Love, Faith, & Magic. The mobile art of Erin Leight by Todd L
“What is soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room.” – Ray Charles.
This quote, like many others, accompanies the work of Pennsylvania mobile artist Erin Leight. Her eye for composition, combined with her ability to reach us on an emotional level, imbues her work with soul, and is presented with sincerity. Whether the subject matter is landscape, architecture, or still life, she has passion & patience, and accents the greater aspects of humankind.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Erin and ask her few questions about herself and her mobile photography. Here is her story.
Todd: Would you mind sharing a little bit about yourself, including how you got your start with mobile photography?
Erin: Since an early age, I’ve always felt it wasn’t truly a good day unless I created something new. My fascination with type began when my parents gave me a calligraphy set at the age of 8. I wrote and illustrated stories from an early age and realized how words could enhance an image, and vice versa. I collected strange and interesting trinkets and arranged them in still lifes just because it was satisfying. When I look back on my childhood, I realize it was the precursor for what I now do with my mobile photography.
I was formally trained in journalism and advertising copywriting. I saw it as a way for my creativity to be profitable. I wrote scripts for print, radio and tv ads and did voiceover work for a few years before realizing my heart was more in the creative design aspect of advertising. I bought a Mac, taught myself the basics of design and jumped headlong into freelance graphic design. Over the past four years I’ve built a successful custom wedding stationery design business.
As far as my introduction to mobile photography, a little over two years ago a friend said, “I found a great app you should try. Do you take a lot of pictures with your phone?” My answer was a firm, “No.” I downloaded the app anyway and was immediately pulled in by the concept of random and spontaneous creativity that could be instantly shared. Aside from one class in college, I had never dabbled in photography so I was a virtual newcomer to the genre when I began focussing on mobile photography.
I backed away from advertising copywriting because I felt there was a certain level of manipulation involved that I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with. I’m still drawn to the idea that reaching a target market is like solving a puzzle. But I feel like mobile photography allows an opportunity to connect with an audience through emotion and common interests… and allows one to make that connection with a modicum of soul and authenticity. I painstakingly labor over each shot with the hope that what I’ve created will touch people and be meaningful to them.
A Quiet Little Moment Hovering Between Winter and Fall
Todd: How would you say your style has evolved since the very first image you shared?
Erin: I rarely look back at my early Instagram posts, but your question prompted me to revisit and analyze a bit. I seemed to be concerned with composition from the beginning but I was all over the place stylistically. I edited only with IG filters for my first few months… so my style was very raw, primitive and exploratory at best. I snapped what I saw and tried to make it work.
I think my style has evolved to be a bit more refined and focused, with the intent behind each post being that I present something unique to the viewer. If I snap a shot, look at it and think “anyone could snap and post this shot,” then I don’t want to post it. There needs to be an element of something that’s uniquely “my world” in each shot, or it feels somehow unauthentic and unsatisfying to me.
There is not a Sprig of Grass that Shoots Uninteresting to me- Thomas Jefferson
Todd: How do you select objects to feature in your photos?
Erin: I always want the objects to have a little bit of soul, history and meaning to them… an air of timelessness. When I’m doing a word collage, I choose objects that fit the timeless mold, conceptually work and just feel right in the flow of the space.
Todd: Your images are often accompanied by quotations. How do those quotes play into the process of creating an image? Does the quote influence the image, or is it the other way around?
Erin: I always create the image first and seek out words that enhance the meaning of the photo and represent my mood at the time I worked on the shot. If I feel like an image is traditional or bordering on mundane, I tend to put pressure on myself to find words that will lend weight or a deeper meaning to the shot. (I think one of the best examples of making my caption work to fit the image is “Love” in which the V is a wishbone.)
Todd: Although you’ve been focusing on still life more recently, your gallery consists of a great deal of nature and architectural shots. Did they become the catalyst/inspiration for later still life?
Erin: I appreciate the random beauty of nature and the orderliness of architecture. But each one is what it is. I began to feel less and less satisfaction out of shooting something that just is what it is and could be captured by anyone that chooses to shoot it. I get much more creative satisfaction out of manipulating natural and manmade objects to create a sort of orderly randomness.
“There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall.” – Colette
Todd: You have a great command of the formal elements of art: line, shape, space, etc. In addition to being a designer, do you have a background in photography?
Erin: I took a basic art class in 8th grade, one introductory photography class in college, I’m a self-taught graphic designer and illustrator, so any command of the formal elements of art I’ve gained over the years has come from trial and error and sheer instinct. I think I approach photography with a designer’s sensibility. At the same time, I find that mobile photography is helping me refine my eye for detail in all areas of design. What I create through mobile photography combines all the things I love in design and is the most fun I’ve had over the course of my career.
The image above was created by Erin for a very special reason, and is a true example of the power of friendship and community. To find out more please view this link on Instagram and consider making a contribution.
Todd: What are your plans for the future with mobile photography?
Erin: I’m developing a line of stationery using my still life and collage work. My plan is to take it one step further and, once photographed, create framed three dimensional assemblages of the collages.
I’ve started doing commissioned collage work for individuals, nonprofit organizations and businesses. To be able to combine several of my passions and interests and venture down a new career path is an exciting prospect to me.
I’m looking forward to an upcoming collage project for an extremely worthy cause, Watts of Love (@watts_of_love) a global solar lighting nonprofit providing sustainable lighting products to poverty stricken regions in order to vastly improve quality of life. wattsoflove.org
I’m also excited about a mobile photography collage project I just completed for a major printing company that will be revealed at the end of April.
First and foremost I want mobile photography to be a creative escape for me, but I do think mobile photography can bridge a gap between marketing/advertising and artistic expression.