This post is part of the “Broad Strokes” series, highlighting the work of female photographers and Leica. This exhibition will take place at the Leica Gallery in Los Angeles, from April 2nd until May 2nd as the Official Exhibition of Month of Photography Los Angeles. It includes works from Tanya Alexis, Lesa Amoore, Cira Crowell, Sandra de Keller, Lisa Leone, Eva Napp and Tasya van Ree. We gathered with Cira and talked about her involvement with Broad Strokes, her experience, and her admiration of Leica.
How did you first become interested in Leica?
My grandfather purchased his first III Series Leica in 1939 and Leica was his passion for forty years. Although he passed when I was very young and I did not know him well, I grew up around his seemingly magical collection of cameras and lenses, many of which I still use today. He lost his vision towards the end of his life and it is an honor to continue seeing the world through his lenses, his eyes. He would love knowing the adventures his gear is still having! I’m constantly amazed by the quality and feel of those old R lenses, especially on the robust new SL body.
Photography. What does it mean to you?
Photography is a remarkably intimate conversation, despite it’s ubiquity today. It is a way of instantaneously mirroring love of life and awe of experience with others around the globe. Often the camera sees even more than I do. The camera captures stars beyond the threshold of eyesight or the shy eye of a village woman through her veil. The old lenses balance detail and light phenomena with such grace. I would hope my work transcends genre to convey a deep respect for all life. The more I photograph in different places the more sameness and unity I see in the world. My work ranges from minimalist conceptual imagery to medical clinic and humanitarian documentary, mountaineering/adventure, portraits, natural world, urban environment and night work. A camera is by my side all the time, whether I am trekking 150 Himalayan miles or am at home. It is my practice to see the other side of the world as home and home as the other side of the world. Presence is the unifier, rather than a single genre.
How did you become involved with the Broad Strokes exhibition?
I became involved in “Broad Strokes” by showing up – showing up for every photographic moment, showing up to the hard work of editing, image management and marketing. Showing up for years at galleries, photography gatherings, at Leica in LA, New York, Tokyo and wherever red dots appear, making friends and genuinely appreciating other photographer’s work. Showing up when invited almost out of the blue to “Broad Strokes” by Paris Chong and Cat Jimenez, showing up during installation and of course the high-energy opening, making images during the show then hitting the streets the very next day, camera in hand. Photography is 100% passion, inspiration, technology and way of thinking. Involvement demands presence – showing up all the time.
Please share with us the body of work you’re exhibiting at Broad Strokes – how was the curation process?
I work internationally and “Broad Strokes” offers a glimpse of my ongoing California images, enthusiastically selected by the curator, Paris Chong. The ten pieces range from north to south, urban to landscape, graphic to pictorial, wide angle to detail. All of the images have a deeper story, for example the simple white picket fence in “Indiana Homage” was Dennis Hopper’s fence; we were neighbors for several years on Indiana Avenue and I always felt this sweet/sharp, hospitable/defensive, edgy/iconic bit of Americana symbolized him. “Surf Lotus” is stacked surfboards, a play on the real and idealized bliss of surfing. “West Washington Window” appears as a painterly reflection of palm trees until you notice the bullet hole, a reference to the endless summer/gang culture dichotomy of Venice. A sense of luminous light and deep, grounded shadow unites the seemingly disparate subjects.
You’ve been involved with Leica for a long time now, using your grandfather’s equipment on your many projects. What’s been the evolution of the brand for you? How has it impacted your photography?
Leica is a lifetime interest. I have used many other cameras extensively, including Nikon and the latest Sony systems, but every click is a reminder of why I love Leica. Leica has repeatedly earned my loyalty with the consistency of hardware interface, precision optics and image aesthetics over decades and vastly different camera models. Leicas capture how I see rather than merely what I see. A photographer’s aesthetic should be about strength of vision, not changes in gear, because strength of vision is key to creating a consistent body of work over a lifetime. Leica has a remarkable approach of integration rather than planned obsolescence of it’s own products, for example, integrating the 145 R, M, S and Cine lenses into the new SL system. This has allowed me to use my much-loved older lenses for a classic, consistent look on the newest camera with the most up-to-date functionality.
This exhibition showcases the work of women photographers; how do you envision women’s participation in the field of photography? How has it evolved?
Lastly, what other projects are you working on right now and is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Photography is a practice of constant presence so I am always working on the full range, from conceptual photography to street to travel and humanitarian stories. I believe in the very real power of photography to help people, raising awareness as well as creating beauty. When the 2015 earthquake stuck Nepal my images of the high, remote Gorkha district were organized into Beautiful Resilience, the Enduring Spirit of Upper Gorkha Nepal. Sales were used to re-roof a village affected by the earthquake and provide hundreds of winter blankets, http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Resilience-Cira-Crowell/dp/0996238832. A video of the story is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qOeUiKOzVse. I will be working on fine art images until later this year when my next big project will be a third medical trek, one hundred and fifty miles by foot into Western Nepal with www.nomadsclinic.org. I also just launched a new Instagram micro-blog called LeicaCrush for tips, hacks and thoughts on the SL and life as a longtime Leica user, https://www.instagram.com/leicacrush.
About Cira Crowell:
Cira Crowell (M.A. Savannah College of Art and Design) uses photography, illustration and animation to explore the phenomena of intrinsic and extrinsic light. Her recent travels include Iceland, India, Bhutan, Japan and remote Himalayan Nepal where she has trekked over 350 miles on foot documenting humanitarian missions. Cira recently enjoyed a solo show at Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica and Tibet House US in New York. Her photography books include: 108 Visions: Ladakh During the Kalachakra, Envisioning Ecstasy and Beautiful Resilience: The Enduring Spirit of Upper Gorkha Nepal, a unique archive of pre-earthquake images documenting the beauty and culture of the areas devastated by the massive 2015 Gorkha Quake.
Cira’s connection with Leica began in 1939 when her grandfather purchased a Leica IIIC. Fifty years later she inherited his lifetime love of photography and Leica gear, which she still uses. Whether in the city or on the trail Cira continues to work with Leica cameras because of their unique accuracy handling challenging light situations.