Story 104: Landon Edwards

What is your backstory?

I am from Jonesboro, Georgia. It's a little town about an hour or so south of Atlanta. I came to Nashville, Tennessee in 2011 and I have resided here ever since.

My upbringing was unconventional. I was homeschooled up until college. I suppose you could say my parents were hippies. The education I received was certainly adequate, but it was hardly traditional. My parents always encouraged my siblings and I towards art and gave us plenty of time in the week to draw, paint, and play. The time I was allowed to watch TV or play video games was very little, especially when I was very young. So I spent a great deal of time outdoors, roaming through the woods and fields near where my family lived, doing what children do: Playing make-believe and creating realities in my mind I was convinced (as much as a one can be) were real. Looking back now, I think they were real in a way.

My mother is a fantastic photographer, and she worked professionally for a few years. I would sometimes assist her with her shoots. Eventually, she gave me an old DSLR and I began experimenting with it when I was eleven years old or so. As the years went on I dabbled in a variety of mediums: Drawing, painting, music, theater, and writing. But the camera remained my primary fixation. Always having the desire to create realities, while also constantly feeling dissatisfied with my technical abilities in other mediums, the camera provided a means of realizing what I imagined in a way nothing else could. I believe that is why the camera has always stuck. Though I write a fair amount and engage with art in several ways, photography is my first love.

Though I’ve been shooting in one way or another for over a decade, it wasn’t until a few years back that my photographic practice really shifted. I encountered the work of people like Andrea Modica, Alec Soth, Irina Rozovsky, and Gregory Crewdson and I was changed. Those photographers, among others, have and continue to, inform my artistic trajectory.

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What camera gear/editing setup do you use?

It has changed a lot over the years, but now I work primarily in 4x5 large-format film. I shoot a fair amount of 120 (and very little 35mm). But ever since I shot my first sheet of 4x5 it is what I always return to for my main work. I process and scan all my film myself. It’s not fancy; just a development tank and some bottles of chemicals in my bathtub. It started as a way to cut costs (especially when I started shooting sheet film). However, it has turned into a vital part of my connection with photography.

As far as scanning goes, I have recently switched to DSLR scanning from the V700 I was using before. I use Lightroom for doing my editing.

A goal of mine is to make darkroom prints again soon. I haven't been able to since I finished college. A friend of mine and I are working to build a darkroom in the house we live in.

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How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

I'm committed to a regular practice of shooting. Even if it's not explicitly for a project, I enjoy driving around with a few sheets of film, the 4x5 camera, and my Pentax 67. Roaming feels good, and I often do it with my dear friend and frequent collaborator, Lucas Eytchison. I suppose I never really stopped being that boy who would wander around the woods.

I photograph what resonates with me on a felt level. Often times it's unplanned (as when I'm wandering) but occasionally it is (as with much of my portraiture). I find that the photographic eye reveals to us what we value; what we see ourselves in. For me, photography serves as a language more precise than words.

Regarding the look of my work, my aim in metering and editing (for color film) is to produce as life-like an image as possible. I feel the nature of large-format aids in creating that look. I am often using the zone system to render the scene as true-to-life as possible.

For black and white, I work a bit differently. I use the zone system to intentionally render the scene differently than it appears in real life. I enjoy making my black and white images intentionally dark. Black and white renders the world in a way we don't see it naturally, and I think intentionally underexposing the film heightens that feeling of otherness.

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Could you tell us the backstory of some of yours photographs?

The series I’m working on now, The Splinters that You Carry, was born out of a lot of the pain and loss I’ve experienced the last couple of years. The making of this work coincided with an intense shift in not only my relationships but my worldview and sense of self also.

What I’ve been learning is that the journey from brokenness to healing is not a linear one like I once thought it was. There’s a relationship between loss and hope that reveals a deep truth about life: We can’t parse out the good from the bad; it’s all one thing. Our dualistic minds crave only what feels good. The reality, I think, is that when we hold space for pain, against the instinct to push it away, it can become the very thing that transforms us.

The Splinters that You Carry, is a body of work about carrying things, and letting them teach us. My aim has been to make photographs that get at that feeling and speak to that complicated dynamic.

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What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

I am very much an aspiring photographer. I try to, as much as possible, remain a student. The best thing I have done for my practice is study. I have noticed that my artistic growth has paralleled my personal, spiritual, and intellectual development. I read my fair share of art and photo theory, but I make a point to read philosophy, poetry, fiction, and many spiritual writings also.

My advice to aspiring photographers is to consume everything they can. I would encourage everyone to take everything into their mouth and taste it and let everything be their teacher.

A very close friend of mine (a songwriter) has taught me a great deal about artistic discipline. He commits to writing for hours, even when it doesn’t feel worthwhile or when inspiration won't come. I am a believer that the best work is made in discipline: Read books, broadly consume art, and make work.

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Landon Edwards

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Story 103: Kalie Krause