{the interview series} Leela Cyd

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Hoje apresento-vos o trabalho de uma fotógrafa americana: Leela Cyd Ross.
Adoro a forma como a sua postura sonhadora, descontraída e cheia de estilo parece reflectir-se no modo como a objectiva observa a comida, as paisagens, os interiores, as pessoas... vejam, leiam, deliciem-se!

[Este post pertence à rubrica semanal {the interview series}, onde publico uma nova entrevista todas as quartas-feiras, com artistas e bloggers inspiradores que admiro, de acordo com o espírito handmade e um estilo de vida criativo. Tornem-se fãs no facebook e não percam nada!
Por motivos óbvios de extensão e compreensão do texto, tanto pelos entrevistados como pelos potenciais leitores do resto do mundo, a entrevista segue em inglês.]

Today I present you the work of an American photographer: Leela Cyd Ross.
I love how her dreamy, relaxed and stylish personality seems to be reflected in the way the lens looks at food, landscapes, interiors, people... have a look, read along and get inspired!

[This post belongs to the weekly feature {the interview series} where I publish a new interview every wednesday with inspiring artists and bloggers I admire, according to the spirit of handmade and a creative lifestyle. Become a facebook fan and don't miss a bit!]

Leela Cyd Ross | Leela Cyd Photography
Portland, Oregon USA

1. Let’s pretend we don’t know each other and I’ve never heard about Leela Cyd. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a photographer based in the Pacific NW, where the clouds reign supreme and freshly roasted coffee pours through the streets. My focus is on food, interiors and people; and all the times in which these subjects intertwine and overlap. I seek out brightness and beautiful, slightly messy compositions in my photographs. As a disorganized child, I never quite outgrew my fondness for a bit of chaos.

2. You work as a freelance photographer specialized in lifestyle, food and interiors. How and when was this creative passion born?
I studied art and was always up to making things while growing up. I loved to make paintings, collages and short films in college. I dreamed of being a video editor but realized that wasn’t for me, being such a small part of an overall vision of a film or commercial. I started in with photography, shooting my dinners, as a means of showing my parents what I was cooking each day (we all love to cook!) and from there, my passion ignited. I’m very happy when I am staring through a lens, trying to come up with creative solutions.

3. You work for Apartment Therapy, where you explore the challenges of photographing interiors. What’s your approach to a space you’ll photograph? Share your creative process with us.
When I shoot interiors for a myriad of clients, I like to tour the house without my camera and just try to get to know the home owners. We chat, drink tea and explore the home together. I feel this part of the shoot is so critical! Just establishing that I’m there to paint their place in the best light possible, because it is quite revealing what they are doing, allowing us all into their space via photographs.
Then I start with my favorite room, usually the one with the most light and go from there.

4. You’re also a contributor of The Kitchn and I must say I absolutely love your food photography style! Is cooking another passion of yours or just a good yummy subject to shoot?
Food and cooking are some of my favorite topics on this earth. I love thinking about recipes and then how to tell that particular food’s story, photograph it then write about it. From beginning to end, it’s an exploratory process for me - discovering new foods/recipes then the challenge of how best to photograph the dish. Cooking keeps me busy with my hands, grounded in reality, a much-needed break from the computer. Plus you have to eat at least 3 x per day, so may as well be yummy!

5. I believe it must be very difficult to capture the personality of a person in portrait photography, but you accomplish it in such a personal way! I love the way you relate people with their living and working spaces – like in “Made in Portland” series. Would you share with us the biggest challenges you face?
My greatest challenge in photographing people is showing the identity of the subject within a picture. Often times as a photographer, I do not know the person I’m to shoot, so it is the great feat to get them relaxed and expressive. I’m constantly honing in on this -- the ability to put someone at ease and then make them come to life in front of the camera. It’s the challenge though that makes this part of my job so interesting, plus the unique soles I get to meet, that is a real gift to me. Many of the personalities I’ve photographed have become friends. And it has started by making a portrait of them, what a wonderful profession!
Conversely, it can be the opposite and that’s where things get tough -- the chemistry isn’t there and that’s when I think to myself, “Just make it work!!”

6. Your “Dreamscapes” differ a lot from your other work – is this a more personal approach to photography? How does your personal work differ from the commissioned one?
My dreamscape imagery is all taken with a Diana film camera. This isn’t more personal, it’s just another side of my brain at work. The look, feel, light leaks, imperfections and unpredictability of shooting with this old kids film camera is such a joy. It’s the opposite of digital photography. I love to carry this camera with me on assignment because it can be the most amazing tool to create moody, enigmatic, emotional images. Often much more interesting than the hyper real hi-res world of digital pictures. I’ve yet to convince a magazine editor of that however!

7. The Cheese Maker’s Apprentice” is a book by Sasha Davies, to be published next Fall, with photos taken by you. Is this your first published book? Could there be more projects like this one for the future?
I greatly hope for more collaborative projects such as working on a cookbook. It was probably the most time-consuming, meaningful, and intensive photographic project I’ve gotten to be a part of so far. I enjoyed every minute of it! The process of working with Sasha and David (the recipe developer) was incredibly gratifying because we were all together, attempting to showcase a very involved process. We each got to shine in our own area of expertise, while creating something bigger than a singular vision. I loved that.

8. What influences you the most to create? Share with us some artists that you admire.
I am influenced most by what I love - tea, friends, eating, gathering with friends, beautiful spaces, handmade objects, daily life and grandiose travel. I think there’s something to starting with what you love, sage advice for all makers of things.

Artists who influence me:
- My Dad, Richard Ross, extraordinary documentary photographer
- My Mom, a poet, journalist turned PHD professor (she embarked on a new career at 60, why should any of us be afraid to do something new!?)
- Dietlind Wolf, my favorite stylist/art director
- Garance Dore, for her way of showing people in the best possible way and her infectious love of fashion
- This American Life and RadioLab - two genius podcasts

9. Would you share some useful tips with us, non-professional photographers, who would like to learn a bit more and make the most of our cameras while traveling or working?
Bring your camera everywhere, shoot as much as possible, fake it till you make it (just say you are ‘a photographer’ and doors open for you, doesn’t matter if the pics are going on your blog and no where else), be confident and brave, ask people if you can photograph them, when a sign says ‘no photos’ ignore it, push yourself, shoot what you love (people, food, fashion, flowers - it doesn’t matter!), natural light is easier to begin with, don’t shoot with a flash and just set the camera on auto if you can’t be bothered. It’s the ideas that matter, not the tool! Use your phone if that’s what you’ve got.

10. It looks like you love to travel – when you travel your photos become more personal or you can’t let go that professional attitude while behind the camera? Tell us about some places you loved most visiting.
When I’m traveling, my camera and my professional/personal lines get completely blurred. I’m photographing to make beautiful pictures and experience the world in an intimate way, really looking at it through my viewfinder, trying to find the best ways to showcase the place... And I’m doing it because at this point, it would feel odd to not be photographing while traveling. AND, this is a big and, I’m photographing because it will turn into professional work. I will shop the pictures around when I get home through my agent as well as turn them into stories I will pitch to various publications. At the end of the day, it’s a job, and I’m often traveling on an assignment where I’m expected to get the images determined before I even step on the plane. This is my absolute dream part of my work however, being paid to photograph in foreign places is the best part of this profession! It makes staying up late on weekends, editing mountains of images while friends are out having fun, all worth it.

11. Besides photographing, what do you love most doing in your everyday life?
I love tea! Seriously it makes me so happy every time I put the kettle on and do a little dance in my head about which kind I’m going to choose. Also, long walks through the forest and neighborhood with my husband, we sort out a lot of stuff on those walks. Listening to radio/stories/books on cd/podcasts. Reading, I’m always passing out with my novel on my pillow. Cooking is paramount to my everyday routine - right now I’m sitting down to a bowl of oatmeal with dried figs, fresh blueberries, banana slices with a dollop of creme fraiche and toasted coconut flakes accompanied by Black currant tea, so good! Day dreaming. In the shower, on a walk, I’m always dreaming up the next idea.

12. Tell us about the place where you live and what you love most about it. Would you like to live anywhere else one day?
We live in an old house in North East Portland, Oregon. I love the greenery here; it’s so lush and full of unusual flowers and plants. It’s incredibly dense and makes me go giddy with delight each Spring and Summer. Also, the coffee is ridiculous amazing here. It’s an art form. I love the coffee shop culture here. It’s very cozy.
Although we love Portland in many ways, we long for sunshine again. We’d like to live in a warmer place with better weather! I’ve also dreamed of living in Stockholm or Berlin or Amsterdam for a year or two. We lived in South India for 6 months, then Istanbul for a long period of time and we learned so much by getting away from our ‘regular’ life.

13. If you could live in any historical era of your choice, what would it be? Why?
I’d live in the early 60s so I could dance to all that fabulous soul music, tease my hear into a bouffant, get politically active, see the best French films bear witness to incredible history. Man on the moon!!

14. What advices would you give to someone who would also like to become a photographer?
Stay dedicated. Treat every little job like it’s a big job. “No” is just a starting point (my dad taught me that one). Start a blog where your work can live, even if only your parents read it, that’s fine, just keep at it. When you start to get comfortable, change things up -- start shooting something else, in a different style, move around a lot. Try to keep pushing yourself. All this advice are things I’m telling myself right now too, by the way!

15. What are your plans for the future? And your most unrealistic dreams?
We want to move when my husband graduates from school and travel before we get to our new place (realistic plan). And in my wildest dreams, I split my time as a character actress in local theater as well as continue to make photos. I would settle for working in a historical museum as a character in one of their fabulous scenes. Also, I want to hang out with Martha Stewart and have her teach me to make an extravagant cake - I love Martha and I love cake! I also dream of going to Japan and to Antarctica.

Now a quick question and answer game so we can find a bit more about you and your tastes!
Tell us one:

book: Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
music: Sam Cooke, live album is best
movie: The Artist
personality/artist: Neo Rauch, contemporary German painter - so so good!
color: pink sparkles and gold
object: travel diary
animal: elephant
drink: tea with milk and sugar
food: waffles
season of the year: late Spring
travel destination: India, go there! Life changing place.
piece of clothing: floral bathrobe
secret: I cannot sleep in, I wish I could. Anyone want to get breakfast and read the paper with me at 5:45? I need a friend for my early hour!

Thank you for sharing your wonderful photographs with us, Leela!


  1. adorei! gosto imenso como personalizas cada entrevista - excelente preparação!

  2. I love the colours in that afternoon picture.. the pink teapot, the plates, the little fork.. - love it all!


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