Whether be it in natural landscapes or suburban spaces, Steve Léon Brown works always outdoors capturing the fragility of environments in pure lines and simple compositions. By emptying the scene of people and unnecessary information he suggests a remote and subtle beauty. Each one of his series is born from a journey in which he documents the experiences lived along the way. This is how it makes sense that he considers photography not a profession but a lifestyle.
I read somewhere that you said: “Although photography is my medium, I am not a photographer. I am a visual artist.” Can you explain more about this?
I don’t like to restrict myself within the bracket ‘photographer’. I consider my passion for art and creativity more of a lifestyle than a profession or hobby. The camera for me is purely a tool with which to capture what I see and what I want to show to others. I consider each image or series I make an individual piece of artwork, not a photograph. The term ‘visual artist’ suits my way of thinking, not just artistically but in general; it’s more open to interpretation. Anything can be a piece of visual art if you want it to be.
Do you always take a journey as a starting point for a photo series? Probably Iceland, from where you get your photo series Feral Fjors, was your biggest adventure.
Recently yes, my work has been orientated around journeys. I became fascinated by the idea of reaching a given point A to point B, whether the distance long or short, whether by foot or by bike, but always a physical challenge. Naturally my work became about documenting these experiences, for example Feral Fjords, as you mention. I found this series particularly challenging. Firstly, considering that my visual environment is usually that of an urban landscape, my eye is naturally drawn to architectural line, form, light and shadow. Yet in Iceland I found myself predominately in a natural environment, challenging my perception of subject matter and composition. Secondly challenging was the involuntary fight between photographing and cycling. Feral Fjords was the documentation of a cycling tour around the circumference of Iceland cycling between ten to twelve hours per day, and sometimes more. The series developed into a documentation of the journey itself, the relationships we built amongst each other and the respect we found for the natural yet destructive beauty of Iceland.
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 10.jpg
You have two very defined sides. In Dull Paradise, Unfortunate Season and Bronx of Bratislava your approach is completely architectural whereas in Feral Fjords, for example, you look at nature. Do you feel comfortable in both fields?
I've always had a fascination by the subconscious boundary between urban and natural that forms at the edge of our towns and cities – that suburban fringe where society begins to loosen up and drift back into the wilderness. For this reason I spent a lot of time documenting these areas, usually in the form of housing estates or seasonal neighbourhoods. There is a beautiful coexistence between the somewhat stark uninteresting architecture and the space and movement of nature. In comparison my time in Iceland was a new experience for me photographically. I insisted on photographing with my usual style, but Iceland lacks in terms of infrastructure so I found it very difficult to find a subject matter at first. After some frustration I decided to just let Iceland speak to me and forgot all about my usual restrictions and I was surprisingly pleased with the result.
Let’s talk about the role of colour in your images. In some of them, like in Dull Paradise or Semi-Arid, colour is accentuated and altered. What do you want to convey by post-processing them in this way?
It's not that I am trying to convey anything through the addition of colour, it's more an accompaniment to help realise an idea. Dull Paradise, for instance, is a series documenting a region on the Mediterranean coast of France (Herault). This area is deemed as less established and dull in comparison to its more exuberant neighbours along the Côte D'Azur. I wanted to capture the apparent dullness of this coastal region, picking up on mundane aspects but extenuating the colours to create this kind of hyper-real ‘dull paradise’.
Would you say that you find beauty in ordinary and usual things? Your compositions are subtle, elegant, it seems you do not need heavy compositions or a large number of elements to make them meaningful.
Yes, completely. I've always been photographing what others would consider pointless. The mundane and ordinary is where my eye seems to take me. I like simple compositions with minimal elements. I try not to make images recognisable, devoid of as much information and people as possible; like that each image can be interpreted in its simplest form.
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 4.jpg
By interviewing a few young photographers I noticed that many of them, unexpectedly in a mostly digital world, work with film. What is special about it that you keep taking pictures in analogic?
Film always! I studied using film and I never made the change to digital, I didn’t feel it necessary because it suited my approach to photography. Analogue offers a lot of aspects that digital will never; there is a certain charm when photographing on film, for example the aesthetic, which can be unpredictable yet extremely beautiful. There is also the slower pace of working. I also enjoy not seeing what I am doing; it helps me focusing and not getting distracted from the images I have constructed already in my mind. I’m not a technical person: the simpler the camera, the better. It is more about the images themselves rather than what the image was achieved on. I am not saying that I don’t care about the camera because it is important to have a strong bond with your equipment, since you will go through everything together.
Do you see yourself working on photography for much longer? What are your plans for the future?
I never see myself not working on photography; through photography I am creating a time capsule of my time on this planet, a window into what captivated me. Like I said before, photography is a lifestyle, I am always seeking new stories, new adventures to document and share with whoever wants to see them. My plan is to keep working and sharing, building myself as a defined artist. I would like to plan some more long-distance journeys by bicycle with coinciding narratives. I'd also like to start a body of work focusing on Eastern Europe. I visited Romania in the past and it has intrigued me ever since.
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 7.jpg
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 13.jpg
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 14.jpg
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine  .jpg
Steveleonbrown Metalmagazine 11.jpg