“To be, in a word, unborable… It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.”
– David Foster Wallace, The Pale King
Here at Whattaroll we felt there was no better quote that perfectly expressed and captured the creative essence of today’s hero, the wonderful Leanne Surfleet. Based in the UK, she uses photography as a means of self-exploration, creating a deeply insightful account of how she lives, sees and feels.
With galleries consisting of self-portraits and portraits of people in her life, her style is as honest and personal as it gets. Delicate and fragile in their soft pastel tones, her images possess an undeniable charm with a generous mix of female strength and soul.
Leanne reveals more about her thoughts and processes in our short interview below.
Please tell us a little about yourself; where you are from and what you do?
I’m a photographer based in the UK shooting mainly self-portraits, portraits of the people in my life and my life in general.
How would you personally describe your style of photography? What message/s do you want to trying to convey through your images?
I’d describe my style of photography as honest and personal. I use photography a lot as a source of self-exploration and as a personal diary. I want my photographs to convey what I see, the people I see and how I see them in my life.
Which elements of shooting film are you drawn to the most?
The not knowing and excitement that what you’re shooting will either not come out at all or will be the best roll you’ve ever shot. Using film is more genuine and spontaneous, if I ever shot digital in the past I’d keep checking the image I just shot and if it wasn’t right I’d retake it over and over, but I hate that, I feel very much a sense of it’s either meant to be or it’s not meant to be with photography these days.
What would you say is your greatest inspiration?
I think my greatest inspiration would be my own life, when it’s mundane, when its exciting, when I’m energetic and happy and then when I’m down and anxious. Just everything; light, friends, colour, home, boredom, etc.
Name someone whose art makes you shiver.
Has to be Francesca Woodman, Nan Goldin a close second.
If you had to choose one camera and one type of film to shoot with for the rest of your life, which combo would it be and why?
Zenit E and any film I can get my hands on.
If you could time travel to the past and be the assistant of a great photographer, who would it be?
Great question! I’d probably go way back to between 1900-1920 and work with Anne Brigman, her photography is just so otherworldly and stunning, I would love to see that in the making.
Can you share the weirdest situation you’ve faced being a film photographer?
I don’t know if I’ve faced too many weird situations being a film photographer to be honest.
If you had to choose a movie that defines you both, personally and aesthetically, which one would it be?
The first thing that came to mind was ‘The Virgin Suicides’ directed by Sofia Coppola. It would define me personally as it relies heavily on the theme of nostalgia and that’s just me almost constantly, and aesthetically because it’s just so dreamy.
Do you remember the photo you took that made you feel proud for the first time? Can you share it with us?
Yes, I think it would be one of my self-portraits, it’s a digital image that I shot around 2008/9, one of the rare digital images I actually liked and its become one of my most well known photographs. It was the first one I was proud of as it was the first image I had published in print and that was exciting.
At Whattaroll, we believe that inspiration can come from many different sides. Can you write down and share with us a paragraph from the book you’re reading at the moment?
“Sharing beds platonically offered me the chance to show off my nightclothes like a 1950s housewife and experience a frisson of passion, minus the invasion of my insides. It was efficient, like what pioneers do to stay warm on icy mountain passes. The only question was to spoon or not to spoon. The next day I felt the warmth of having been wanted, minus the terrible flashes of dick, balls, and spit that played on a loop the day after a real sexual encounter.” – Lena Dunham, ‘Not That Kind Of Girl’.
Describe your shooting routine.
If I’m alone I’ll usually just pick up any camera around that has film in it (unless I’m wanting something specific), wander around my house looking for light which is usually to be found in the spare bedroom with my cat lying in the sun. I usually set up the camera first on the tripod, then just feel out the room and see what catches my eye. Depending on how I’m feeling and just go for it. I usually start the self-timer before I have any clue as to what I’m going to be doing in the photograph so a lot of my photographs are very spontaneous. If I’m with someone we’ll usually go out for a walk and just chat and I’ll shoot photos of them in between, I never ask people to pose for me unless something does spring to mind, I much prefer to just catch people doing what they do naturally.
Speaking of portraits, who would you love to photograph but haven’t had the chance of having them in front of your camera yet?
There are quite a few girls I’d love to photograph who I’m hoping to this year, I’m going to be starting a project soon which involves meeting new people and taking their photograph so hopefully I’ll be able to show you in the coming year.
Who do you think we should feature in the next Hero of the Week section?
Lots of people! Brigette Bloom, Alison Scarpulla, Shelbie Dimond, Aela Labbe, Eylul Aslan – if you haven’t already!
To see more of Leanne’s amazing work, please visit: