With a passion to create, visual artist Leah Berman excels at formulating images that convey her connection to the natural beauty of the world. Leah’s breathtaking work is represented through landscape, nature and travel photography, as well as cinemagraphs. As a resident of Los Angeles, California, she finds she is at her happiest when she is one with nature. Leah’s body of work is quite diverse and her need for creating art speaks for itself.
It’s my pleasure to share Leah’s thoughts and ideas about her work with my readers. Leah, thank you so much for taking the time to share your view of nature through your words and unique approach to your craft. It was a pleasure getting to know you and about your work. You are a remarkable artist and someone who is definitely worth following.
Can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?
I grew up in Los Angeles, California after I immigrated to the USA at the age of seven from Tallinn, Estonia. After graduating from high school in Los Angeles, I moved north to attend the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I dual majored in Anthropology and Visual Art. My artistic studies focused on Painting and Metal Sculpture, which was an homage to my late grandfather. He is the one who helped me grow an appreciation for the outdoors as well as taught the basics of drawing when I was a child in Estonia; thus I fully credit him in really promoting all of my early landscape painting and sculpture. After graduation from university, I chose to remain in the beautiful central coast and worked at a few customer service/office jobs. In my free time, I found peace in hiking and exploring nearby redwood forests and rough beaches; which eventually led me to start taking my first photographs with my iPhone and experimenting with editing. In early 2016, I moved back to Los Angeles, Califonia and decided to share images and cinemagraphs of my adventures via social media. Since this, the exploration of photography, video, and editing has been one of my forefront activities.
Where is home?
Home is currently Los Angeles, California. After moving back, I realized I had never had so much freedom to explore this city fully when I was growing up here. While I particularly dislike the traffic, and oftentimes the dry hot weather, I have grown to appreciate certain parts and aspects. I love the variety of museums, the Malibu beaches, and even Angeles National Forest nearby; which I initially considered to be a hunk of rock mountain piles to hike/drive through with desert weather and occasional “forest” area. Little did I know that I would find a labyrinth of unique hiking trails to take me to some waterfalls and autumn foliage paths within the nearest park that I had firstly judged to just be a haven for those who like to drive really fast in mountainous areas as if they are in a car commercial. Sometimes, you have to give a place a second chance.
Are you formally-taught or self-taught?
A bit of both; I was initially not formally taught by my grandfather. He took me out on hiking trips every weekend and every weekday after work he would have his evening tea and draw with me. He was definitely my first teacher in all the art I have explored and been inspired which has predominately been landscapes. I also studied Visual Art in university, but I did not focus on photography or video which is funnily what I am expressing myself through today. I explored all different types of painting back then and even added metal sculpture to my concentration because I felt that sculpture allowed me to think within dimensions and space. Also, welding was enjoyable and I loved that it was a challenge that pushed my limits and skills. I hope to explore 3d forms of art, of my landscape art, through programs in the close future.
What inspires you?
I am very much so inspired by the natural beauty of the Earth. For me, exploring the outdoors is something that makes me very excited and happy and I want to capture it in a way that makes my viewers desire to experience the beauty of nature alongside with me– or to take inspiration from me to capture or experience it in their own way. Perhaps even, to research climate change and everything that will change in our lifetime, and more importantly: our children’s lifetime to where we cannot ignore this global catastrophe any longer. The world is changing so quickly, what will document what we used to have? I almost want to believe I can at least document the natural beauty of the earth we had in some way and even maybe ever so little attempt others to begin to notice and care about the environmental impacts our populations and governments have on this place we call home; Earth.
Are you satisfied with your choice of getting involved with this industry?
Is there anything else you would rather be doing? Art will always be a part of me, so one way or another I believe that I will continue to be involved one way or another. Nature I will always care about, I will continue to capture it in any representation or medium I see fit.
What drives you to create; does it satisfy a need or passion?
I honestly have to say both. I feel like expressing creatively has always satisfied this need to make or create or represent. It’s almost a documentation of an event or setting or the past or memories and feelings associated with what is captured. As a passion, I believe it is always ever-changing, challenging me through new mediums. Being an avid learner and perhaps sometimes a perfectionist, I know that creating art through whatever medium will always make me strive in learning new skills. as long as I am learning, I am content and ever-evolving to become my best true self.
How did you develop your style?
Other than influences from my past, and learning quite a bit about art history, I cannot say I developed it from any one source. Mainly, I would credit the good ole fashioned method of trial and error. A lot of the time for most of the art forms I have explored, I know that my own mood and feelings within a setting influenced the final outcome. As my moods and feelings change when I capture or edit; so does my style which becomes evocative of the scene in the final composition. Oftentimes, I publish content taken a long time ago. This is because I felt like my initial editing of it didn’t quite strike me as being “finished.” I store the file and revisit it sporadically, or when I am running low on content to even consider editing. I call those files “Shelf Life” and thankfully, some of them do end up seeing the light of day on social media. When something is done, it is finished; and I want to be sure I never revisit that file again.
What do you hope viewers take away from your work?
I hope they appreciate nature, I hope they find their passion, I hope they find the courage to share it with the world. Never give up on yourself and never give up on your passion.
What types of mediums do you work with?
Currently, I shoot digital photos and video.
What project are you working on now?
I am currently planning a trip to Utah, in particular; Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
What type of session do you look forward to the most vs what type of session you most often do?
I am always willing to shoot product/event shots or videos (oftentimes relevant to nature or natural in some way) which I particularly enjoy when I can experiment and think outside the box. Although my experience is limited in capturing people, I would still be willing to experiment with this. As far as architecture goes, I think it would be an exciting challenge.
What type of camera(s) do you shoot with? What is your favorite lens?
I primarily shoot with a Nikon D7500, (insert lenses). While I do not currently have a favorite lens, I do enjoy testing out compatible lenses to see if I would like to purchase them in the future. I am currently considering reselling my current camera and trying out the Sony a7r 3. For quick on the go travel shots, I use my iphone and edit using the Lightroom application.
What is in your camera bag?
Besides the typical photographer’s equipment like extra batteries, tripod, and lenses, I keep a flashlight in there. Since I shoot a lot of sunsets while hiking, I have found it very useful to have a flashlight on hand to help lead me back to the car when it gets dark. I might also have a hidden snack from the last hike in there somewhere!
What is your favorite photography accessory?
A tripod is my number one. If I’m shooting cinemagraphs/gifs or most video, I need the footage to be as still as possible.
How important is Photoshop or other image editing software in your final images?
I consider it lucky when I hardly have to edit or enhance a photograph or video. I am a firm believer in editing and really feel that I personally explore my creativity while editing. With some good subtle (and sometimes maybe not so subtle) editing, I can make my projects a lot more interesting for the viewers or attempt to evoke the mood and weather of the particular setting. I edit mainly using Lightroom, Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere.
Where do you currently display your work? How can people purchase one or more of your pieces?
I recently had a video display at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts for their RAMArt exhibit in May 2019. Other than that currently, some of my older cinemagraphs are available to purchase/license at Gallereplay. For free downloads of some of my older photographs, I currently host them on Unsplash. I am in the process of selecting a few favorites to be sold as prints via society6, though I have not selected them as such and I ask the readers of this interview to follow me for updates (and even perhaps send me messages reminding me to sell some prints). Other than this, anything any individual or company is interested in may contact me directly through email [email protected] or via social media.
Do you have any projects that make you look back and shake your head? What made the experience so unpleasant?
None in particular, however, I do think that miscommunication can be a big factor in making any experience unpleasant for both parties. I am a firm believer in coordination and up to date planning, where direct communication, an outline of expectations, and fulfillment of a contract is key.
Was there a point in your journey when you started to feel really good about your work? If so, what did it feel like to get past that “tipping point?”
I think that as an ever-changing individual, I may have not reached that tipping point yet within my own personal journey of artistic expression. I have felt strongly about my work in regards to who I was (or thought I was) every time I shared anything with any type of public (be it through social media or anything else) within that period of my life. However, as I know that I am constantly seeking out knowledge, experience, and skill; I cannot foresee when and what my “tipping point” would be. I am too inspired by my own life experiences, surroundings, travels, and plans for the future to allow just a single tipping point to happen.
Are there other mediums of art that you would like to explore and experiment with?
I am planning on learning 3D art shortly, particularly using Cinema 4D to create scenes of landscapes from my imagination. In addition, while my pursuit into painting is on pause for the moment, I do wish to eventually return to it giving that I have time and space for this medium.
What do you think the future holds for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I think that in the next few years I really want to find that right location for me. Whether this means the perfect home around Los Angeles to make this area my home base forever around family and friends, or moving away to Iceland with a significant other to continue within higher education for a bit. I do not know where the future will take me, but I know that creativity will always live on in any medium I choose to explore; as it will satisfy my internal need to express myself creatively and perhaps; most efficiently.