This is first in a series of blog posts profiling individuals who decided to pursue their calling in life. They are inspiring and courageous, tapping into that drive we all possess, but sometimes ignore; to step out and follow their dreams. Leanne Staples fits that criteria. I met Leanne on a Shoot New York City Tour she was hosting for photographers, of all levels. What you will notice the second you meet Leanne is her energy and passion. Her tours will leave an imprint on your soul with her love of New York City and those who live and walk its streets. Her specific form of photography is called street photography.
Street photography is a daring art form. It is referred to as candid photography, relying on chance encounters and random interactions with others, as the subject matter. This type of photography needs to balance respect for the unwitting subject, while at the same time having an eye for that chance encounter that captures a millisecond slice of life. She instills the love of the city’s streets and neighborhoods onto each student who participates in one of her 4-hour tours. Photographers are treated to intimate walking journeys, cameras in hand through El Barrio, Chinatown, Harlem, Midtown Manhattan, Dumbo, Long Island City, Bushwick and other urban areas covering all 5 Boroughs.
It’s a great opportunity to meet and share the passion of photography with other like-minded artists. Many, like myself, are looking to expand their knowledge and break down the walls of fear when using complete strangers as subject matter, and as the landscape.
Leanne started Shoot New York City almost 8 years ago as a way of doing what she loves, while working as a NYC tour guide, full-time. Not feeling fulfilled, she went full speed ahead with what she thought was her dream, but in her own words says, I didn’t have a clear picture of what I would be doing and if it was really, possible. She did know this: she wanted to combine her passion of photography and sharing her love for the neighborhoods of New York City, with her students. Her instincts tugged at her, an inner voice was whispering that it was time to start a business that would benefit her economic and emotional well-being. Then the pieces began to fall in place.
Once we step out, there is no turning back and this was the case with Leanne. There were challenges and setbacks, with learning moments that left her undeterred. Confidence was her biggest hurdle and her creative friend. She found fearing about, or worrying on the future, if left unchecked could impede the dream. She instead pushed hard through those feelings, and found the courage to move forward and not look back. She has since experimented with new business ideas to help fuel her company’s expansion. She is exploring book deals and offering different types of workshops that experiment with intentional camera movement and multiple exposures. Her clientele, from around the world, keep coming back for more and love that each session reveals something new they had never been exposed to.
She has learned to tap into confidence with the help of a friend, encouraging her, providing guidance in areas such as technical issues, marketing and pressing her to move forward when she needs it most. She says the lack of confidence is an artistic asset. If I had a bounty of confidence, I wouldn’t work as hard as I do. I strive to do better each time rather than settle. I am always reaching for more.
Advice for others who want to follow their dreams: Are you ready to take on the challenge? If I wasn’t as passionate about what I do, I would have quit a long time ago. If you are passionate, you will find a way to make it work, it may be different from the original image of what you thought you’d be doing, but you’re still doing it.
Leanne likes to push boundaries in her work and encourages her students to do the same. As a student of Leanne’s I found her engaging, warm and her love for the city’s famous neighborhoods inspiring. Yes, she is an expert at technique and how to capture that one-of-a-kind photo, but Leanne’s tour is more than that, it is a love letter to New York. It doesn’t matter where you come from, when you are in one of Leanne’s tours, you are a real New Yorker. The intricate details she shares on the history and daily changes taking place provides each of us a candid view of life, as it unfolds in this ever-evolving city.