In this 16 Questions About One Photo interview, we look at the work of street and social documentary photographer Leanne Boulton, and, in particular, at the portrait she took of Naziyah, the inspiring woman she met some years ago while roaming the streets of Glasgow in Scotland. Keep on reading to learn more about Leanne, Naziyah, and the art of photographing “strangers.”
1. Please introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do? How long have you been into photography?
My name is Leanne and I live and work as a photographer in Glasgow, Scotland. I was into photography as a child with a hand-me-down compact camera of the era, though I took photography much more seriously in the 90s with a film SLR set-up.
2. In one sentence, please describe what you captured in this shot.
An unplanned street portrait of a young confident woman with her femininity contrasting against the gritty urban backstreet.
3. Why did you select this photo to talk to us about?
March is Women’s History Month and the subject of this photograph is an incredible woman. She is an Aerospace Engineer, Astrophysicist, Martial Arts Expert, Model, Actress, Poet, Writer, Equality Expert and STEM ambassador (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Accomplishing all of this is no mean feat, least of all to do so while being visually impaired.
4. What style of photography would you describe this as and do you typically take photographs in this style?
This is a posed portrait photograph with a stranger that I approached on the streets of Glasgow. So, in terms of style, that would make this a street portrait. I describe myself as a ‘people photographer’ because it is human emotion and interaction that drives my passion for photography. I typically shoot street, social documentary and portrait photography, mostly on location.
5. When and where was this photo taken?
This was taken in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, on March 20th 2019.
6. Was anyone with you when you took this photo?
Just myself and my subject.
7. What equipment did you use?
My trusty Canon 5D Mk III DSLR and EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens combo – this lens is almost permanently attached to my camera. For colour balance I used the X-rite Colorchecker Passport on location to create a perfectly represented colour profile for my initial edit in Adobe Lightroom. I then exported the image to Adobe Photoshop for a frequency separation edit as a light clean-up of the shot.
8. What drew you to take this photo?
I first photographed her in April 2016 as a complete stranger. I approached on the streets of Glasgow. I have since bumped into her many times in the city and she always takes time to chat with me. On this occasion I bumped into her at a point where I had just been scoping out the alleyway as a shooting location and that felt like the perfect marriage for a brief photo shoot.
9. How many attempts did it take to get this shot? How long did it take you to get one that you were satisfied with?
I wouldn’t say that it took any attempts to get this shot specifically because I came away with several shots that matched the vision that I had for her in this location. We spent about ten minutes getting the images and another ten minutes just catching up with each other.
10. Did you edit this photo?
I created a colour profile for the shot with the X-rite Colorchecker Passport and made my initial edit in Adobe Lightroom. This was basic exposure balancing, selective sharpening, noise reduction and some light dodge and burn to life areas that I felt needed a little boost. I then exported to Adobe Photoshop for a very light skin clean-up using frequency separation techniques. I always edit my subjects naturally so I never edit or remove permanent features of who they are and how they look. We all have a natural beauty and I never want to take away from that.
11. What encouraged you to share this photo on Flickr? Did you share it anywhere else?
I share a lot of my street photography and portraiture on Flickr and I usually have this in mind when taking and editing these kind of shots. Naturally I shared the photo with my subject too – she loved it.
12. Did you learn anything in the process of taking, editing, or sharing this photo?
Nothing that stands out in my mind but there were undoubtedly things that I learned. I am constantly learning with each and every shot that I take and edit. Sometimes the lessons learned are big and sometimes they are almost inconsequential, but there is always a lesson learned.
13. Do you remember what you had for breakfast the day you took this photo?
It would have been my usual street photography breakfast, a banana on the way into town and several cups of strong coffee.
14. What would you like people to take away from this photo?
That confidence comes from within and that we all have it within ourselves, we just have to find the catalyst that empowers us.
15. Is there any feedback that you’d like to get on this shot?
I am always grateful for constructive feedback but it isn’t necessary; I am my own worst critic and there are always ways that I can pick apart an image that I have taken. I am always striving to learn and seek that illusive perfection.
16. How can people reading this support your work?
You can follow me on Flickr, find me on Facebook and Twitter and perhaps consider one of my street photography workshops if you are ever in my part of the world (after the current pandemic is over, of course). Thank you for showing an interest in my photography and any support is very gratefully received, always. Stay safe.