Leanne Surfleet: “My Self-Portraits Deal With My Own Mortality”

Leanne Surfleet is a UK based analogue and self-portrait photographer. I see her work like a nostalgic beauty, allowing me to enter into her intimacy. The portraits make us connect to her work and share different emotions and states. The self is the subject she captures so well with expired film and Polaroids so we tried to get inside her head to look for some influences and inspirations.

How does your self portraits best describe you?

I think my self-portraits describe me honestly, probably a lot better than I could ever describe in words.

I was always thinking about U.K as a fairyland. I’ve wanted and want to live there. Can’t tell you exactly a reason why. Is there something that inspired your work?

I’ve never heard anyone describe the UK as a fairyland before but I guess if it’s a foreign place to someone then they could imagine that. I find it far from a fairyland, there are some beautiful places in the UK though. Unfortunately I don’t live in one of them. Although I do live close to a small beach which has inspired me a lot in my photography. It can be a really quiet and peaceful place to be and I do enjoy walking around and taking photographs there and portraits of people close to me.

The light you use is far beyond from this world. Is it natural or do you use any light equipment?

The light I use is always natural, I don’t use flash or artificial lights.

What does light means to you? Do you see is as the concept of peace and tenderness?

I have a bit of an obsession with light and finding it and watching how it falls in certain ways in the room. I love interacting with light and shadows, it’s a great tool to work with and explore in photography and art.

What scares you the most? Is death still the most hated and controversial subject? Did you ever
consider to approach this topic through photography?

I think probably one of the only things that does genuinely scare me is the thought of death but I try not to think about it as much as I can. It’s lead me to deal with a lot of anxiety in the past and a lot of my self-portraiture work deals with my anxiety and thoughts on my own mortality. By documenting my existence it gives me a small sense of peace that a part of me will still be living through my photography after I’m gone.

What do you love about Polaroid cameras?

I think the main thing I love about them is the instant photograph, it’s exciting, playful and experimental. I have the ability to produce multiple exposures with my Polaroid 450 which is a great technique to master and the focus and lens on the SX-70 is uncomparible. I love imperfections and with new and old instant films there are more often than not little imperfections, so it’s just generally a perfect medium for me.

Your black and white self­portraits series explores the unknown world of mistery and chaos. What message do you want to convey?

I feel that I work differently in black and white than I do in colour. I search more for light, lines, form and motion in black and white. I also find that it’s timeless and that gives me a lot of inspiration to produce work in black and white. I think I always try convey the same message within black and white and my colour work and that’s mainly just honesty.

When was the moment you first started photography? How did you developed since than?

I first started by playing with a little compact digital camera when I was 18, then after receiving a 35mm SLR I started to experiment more with films, colours and processes which lead me to becoming very passionate about the subject. I studied at college and university which gave me a great deal of time for creative freedom and exploration and lead me to start photographing myself. There’s been a lot of up’s and some down’s since then, I’ve been going through a very long dry patch with no inspiration or motivation to take photographs but I’m not going to force it, it will come back naturally when it’s ready.

How would you describe narcissism? Aren’t selfie’s all about attention now?

I’d describe it as an excessive love of oneself and their own appearance and receiving gratification out of talking about yourself or photographing yourself and displaying them for others to see. ‘Selfie’s’ probably are all about attention now that ‘selfie’ is a popular phrase. I’ve never taken much interest in the whole thing, it’s gotten so out of control that people don’t even know what it means, they just think that a ‘selfie’ is a picture of a person, no matter who it is or who took it, it’s pretty ridiculous. But I don’t think about it too much or associate it with the work of others or of my own.

What do you first do in the morning? Is the sunlight the one that touches your face and wakes you up?

I generally only get sunlight in my bedroom when it first rises and I usually sleep through it. I have a bit of a routine, I wake up, check my phone, feed the cats and make a cup of tea and some breakfast. Then I’ll either have work to go to or spend my time doing things like this, looking at art /photography and planning trips etc.

Who are your favourite photographers? Can you tell me a reason why?

Whenever I’m asked this question the same 3 photographers come to mind; Francesca Woodman, Nan Goldin and William Eggleston. They’re all just so perfect to me, I can look at their work for days and still be amazed and in awe. I think it’s important to have those inspirations, well it is to me anyway.

How would the perfect soundtrack for your photos sounds like? I’m suggesting Brian Eno­ The Big Ship. Feel free to listen and share your thoughts.

Probably something from the soundtrack to Virgin Suicides by Air, it’s pretty dreamy. Lovely suggestion!

One recommendation: your favourite pub in UK.

I’m not actually a big drinker so I don’t really visit many pubs here, I’d rather have a couple beers at home. But I do like to check them out when I visit Europe, me and my partner Ben found some great ones in Amsterdam and Berlin.

All photos (c) Leanne Surfleet

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Still can't tell exactly my origins because of my Chinese eyes. I love romance. Cartoons and music. Cultartes. Hate fish roe. From the bottom of my heart.

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