This month I welcome photographer Lee Jeffries.
Tell us a little bit about Lee Jeffries.
44, Accountant. Grew up on a council estate. Romantic.
Where is home?
If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet, where would you build your dream home?
Happiness is inextricably linked to love. I’d always choose to live where that love exists.
What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?
What sort of work do you specialise in?
Did you go to school to study photography?
Not at all. I had never done anything remotely artistic for the first 35 years of my life
How long have you been a photographer?
About 9 years now, but I’m still an accountant.
What or who got you started in photography?
I ran a cycling business. I needed to shoot product shots so that was the first time I picked up a camera.
How would you describe your style?
My own. Random. Aesthetically pleasing to me first and foremost.
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
My passion for the people I meet. I’m very much empathy and without the honesty of that I would never get so close.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
I only use a 24mm. My portraits are shot from the inside out, not the outside in…. so I’m extremely intimate. The 24mm has me right there…in the moment.
What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?
Small hand held reflector
Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a shoot?
I’m often out on grey days when nothing happens with light other than it falls vertically down from the sky. The reflector allows me to push some of that falling light back into the subjects’ eye.
What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?
Not really applicable. I don’t use any other accessory.
How important is Photoshop in your final images?
It’s vital. I use it predominantly to lighten and darken an image in specific areas. It’s my digital dark room.
What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
Dodge and burn tool.
Are you a MAC or PC lover?
Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on?
Just moved from Canon to Nikon (for the Nikon’s overwhelming resolution qualities) don’t regret it for a second. No more purchases planned for the time being.
Can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow?
It’s an emotional experience. I’m out on the street, not to shoot portraits; more to take refuse from my own personal loneliness. The people I meet I genuinely make profound connections with. I like to say I fall in love with each one in a strange kind of way. The final photographs are if you like the act of saying goodbye. I sit in tears whilst processing and linger probably way longer than I need to.
How do you feel about cropping an image?
I always crop my image square.
What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such great imagery?
Life. Stuff that has happened to me. Pieces I’ve taken from people I have loved and love. I pour all of those experiences and feelings into my final piece.
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
I’m never happier than when I’m out on the street. Of course there are people I connect with on a deeper level that others perhaps. Margo in Miami for example. Her story resonated with me for deeply personal reasons and the degeneration into what she had become truly shocked me. I wanted to save her. I still do. How do you save somebody from himself or herself?
Do you have an assistant? If so why?
No. It’s just about my personal journey and me on the street. Nothing can ever interfere with that.
Where would be your dream destination assignment?
The slums of Rio under the shadow of Christ the Redeemer.
What is your favourite image you have shot recently? Can you describe its creation in regards to location, lighting, composition etc., also your thoughts when creating the image and what it means to you?
I spent my Christmas and New Year on the streets of LA. Skid Row, specifically. I was up early on New Years day (6am) and was watching a line of maybe two hundred people waiting patiently to be handed out sandwiches and coffee. I noticed this young woman. Her eyes seem to reveal an incredible depth of despair and confusion. We talked. Mostly about shit that didn’t matter. Her vulnerability overwhelmed me. As I was leaving a man stopped me and said, “I watched her one day just stand in the rain. Just stand there. Her eyes transfixed into space. God is taking care of her. He has to be” I’m incredibly sensitive about this image. I haven’t gotten over her. I’m still in “love” if you like.
What do you think of the photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
I’m not the kind of “photographer” that cares to be honest. I’m incredibly insular when it comes to my awareness of what is going on in the industry. I do what I do…. and I’m happy to leave it at that.
A photographer who inspires you?
A Russian photographer called Katarina Smuraga https://www.flickr.com/photos/katarina_smuraga/
A website and/or blog you visit often?
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
Stefan Vanfleeteran. His images are deeply personal. He feels his subjects. His series on the Tour of Flanders bicycle race for example, comes from within. He knows, as any cyclist would tell you, that the sport is the purest and closest thing to being in Heaven on earth. He captures the spirituality of that sentiment because he understands it.
One way you market your business?
I’ve always used social media to get my images out there.
How important is an awesome website for your business?
I don’t have a website.
Are you currently working on a personal project?
Indeed. “Synergy”, my collaboration gallery show with the famous French street stencilist, Jef Aerosol, begins on the 28th January in London. It’s being held at the French Art Studio, 58 Gloucester Road, London, SW7 4QT and runs until the 25th February.
Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph?
I’m happy with what I’m doing but I’ve always said I would love to shoot Kristin Scott Thomas. She exudes pure femininity in the most enchanting way. I’d love to capture that on my camera.
What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue photography?
I never really pursued photography. What I am and what I have become is a direct product of life. Of love. It’s all just happened. I firmly believe if you have an open heart then good things will happen. These things should never be forced. That’s the advice I’d give.
Can you tell us the true basis of your inspiration?
Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?
I had no control over it. I couldn’t have done anything differently even if I wanted to.
I’ve learned the most from…
The people I have met on the street of course. They are the salt of the earth. Those with nothing give everything. I owe my own sanity to them.
What talent would you most like to have?
The ability to save somebody from himself or herself.
Something you’re still learning?
That I may never actually be able to save somebody from himself or herself.
Something that is overrated?
Drugs. The things I’ve seen…. the places I’ve been…. nothing’ glam about coke or heroin. Never even dabble.
Something you’re saving up for?
My daughter's future.
Your favourite film (movie) of all time?
To the Wonder. Brings me to my knees.
First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Sort the mess of Skid Row. The numbers out there are mind blowing. The missions are there to help but I can’t help feel that they exaggerate the problem. They are magnets for the homeless population across the USA. A blessing and a curse in some respects.
What photographic ambitions have you not yet achieved?
I’m over achieving. I promise you.
What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
Be happy. Be loved.
And the last question, if you had one wish…
Resolve financial inequality. The “haves” really have no idea what its like to be the “the have not’s” hopefully my photographs can go some way to putting that into perspective.
Oh one more, if someone said ‘How can I be the next Lee Jeffries?’ What would you say?
People see my images and perhaps quite naturally, want to be able to do the same. They fail to realize the pain, utter loneliness and personal emotional investment that has gone into each and every one. That’s the bit the imitators fail on. They concentrate on style rather than substance. Do it the other way around guys. Be honest in that respect. There are no short cuts in life and you have to be prepared for the personal sacrifice and have a genuine reason for it other than “I want to be a photographer”…
Thanks for the interview dude. Much appreciated. - Crash Taylor
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