Leah Macdonald is an American photographer and artist. She creates primarily feminine black and white shots. The encaustic technique gives her photographs a dreamy personal style. She enjoys sharing here knowledge in workshops, which are very popular.
When did you discover your passion for photography?
I discovered photography in high school. I was lured in by the darkroom and began my journey with silver printing. Photography connected me with people and gave me an excuse to go places.
How did you come to the world of commercial / fine art photography?
I am an artist and had been working for 10 years as an adjunct photography professor, doing commercial photography on the side. When I got laid off from my teaching job I began doing more commercial work, balancing it with my fine art. My passion is in my creative projects. I primarily photograph women. My art stems from my emotions — I use women to narrate my feelings and the constant changes in life.
Which of your projects/motifs opened the door to the art market/professional market?
My biggest commercial art project was a sponsored show titled In My Body. It brought light to the prevalence of body issues facing women. The show traveled to multiple venues with the main exhibition at the Wexler Gallery in Philadelphia.
Another turning point was when I began teaching encaustic photography workshops. The workshops continue to be very successful. Many photographers crave a new way to express tactile creativity in this digital age where they so often feel a lack of individuality and self-expression. Incorporating encaustic painting techniques into their photography allows the artist’s “hand” to return to the art making process.
Who inspires you most?
That is a really hard question. I love all photography… even when the technical qualities are not quite there… I love art and respect the people who choose to live the life and make art no matter what.
Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman, Larry Sultan… Some of my favorites have passed and left us too soon while the rest of us are still here working on it.
How would you describe your personal photography style?
My style… well, I am Leah. I make work that is raw and edgy, daring. I am constantly changing. I thrive on experimentation but am always strongly rooted in black and white and the female form. I try to be true to my feelings… make the work even if I am unsure of exactly what it is as I’m forming it. I feel like art is a pulse. You can feel it very strongly but then it slips away and gets lost in other noises and distractions of life. When I have inspiration I try to work as much as I can, exhaust the creativity, so when it passes I have achieved something.
What is most challenging about your work/projects?
The unknown. Nothing is secure.
How important is the printed presentation of your works of art?
Important! I am very particular about my materials. I am very lucky to have support from Hahnemuhle. I was very resistant to digital photography at first but the Hahnemuhle paper really won my heart. I really enjoy the papers I am using now and it has helped me to really appreciate digital printing now. I printed my last show on William Turner paper and I just loved it. It was like thick rag paper soaked in black ink… so gritty and deep. Really beautiful!
Which is your favorite Hahnemühle paper and why?
I used to love the 308 Photo Rag… then I met William Turner. It is just amazing! It offers the best blacks and has the most amazing surface. It’s 3-D!
Do you have a dream project you would like to realize sometime?
My dream project is… to be an artist full-time. To live fully in my dream and not have to be distracted by anything else.
I want to continue to challenge myself with photography, master it and fully grasp all that it can do.
I want to work with extreme sunlight… bright light and big heavy shadows. I am rebelling against myself right now and trying something totally new. For years I shot only in flat light. For years and years… just flat light (2/8 at 60). But now I want to shoot underexposed and just let the blacks really take over and be dark. It is a challenge to learn about extremes and how they can work together.
More information about Leah’s work: