Untitled from the series Still Lives, by Leah Tepper Byrne
A few weeks ago we announced the 2009 Second Edition Hot Shots, an awesome group of photographers who we can't wait to work with! For the next few days we'll be running a Q&A with each of our newly crowned Hot Shots to get to know the people behind the cameras. All this, of course, will lead up to the Hey, Hot Shot! Showcase in early March at Jen Bekman Gallery, followed by solo shows from the year's to-be-declared Ne Plus Ultras.
Today we're kicking off the Q&As with 2009 Second Edition Hot Shot, Leah Tepper Byrne. Aside from graduating from one of the world's top programs in photojournalism, Leah is a performer trained in corporeal mime, a style of acting which emphasizes the creation of drama through body language rather than dialogue. Perhaps this is the source of the intense and silent empathy that seeps from Leah's photographs. Her ongoing series, Still Lives, tells the story of The Children's Village, a 150-year-old residential treatment center for teenage boys in upstate New York. It was these evocative images that caught the eye of our panel of judges and earned her the title of Hot Shot. You can read Leah's bio and artist statement in our previous post about her, but now without further ado, a Q&A with Leah Tepper Byrne:
I was born in Montreal and grew up in Toronto, Canada.
Formal and/or informal education and training:
In undergrad I studied a combination of art history and critical theory, with some studio practice mixed in. When I graduated I was doing a lot of work with kids in difficult circumstances, which led me to a professional training program in trauma studies. That was before I started thinking seriously about photography. I moved to England a few years later, and while I was there a group of forensic anthropologists took me under their wing and trained me in the kind of field photography necessary for exhumations. I was interested in documenting how such efforts can help communities with the mourning process in the aftermath of war. It was fascinating, but at the same time very technical, with little room for creativity. Last year I went back to school to attend the photojournalism and documentary photography program at the International Center of Photography, which I finished in June 2008.
How you pay the bills:
I do a lot of odd jobs, both photography and non-photography-related. I also work at a bar in Brooklyn.
Best advice you ever received as a photographer (and/or as a human):
The most important thing you can do in this life is make yourself happy.
Photograph (or other work of art) that you can't get out of your head, ever:
Untitled, from Case History by Boris Mikhailov
Low Life, by Luc Sante
Top 3 photo-related websites/blogs:
There are so many! The ones I look at tend to rotate, but a few I really like and have been looking at recently are American Suburb X, nofound, and Prison Photography
What project or idea are you working on now?
The work I submitted to Hey, Hot Shot! is part of an ongoing project, so mostly I'm continuing to work on that by collaborating with different organizations in the New York area committed to youth in the juvenile justice and foster care systems.
Thanks to Leah for taking the time to answer our questions! We'll be back with another Q&A with one of our 2009 Second Edition Hot Shots on Wednesday, so stay tuned.