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Leo Amaya

Interview, 10/2023

Hi Leo, tell us something about yourself. Where are you from? When did you start as a photographer?

I am 26 years old, and I live in Tenerife, though I lived in Madrid for a while when I was studying photography at the EFTI school.
I started using my father’s analog camera. He had photo-albums and memories of his youth and that was the trigger. But I officially started when I moved to Madrid in 2013, after breaking up with my couple. I had more time and wanted to distract myself, so I started going out to shoot some photos. At the same time I was studying architecture, and I used to photograph buildings. And after that, I opened an Instagram profile to show what I was doing. That was the motivation I needed to keep doing it.

Are you still studying architecture?

No, I liked it, but I felt like it wasn’t my thing, so I quit. At that time, I went out a lot to take photos and I even worked in Madrid as a wedding photographer. That’s when I started to think that maybe photography was a better option for me. Currently, I am studying animation.

Besides photography, you are known by your role of creating content for YouTube. How did you start? Did it come from curiosity or aspiration to achieve something using YouTube?

Casey Neistat influenced me a lot at that moment. I felt like I wanted to do that. I also discovered Negative Feedback, a YouTuber who was making analog photography videos, and I thought that I could contribute making something different, more entertaining and fun.
At that time I had income doing wedding photography, and I took advantage of the fact that I was going on a trip to places like Morocco, Lanzarote, the North Pole … uploading videos about those trips and about photography.
It’s something I’m happy about because the audience is growing and excited about the content. For me, is a long-term project, although I receive income, there is not enough still.

Do you currently make a living from photography? How do you see yourself, professionally speaking, in the future? Focusing exclusively on photography or doing anything different?

I don’t know if I will be doing only YouTube or both photography and video. I think creating content can help me to learn or other stuff. Besides, the lifestyle I love, it should be something that I could develop anywhere away from home, traveling, surfing…
I always wonder if this will get anywhere or not, especially because I’m focusing a lot on analog photography that may have less market. But this is something I will consider in the future, for now, I would like to continue creating content.

Don’t you consider to work only as a photographer? Exclusively dedicated to photography?

In the past, I wouldn’t have minded working as a wedding photographer, in fact, it is something I have done for 2 years. And the future… Maybe I see myself working as a photographer and combining it with content creation.

Considering your style it seems that you could be a good fashion photographer or being related to the editorial field.

It’s not the first time that someone says that, and I like it, but at the same time it freaks me out a little. A few years ago I had a clearer vision of what to do, making a living with traveling photos a living or something documentary related. Maybe I would see myself more as a travel and nature photographer… something more free connected with my lifestyle. I think the world of fashion doesn’t seem so appealing to me.

Your pictures are really focused on landscape, How has the pandemic affected you? Have you taken advantage of making another kind of photograph that you didn’t consider previously?

During the lockdown it did affect me, I wasn’t able to do anything. I spent time playing the Sims or watching TV shows, and then I decided I wanted to avoid producing anything. Once I could go outside a little, it didn’t affect me much since I live very close to nature. I’ve been able to go out when I wanted, I live near the sea and the mountains. What I currently enjoy the most is making plans to go out into nature because I am on my own and can go without wearing a mask. This year I’ve started to go everywhere by myself, and it makes me happy. I would say that shooting portraits is the part of my work that I can’t do for now.

Do you have any inspiration in photography that has been a great influence on you? Do you inspire in from other photographers or do you have other sources?

There are many, like Todd Hido, Gregory Crewdson… I’ve been very inspired by Martina Matencio (lalovenenoso). On the other hand, I also like what Coke Bartrina is doing, I love his work and encourages me to do something more personal. I’m also passionate about cinema and I save screenshots in my computer of scenes that I like for inspiration. Also a good reference for my work is NOWNESS or IGNANT.

You mix landscape and portraits, two very different styles that make you comfortable. But which one you’d say you enjoy the most? and why?

I like shooting portraits a lot, but it’s true that sometimes it’s a little tricky when I don’t know the person. I find motivation taking photos of people who “tell” me something or want me to take photographs, feeling there is something more. Interesting people and even costumbrist situations, for example, a person working in the studio or making something.

What’s your motivation for going out and taking photos? Is it just a visual thing or are there other reasons? What does photography mean to you?

My main motivation is to generate memories. Lately, I am looking at the photography more as a way of bonding with people, when I love someone or feel something for a person, or even when I enjoy a particular moment.
Shooting a photo of a beautiful landscape or a sunset won’t make any difference from others, and that’s why I love filming and shooting these things, with a context and some kind of importance. On the other hand, I really enjoy it because you can relax and free yourself for a while.

How do you feel creatively speaking? Do you think it’s a good moment for your photography? Do you feel that instagram conditioned the way you take photos?

To be honest, I think I’m a bit stuck now, I keep shooting pictures of things I’m doing, but in a more traditional way.
I’m not conditioned when I work, when I see something I’m interested in, I simply take the picture. Maybe it’s a bit harder deciding what I’m going to share, or if I like it or not, but I usually end uploading it to Instagram and that’s it.

On the other hand, you are also known for your analogue photography projects. Do you still shoot in digital? What do you like most about photographing with analog film?

I don’t refuse working in digital. I prefer film for personal projects because you need to focus on them differently and think about the process and that is a very positive thing to consider. Likewise, I like both, digital and film, and at the end of the day I just like to photograph. I love analogue photography process, sensation when shooting, the sound and the surprise with the pictures after developing. It’s fun and nice.

Professionally and personally speaking, how are you doing lately? Do you have any project you want to tell us about?

On the personal side I’m feeling excellent, and I haven’t felt like that in a long time. I’ve started surfing a lot again and also going out in Tenerife to any corner surrounded by nature.
On a professional side, I’m not having the same income as when I was as a wedding photographer in Madrid but, in the other hand, I’m happy because I’m doing what I like for YouTube. I also make videos for Patreon. I wish my situation was better here since working in the Canary Islands it’s quite complicated sometimes. In the future, I might return to Madrid, but I really would miss the sea…
Now I’m working on a project about Canary Islands landscapes, capturing in some way all those scenes that don’t “exist” because they are multi-exposures.

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