Jess Leonard

University: University of the West of England 

Graduation: 2015

Genre: Documentary

Website: www.jess-leonard.weebly.com

Artist StatementFor the project Ember I photographed the aftermath of fires in different locations both in South Wales and Bristol. The stark contrasts created between the dark and burnt out spaces of fire service training centres, which are controlled and sanitised and the sites of real fires, which amongst the collapsed walls and singed ground, hint at what was once there.

By removing items from the scenes of the fires, I aimed to reflect the sense of isolation that a fire can cause. Carefully choosing domestic objects was done in hope of bringing to light the spontaneity of fire and the reality that it could happen to just about anyone.

 
From the series Ember

From the series Ember

 

What are some standout moments from your time at university? Having praise for the success of projects that I began to think weren’t viable.

What are the biggest influences on your photography? I like to try and find a story to tell within my images. For me, content is much more important than the aesthetic of the image. I think people influence my photography most of the time. I like to create work that is an unbiased view of someone else’s life and way of living.

Images from the series Ember

Images from the series Ember

Tell us about any commercial work you have undertaken. I’m yet to have any commercial work of my own style. The only thing I have done in a commercial sense is school photography, which is my current job.

What was it about fires that appealed to you for your project EmberMy dad and two uncles were in the fire service, so it's always been part of my life - yet something I had never really thought about or explored. I began the project hoping for a more intimate look at what goes on behind the doors of the fire station, the mundane jobs that no one thinks of when you think 'fire fighter', but the project took a different turn and I began to be more interested in fire itself and how it affects its surroundings.

 
Images from the series Ember

Images from the series Ember

 

Is your project finished? If not, what is the next step? I think it's something that I am able to come back to. I feel like it wasn't a completely finished body of work and I think that there is a lot more potential with it, but I'd like to let it simmer for a while and revisit it in the future.

Who are the most influential photographers on your practice? I wouldn't say my work is hugely influenced by any particular photographer, but I most certainly appreciate and respect other photographers' work. I am usually drawn to photographers that tell a story through their images. The kind of photographer that creates a project that makes me think 'I wish I could have made that'. Joel Sternfeld has to be mentioned, particularly his series On This Site. Another would be Christian Patterson, who created the book Redheaded Peckerwood, I think that is just ingenious.

As you have recently graduated, how have you found the transition from being a student to a graduate? The transition has been quite a shock to say the least. After graduating I found a job pretty quickly, working as a school photographer, which meant changing from the lazy and, now thinking back, luxuriously free life of a university student to five AM wake up calls every day.

After graduating and getting a full time job, it was clear to see that personal work had to be put on hold for a while. I've not picked my camera up with the thought of producing my own work since leaving uni, which is quite disheartening, but I hope that when I get into a proper routine I will be able to find time to still keep projects going.

 
From the series Ember

From the series Ember

 

What is the next step for you, photographic-wise? I definitely want to continue making work, however I am now waiting for my next bout of inspiration to come along.

What would be your dream project? Something that sent me on a journey around the world.