For Leah McFarlane, a camera is an adventure. Her photograph, 'On The Line', is a fanciful, thoughtful image that enticed the readers of the Summer 2014 edition of Agave Magazine to join her on her journey. We are pleased to provide a greater insight into the woman and her work here.
AGAVE MAGAZINE: You’ve said that photography is your “journal without words” – what draws you to using imagery to record your life and thoughts?
LEAH MCFARLANE: I love detail, and photography can capture it so quickly. I like to imagine, but it’s the physical part of bringing my mind visually to life that pulls me in. I can read or write something, but with a picture, I can actually see it in front of me. I think that’s why I’m more drawn to imagery. I want to look at things. Study the details. I can remember more things visually than if I would have read it.
I’m not saying I don’t like to write, because I like poetry or writing down something so I can refer back to it if I can’t photograph it at that moment, but many times I will just write little notes with a basic sketch of the shoot I want to create.
Personally, I would rather be shown how to do something, than told or have the directions read to me. I’m a visual learner. For example, to remember how to get somewhere, I know my way by the scenery rather than the street names.
Does your experience of growing up in the country get reflected in your work?
Absolutely! When I was a kid, my brother, sisters and I would go play outside, and we went exploring. We made our way through the swamp and woods. We caught frogs, bugs and butterflies. We picked wild strawberries and bouquets of flowers. We even looked for mice, snakes and salamanders under pieces of wood on the ground. We also made a wood teepee structure against a birch tree that’s still there today. There were so many things we could do so there was never a reason to be bored. I didn’t care about getting dirty or getting scratched up by sticks in the swamp. We enjoyed ourselves.
With my imagination, my determination grew too. If I want to do something, I’m going to do it or work to make it happen. When I get an idea for a photograph, I have to shoot it otherwise it nags at me. Exploring as a kid and searching for things brought curiosity into my photographs.
Do you still remember your first camera?
I honestly think the first camera I got was at Christmas when I was about five years old. It was a disposable camera, and that was the same day I got a big, fluffy, white teddy bear I named Snuggles. I took a ridiculous, might I add blurry, picture of cut up ham on my paper plate at my grandparent’s house. I photographed my cousin, my brother playing with his new remote control racecar and other family members caught off guard by the flash of my camera.
I truly believe my mom had a big, but subtle, impact. She was always taking pictures with her Konica FC-1 35mm camera. Even though it was always fun to get my picture taken and to take photos myself with my disposable cameras, the best part was getting to look at them after they’d been developed and printed.
I think it’s funny looking back when I was younger, either everyone says cheese and smiles when you want to take their picture, or they try to cover their face. That was fun for me. The minute people see you have a camera, they notice what you are doing and it’s like you become important.
What inspires you to take a photograph? Do you tend to stage things carefully, or do you usually work more spontaneously?
There are many:
- Things I want to remember, whether it’s a person, a place, or what I’m experiencing at that very moment. I’m inspired to take pictures of things that would make me regret not having a photograph of it.
- Love. Photography is fun, and I’m happy when I’m taking pictures!
- The everyday stuff that is often overlooked or things people have grown accustomed to. I want to give a breathe of fresh air to things people would not give a second thought to, and provide people with a closer look.
What’s your favorite subject to photograph?
People. I want to make people happy and comfortable, and whether I’m taking their picture because they asked me to or they were just up for doing a shoot with me, my hope is that I can inspire and encourage those I am privileged to photograph, and maybe show them another way to look at life.