The MISSBISH Photography Workshop | Leeor Wild
Photographer: Leeor Wild
Location: I’m based in Toronto, Canada, but spend a significant amount of my time traveling. Toronto is the best city to come home to - family, friends, the best food (seriously), good energy. Plus my photo lab is there, and I trust them. Last but not least - my rabbit, Lou, lives in Toronto.
Style: My photos are pretty much always of people, specifically women. I shoot my photos on medium format film, which gives them a colourful and textural look. I love how people look when they’re sleeping (or dead-looking) but also, conversely, love to photograph women in a strong, statuesque way. I’m particularly attracted to hands, jawlines, spines, awkward limbs... I love the way eyes catch light, and film renders skin.
Equipment: I use a Mamiya 645 Pro TL. I have about seven lenses but really only ever use two of them. Good, consistent developing and scanning is key. The rest is minor retouching and colour correcting.
How did you get into photography? Tell us about your first experience.
I went to school for design/advertising, and very quickly realized that it wasn’t for me, so I spent the first couple of years after university doing various creative things from creative direction to production to film. I started taking photos with a cheap little Pentax K1000, realized my love for film photography, taught myself more, and moved on to medium format film. I still have the desire to dabble in other things (read: dreams of being a music video director) but photography is definitely my focus and my love.
Sadly, I don't remember my first "proper" experience. It was sort of a slow, organic progression.
Tell us the story behind one of the most memorable photos you’ve shot…
I took a series of photos of my friend Linda in the desert in Israel for a lingerie brand called Mary Young. We were in between two Bedouin villages, woke up at the crack of dawn, walked out to the middle of the desert, and stripped down. It was pretty precarious given where we were, but we were careful not to be seen, and to be respectful of our neighbours’ religions. It was beautiful and the light was jaw-dropping. Then a savage desert dog came and started biting at my camera strap, then at my shoulder, then at my legs… it was terrifying and definitely the first and only time I’ve been afraid of a dog. He stole my favourite jeans, running and flinging them around like a monster, returned them (thank you) and then ripped my hat to shreds.
“Learn to be ok with saying no. When you’re starting out, it’s hard to turn down work... It’s super important to feel peace with letting opportunities go if they don’t make sense for you."
What is a constant source of inspiration for you as a photographer?Travel is a big one. I spend a good portion of my year travelling, and hope to continue to do so for as long as I can get away with it. I don’t do much photography of day-to-day life while I travel, but I often have shoots during my trips. Working with people from different places, backgrounds and cultures is always really exciting - both in front of and behind the camera. Getting to shoot in environments that I’d never find back home, directing models who don’t speak English, trying to find and develop film in places that really don’t cater to film photographers - all amazing and challenging things, and I appreciate them for better or for worse.
A more literal/direct source of inspiration for me is '90s fashion photography (pre-digital). It's hard to say if it comes through in my photos, but it’s definitely something I love looking at.
Photography is all about capturing that moment. What’s the secret?
I enjoy the slow, collaborative process between photographer and subject, spending time getting to that perfect moment where the subject’s energy truly shines through. Creating comfort and trust with the subject is important, and (depending on the situation) careful and specific direction lend themselves to “the moment.” Since I only have 15 exposures per roll, and have to constantly measure light, my process is a bit slower. I think a lot about each photo I take, and wait for all the elements to come together for the image I’m imagining.
Who has been a great influence or mentor to you and what did you learn from them that you still carry with you today?
My family. My parents are supportive like I can’t even explain. They taught me to help other people whenever I can, however I can. My dad taught me that no matter what, all you can do is move forward and not to stress, because most of the problems in our lives are manageable (and for that, we’re incredibly lucky). My mom taught me to be creative from an early age. My much-older brothers taught me about music and culture beyond my years. My sister (who isn’t technically my sister, but will always be my sister nonetheless) taught me not to waste my time looking at what the people around me have or are doing. It all culminates in this: a desire to be happy, focus on the positive, overcome hurdles, and feel peace with the situations and circumstances in my life - whatever they may be. Sorry to make this a social media thing, but at a time when everyone fixates on the successes, belongings, achievements, and experiences of others (often interpreted as one’s own shortcomings) I’ve found this approach to be especially important.
Tell us three photography tips.
1) Find your own style, and don’t try to mimic others. You can go crazy watching trends in any aspect of creativity, and trying to adapt to them. You do you, and the right people will love it.
2) Take your time. We’re so accustomed to trying to “get the shot” and take as many photos as possible to make sure that one of them fits the bill. With film, you’re forced to trust in an outcome you can’t see, think more about each exposure, and work through the process of photography in a slower, more collaborative way with your subject. I think that approach can be applied across the board.
3) Learn to be ok with saying no. When you’re starting out, it’s hard to turn down work - even if it’s completely out of your strike zone or something you don’t believe in. It’s super important to feel peace with letting opportunities go if they don’t make sense for you.
Finish the sentence..
If I weren’t afraid I would… go to space.
I wouldn't be where I am today if... I wasn't surrounded by love and support and creativity.
I've been listening to... every day is different but here are the last five artists I played: A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul + Little Dragon, Mulatu Astatke, Nicolas Jaar and Busta Rhymes.
Kids these days... will never have to get off the internet so their parents can use the phone.
I look and feel my best when… I’m lost in a new city.
When no one is looking I… watch '90s talk show interviews on YouTube.
Traveling... reminds you how small you are in a big, big world.
I respect... people who stand up for the things they believe in.