her walking around a city for hours on end, many days a week; aware, watching, waiting for all the elements to collide. She does not hesitate when taking the perfect opportunity to click the shutter, and it shows in her beautiful work. Currently residing in Los Angeles, CA, Tanya Alexis was born in Mount Kisco, New York, and raised on the East Coast. Alexis studied film editing at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

To know more about Tanya Alexis’ work, please visit her official website and follow her on Instagram.