Interview

2023 Booooooom Photo Awards Winner: Jas Leonard

For our second annual Booooooom Photo Awards, supported by Format, we selected 5 winners, one for each of the following categories: Portrait, Street, Shadows, Colour, Nature. Now it is our pleasure to introduce the winner of the Nature category, Jas Leonard.

Jas Leonard is a photographer and mother of three living and working in the small rural town of Cleve, South Australia. She works mostly with film photography, documenting the passing time of motherhood and childhood, as well as the obscurity of living in a remote area and raising children in such isolation.

We want to give a massive shoutout to Format for supporting the awards this year. Format is an online portfolio builder specializing in the needs of photographers, artists, and designers. With nearly 100 professionally designed website templates and thousands of design variables, you can showcase your work your way, with no coding required. To learn more about Format, check out their website here or start a 14-day free trial.

We had the chance to ask Jas some questions about her photography—check out the interview below along with some of her work.

What is the story behind your winning image?

It was a foggy morning and before the girls went off to school, they were outside collecting snails. One particular snail was quite friendly and Hazel, my middle daughter kept giggling saying ‘the snail is giving me kisses!’

I ran inside and grabbed my film camera, it was one of the first times I was playing with flash and captured this moment.

Can you share a little bit about finding your artistic voice?

I guess it’s developed over time. When I was in high school 20 years ago, I studied photography and fell in love with the darkroom process and seeing the world in black and white film. After leaving high school I lost my way a little bit creatively and it wasn’t until I became a mother that I picked my camera back up to document my children’s lives. Since then, I have experimented with a lot of different processes and editing techniques but it wasn’t until I started shooting film that I really felt like I finally found my artistic voice.

How would you describe your aesthetic now?

I’m drawn to the weird reality of life. And I love capturing it on film. I moved to film during Covid in 2020 after shooting digital for quite a few years and haven’t looked back. I love the unpredictability of it, it’s quirks and how you can manipulate it.

I also love the lack of control and letting each image just be what it is.

What specific things do you most enjoy looking at through your viewfinder?

My kids. I love watching their childhood and watching them grow and explore. They really guide my photography and in a way I am getting to experience my childhood again through them. They seem to bring everything alive for me, even the mundanest of things like a piece of chalk, a decorated box or a mandarin peel that ‘looks like a snake’. They make life beautiful.

Finish this sentence: “For me, photography is…”

My life, the essence of who I am, the be all and end all. I would be lost without it and it is an extension of who I am as a person and a mother.

Do you feel like what you’re doing now is the thing you were born to do?

Absolutely! I have always been creative. Dabbling in painting, drawing, sewing and just about every other craft using my hands but I’ve always been drawn to photography. It is my life’s passion and I’ll never be without a camera now.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

Know your seasons. I was told this once and it stuck with me. To know your ebbs and flows and to be ok with it. I used to feel down or disappointed if I didn’t pick my camera up for a while or I was concentrating on a different aspect of my life. Or I would feel stuck in routine looking after my babies day after day. But I’ve learnt to know that these are all different seasons of my life and that seasons change and this is ok.

Who else’s images are exciting you these days?

I am a member of a photography group of women called Memory Cult and each and every one of them inspire me daily. I love that there’s no competition and we are all lifted and empowered by each other. It really is a special space created by Anastasia Pagonas who has described it as community for vital ideas, creative friendship and the mutual obsession we all have with photography. I am so excited to see what is to come from the members there.

What’s one thing you’d like to accomplish in the next year or so?

I’m really looking forward to releasing my new book ‘The Hostage Is Alive’, which is based around the concept that through my images there is proof that the mother is alive. Even during those first years of parenting when you feel as though all is lost, there is evidence that I was and still am surviving.

What about one thing you’d like to accomplish in your lifetime?

Great question! There are a few things I would like to accomplish in my lifetime. I would love to publish a few more photography books, set up my own dark room, travel more, watch my kids grow and live to be a ripe old age with my husband by my side.

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