Grace Ann Leadbeater

Location: Florida  Website:  Instagram: @graceannleadbeater

How did you interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?

I was eight years old, standing on my great-uncle’s land in Nova Scotia, Canada. I remember suddenly running inside, asking my parents where a camera was so I could make a photo. They handed me a disposable. Now when I look at that image, it feels so contrived but it felt instinctual at the time—it’s of this wooden fence with wild flowers pouring out in between. My mother still has it framed somewhere. It’s one of her favorite photos of mine.

My current style is a summary of my interactions with the ones I love as well as my sentiments toward everything I come into contact with. I’m embarrassingly nostalgic. I suppose I arrived at it through reading books and laughing and stargazing on the nights of meteor showers but also on the nights when it’s just the stars up there. Sometimes it feels like I’m falling in love with a million things at once and I like to believe that my photographs convey that—falling in love, even if it’s entirely platonic.

How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?

I believe an artist’s relationship to a place is fundamental in order to create something honest. Our surroundings really are reflections of ourselves, so it’s vital to get to know them. Many times when I hated a place, I realized that it was because I was insecure about my art. But I don’t believe that creating work with deep sincerity means the end result is going to translate as pure to anyone who views it. Everyone will project their own assumptions based on their current emotional state and past experiences. However, being honest helps one sleep better at night.

How do you choose your subjects?

I photograph the subjects I love or know I am going to grow to love. Sometimes I’ll just look at a person or place and feel this immense outpouring of sentimentality. It sounds so silly writing out but it’s how I feel. 

Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?

I have formed relationships with so many remarkable people and have admired a lot from afar, but I will keep this concise: Mey Bulucek, Daniel Leadbeater, Nikki Krecicki, Kat Shannon, Andrew Lyman, Alex Cretey Systermans, Jenny Kuhla, Larry Dixon, and Tom Fischer.

Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of? What opportunities are there for artists like yourself in your area?

I am currently in the process of moving to Brooklyn, so I can’t really say yet, but I am sure I’ll become a part of some form of a creative peer group. As for where I am right now, Orlando, I do have one, but it’s so transient. Whenever I came home for a visit during school breaks, I would always get together with friends here and share work or make work. We never attempted any opportunities beyond the space we shared, though. At the time, it felt too intimate to pursue, and that’s okay because I get to share all that work now.

Where do you go to draw inspiration?

Just looking at humans in existence. Sometimes I’ll be talking to my mother or a friend and my body will freeze up and then it’ll feel like I’m waking up on one of those mornings where the sun warms your face just so and the air tastes crisp. I always feel so startled and grateful that I’m in the present with these people and I just want to make photos of them and write about them forever.

I really like how I feel when I’m walking through Amsterdam, too. That city is so pastel and kind and alive; it makes me believe that I’m all of those things as well. As for the Internet, I’m drawn to Mossless’ aesthetic (their Tumblr is wonderful!). Also, I’m inspired when I have clay in my hands. It’s humbling to create something with my hands because it gently reminds me that I, too, was created.

Are there any aspects of the Southern aesthetic that you embrace or ones you consciously avoid?

Since I grew up in central Florida, I don’t think I experienced any expected Southern aesthetics. One aspect that I really cherish, though, is how the sun sets here. It’s like the sky just folds in on itself and this blend of pastel pinks, blues, and purples and blistering reds and oranges emerges. I don’t consciously avoid anything.

Do you feel creatively satisfied?

I do, usually. Of course I’m gonna be in what feels like a perpetual state of growth until I keel over. I’m aware of the fruition within myself—both emotionally and intellectually—as well as that of my environments and how they affect me. Sometimes I get nervous thinking about how I’ll view my current work in five years, but then I realize that I’ve got to make as much work as I can in order to exist. After all, right now I am here.

Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition. 

I recently released an ongoing series about my relationship with the state of Florida: A Mouthful of Sun. What caused me to create it was a group exhibition I was in last spring in Savannah, GA, called Reverence. I printed a lot of Florida photos for the show and everyone kept pointing them out, asking questions or telling me what they liked about them. Their observations made me realize that I had to make this body of work. It’s a little bit about coping and a little bit about forgiveness, but mainly it’s about the love I have for the people in this state.

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