ASMP — American Society of Media Photographers

Best of 2017 Winner – Leasha Overturf

By December 31, 2017January 19th, 2018Best of 2017

Chicago, Illinois


First Place – Self Promotion/Personal

© Leasha Overturf

“At one moment, I’m happy with the way I look, and the next moment I’m contemplating what I would change. I don’t mind getting older as I feel smarter with every year. I just don’t want to lose the details.”

ASMP: Can you provide some background on your winning photo?

Leasha Overturf: This is part of a self-portrait project called “The Details of Maintenance.”

I am about details. As I age I fear I will forget the details.

I am the caretaker in my family, and life is about their details and my details. I want beauty to remain, but I am not living in a beautiful place right now. I feel torn. And, I feel tired.

This project is about the continual blur of youth and beauty being in one’s face. At every opening of a magazine there is someone with perfect lips, perfect eyes, the perfect pout. I’m facing up to aging within and the continual change of one’s body.

At one moment, I’m happy with the way I look, and the next moment I’m contemplating what I would change. I don’t mind getting older as I feel smarter with every year. I just don’t want to lose the details.

This project started one evening after 5 hours on high heels. I extracted my feet from my shoes and my once perfect pedicure was scuffed, chipped and my feet were so swollen I could not stop staring at them. It was at that time I picked up my camera and started thinking about my physical changes in a day vs. longer periods of time.

I photographed my half made up face, my hands, my feet, and abstract parts of my body. Over time I started ripping magazines and using them in my photos as well. The magazine tears served as the icon for the “perfect details” in beauty and youth as well as the “torn” conflict I’m often feeling. All of this combined for the project I call The Details of Maintenance.

ASMP: What was your inspiration for taking this photo?

LO: I was going through a period of reflecting on aging, body changes, and giving consideration to the “slick often fake” world of beauty in advertising vs. the real world of how I felt and saw myself within all of it. In addition due to care taking for sick parents I felt I was not paying attention to the details of myself like I normally would. Hence the project title “The Details of Maintenance”.

ASMP: What type of setting inspires you the most?

LO: When working on self-portraits I’m most inspired by interesting hotels with great light. Being in a hotel away from home, helps free my mind from the day to day responsibilities thus my creativity flows. If I’m out working on my portrait projects I’m inspired by public gatherings such as County Fairs or festivals.

ASMP: Is there anything unique about your style or approach?

LO: These images are all created in camera and do not use Photoshop or other digital post effects for the compositions All of the images in this particular project are hand held at arm’s length. Why is that unique? Holding a Canon 5D Mark II with a large 35mm lens, combined with pieces of paper on your face is no easy task. The weight of the camera added to the weight of the emotions I was feeling during the photo sessions.

ASMP: Was there anything unique about the type of lighting you used for this image or series?

LO: I always look for or wait for the natural light coming into a nearby window to be wonderful and bright. I often help create some texture to the light with curtains or shadows.

ASMP: How long have you been shooting this type of photography?

LO: I’ve been shooting self-portraits since I was in college. They have varied over the years. This particular project has been ongoing since 2008.

ASMP: What other photographers’ or artists’ work inspires you?

LO: I’m inspired by many photographers… Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, and Nicolas Nixon to name a few for portrait photography. For street and documentary I’m inspired by Danny Lyon, Larry Clark, Nan Golden and Bruce Davidson to name a few.

ASMP: When did you join ASMP and what do you find most valuable about your membership?

LO: I’ve been a member with ASMP August of 1997! I value the community, networking and the work that ASMP does to protect photographer’s rights. Currently I’m very much enjoying getting to know two powerhouse women in my local chapter. They are both on the board and I very much appreciate their efforts of building interesting monthly events to keep the chapter strong. Their names are Mary Rafferty and Mariah Karson.

ASMP: What kind of gear do you use?

LO: I primarily shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III. But I’m also passionate about my Panasonic Lumix GX1 with a Leica 25mm 1.4 lens given to me by my mentor Paul Elledge who is a huge influence on all of my work as well.

ASMP: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started taking photos?

LO: I would have liked to have an understanding of what it meant to have personal point of view sooner as well as I wish I had been more free in my thinking and not so caught up in technical exercises particularly in college.

ASMP: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your work? 

LO: As E. E. Cummings said, “It takes courage to be nobody but yourself.” I think of all of my work as self-portraits whether it is a self-portrait or whether it is a portrait of someone out on the street. I try to connect to my personal history to make my images more compelling and have more connection. I’m often working on more than one project at a time. For instance I may be doing a self-portrait project while also working on a project about a neighborhood in the town I grew up in. The images are vastly different but still very connected.

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