What are the rules of your photographic work?

I do not have any hard & fast rules. My intention is to always follow my intuition and to experiment and find new methods of shooting and processing photos. I get bored easily if I don’t change things up.

When it comes to shooting street photography, my number one rule for myself or others who take my workshops, is RESPECT.
If you don’t have respect for people this is a real problem and you shouldn’t be shooting street photography.

As well, I have no expectations of what I want to capture. I like to forget about everything that’s going on in my life and observe what’s going on around me. To be in the moment and not to attempt to have control over it.

Life, and therefore photography, is often more interesting than a Hollywood film. You just can’t make some of it up.

So you need to be aware to capture the moment.

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

It really depends on the kind of work that I am doing.
For street photography, I am constantly experimenting with new shooting techniques both in camera settings and subjects.

I have a handful of techniques that I use depending on the situation. One of my favorites is what I call lift and shoot. It is exactly what it sounds like. I think there’s much to be said for the element of chance in photography. It is about making your luck.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

A number of years ago, before the internet and social media, I had thought that I wanted to become an architectural photographer.

I have always been fascinated with some of the characteristics of buildings.

The problem was that people kept walking into my shot. One day I lost my patience and I continued to shoot buildings with people passing by. I did not study photography formally. So when someone saw these photos of buildings with people in them, they said “cool street photography.” My response was, what’s street photography?

I call that my happy accident.

That experience opened the door for me and I haven’t looked back.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

I once had a private workshop with a man who proclaimed that he knew everything about street photography and he really just wanted me to take him to different neighborhoods.

He took one shot of a man who immediately noticed him and the man was upset.

But instead of stopping shooting, he continued to take photos of the man.

I have never experienced this before when the man put up his fist and was ready to fight. That was for me a very difficult situation.

I felt somewhat responsible even though I had no idea beforehand that my customer would act in this manner.

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

I shoot in all four seasons and in most weather with the exception of extreme weather conditions.

I also shoot in many different neighborhoods in New York City. Each neighborhood has its different physical characteristics and the people in each of them are all somewhat different.

So I will choose to shoot in color or monochrome based on the neighborhood and I will also choose the style that I choose to capture the subjects based on these details.

I always take into consideration the customs of the people and show respect to them. 

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

In my workshops I find that people spend too much time reviewing their photos when shooting.

In street photography it is easy to miss many opportunities while looking at the photos just captured.

I either ask people to turn off the display at the back of the camera and/or suggest that they try out shooting film for a bit to see how that changes their shooting style.

When we begin a workshop, we spend 15 minutes on camera settings so that we can forget about them and instead focus all of our attention on seeing and shooting.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

I use a few different Fuji cameras, a Ricoh and also a number of film cameras.

Always wide angle for street photography unless I am doing abstract street a la Saul Leiter.

How do you relate to your customers? Do you choose them or do you let chance bring them to you?

Customers choose me.

They either register for group workshops or they contact me for private workshops. My workshops are always personalized to suit the level and the needs of the customer. I do not have a cookie cutter approach to them and I often have repeat customers and they always discover something new.

Do you think there is a perfect age to start being a photographer?What have been the consequences of COVID19 in your work?

I’ve had customers as young as 8 years of age and many preteen and teenage students.

When they are 8 and 9 years of age it’s more about exploring the world and seeing what’s possible. I think that the younger the better.

Starting with pointing out things that look interesting and only helping with the camera if they need it.

Though they seem to need help with using a camera. The younger the better.

My business was severely affected by the pandemic as about 85% of my business is from the EU, UK and Australia. I do hope that 2021 will be a better year for eradicating the virus and a return to travel.

Are there any books you would recommend?

There are so many great books.
Perhaps one of my absolute favorite books in terms of reading rather than picture books, is Daido Moriyama’s How I Take Photographs.

I really like his straight ahead, no nonsense approach to shooting street photography.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

I am very fortunate to live in New York City. It is a city that has always stimulated all kinds of creativity for me. I am almost always inspired to shoot. I am fascinated with the world around me and there’s always something new to discover.

For many years now, my motto is a quote from Marcel Proust: “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.

” There’s always something new to see and shoot, even when I return to the same neighborhoods over and over again.

Leanne Staples