Freeze Frame: A Journey of a Street Photographer

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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.

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Leanne Staples, owner of Shoot New York City, captured in her element–mid vision, taking in her next subject.

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.

Bowery Break
Bowery Break – Leanne offers regular street photography workshops and private photo tours in Chinatown, Manhattan. It has always been a special neighborhood for her, as it retains a kind of timeless quality which is perfect for street photography.
Connected in Color
Connected in Color – El Barrio or East Harlem is one of the coolest neighborhoods in New York City. There are many independent businesses, really nice street art and the people are very friendly, says Leanne, who holds street photography workshops and photo tours there on a regular basis
Sports Time
Sports Time – The East Village has so much history! Once upon a time when the rents were still cheap there, there were many musicians, artists and writers living there. It is a beautiful neighborhood and I often do photo tours in the East Village–Leanne Staples.
Harlem Derby Day
Harlem Derby Day – Harlem is amazing, says Leanne, adding, The great thing about street photography is how it gives you the opportunity to interact with people you might not normally meet. There is so much humanity in the world and sometimes it’s just next-door. I do regular street photography workshops and photo tours in Harlem.
Little Odessa Stroll
Little Odessa Stroll – Little Odessa is a predominately Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn. The Main Street is under the elevated train and just a few blocks away from the beach. The people there are so unique and I love to photograph it. I do have workshops there from time to time as well as private photo tours.–Leanne Staples.
Helmut Lang Taxi
Helmut Lang Taxi – Soho is a very hip neighborhood. The beautiful architecture and the Belgian Brick streets makes it so charming. Soho is one designer store after another and people go to Soho all dressed up to go shopping there. It makes for some great street photography. I have regular street photography workshops and photo tours there.–Leanne Staples.
Diamond Exchange
Diamond Exchange – Midtown Manhattan with the hustle and bustle of the city makes for great street photography. I do regular street photography workshops in Midtown.–Leanne Staples.
West 33rd Street
March 10 Midtown Manhattan Street Photography Workshop (above photo is West 33rd Street)
in Bushwick
March 17 Bushwick Street Art & Creative Photography Workshop ( above photo taken in Bushwick)
Just Now News
1 April (Easter Sunday) Harlem Street Photography Workshop (above photo Just Now News)


6 Replies to “Freeze Frame: A Journey of a Street Photographer”

  1. Great post and inspiring writing. She sounds so interesting and the photos you shared are amazing I remember when you took that workshop in the city. Your photos about people on the street were different and so real. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thank you so much!! I so loved attending her class, it is wonderful to experience the neighborhoods of NYC from the ground level, on foot. She is a wealth of information on both her craft and the history of the city. Plus, she is a lot of fun to be around! It’s a great time…you would love it.

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