Landon Speers is a 31 year-old artist born in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and grew up in Alberta. Now based in Brooklyn, USA, he makes music alongside his freelance photography job. His last series Wild Rose combines nature portraits and ambient soundtracks together.
How did you get interested in photography and why did you pick photography as a medium and form of expression?
One of my older brothers ran into some trying times & had to move back in with my parents when I was in the middle of high school. I’d shared a bedroom with siblings most of my youth & so while I wasn’t pleased that the only available space was in my bedroom, I didn’t really have much of a say. So with him came all of his things. He’d won a small point & shoot camera during a raffle at his work so it ended up just floating around the room all the time. I started taking it out with me during wanders & bike rides snapping stuff as I went.
At the time I also was getting into the punk scene in Edmonton & as much as my parents were resistant at first, they eventually realized that some of their preconceived notions were unfounded & let me explore my curiosities there.
“There’s a sense of whimsy I’d like to keep in tact with the project so adhering to that seems fitting”.
Having grown up in a conservative home, in a religion I did not identify with made for a head long run into a community I felt much more aligned with. I started saving up my meager grocery store pay cheques & borrowed a bit of cash from my parents to buy my first camera. I took photos of everything & it quickly became a way for me to meet new people, places & satiate curiosity in the unfamiliar. That permission I felt to explore & push myself has been a central force in driving me forward.
Ultimately I’d inadvertently discovered that having a camera gave that curiosity some purpose & it’s largely the exposure to the unfamiliar I relish the most. I’ve always been a pretty sensory person so while I strive to imbue my work with purpose & intent, it’s also a pretty selfish act for my own desires rather than some really calculated expression.
Introduce us to your series Wild Rose
After visiting my hometown exclusively during winter for several years in a row, I finally got around to spending some time there in autumn & was quickly reminded how striking & beautiful it’s landscape is. At the time, I was also reflecting on the response I had to placing myself in nature more frequently after a few years of living in New York where it can be hard to do so. Having been caught up with a lot of portrait work & the constant hum of the city, I’d forgotten the role being in nature once played in my life. With all that coming to a head, I decided that returning to it would require some focused intent & purpose.
Visually I was really interested in Dutch & Flemish pastoral paintings & the ability they have to impart these feeling of presence through use of colour, depth & toning. It really resonated with me & the idea of pairing it with an approach to photos that was akin to my portraits seemed like an exciting contrast. The idea formed to personify these elements of nature & then present them with a look that adhered to classic landscape painting that read as quiet & meditative. I’d taken a fairly substantial break from making music as well & had just started to play with new ideas at the time. Having kept the two fairly separate until then & reflecting on the focus I wanted to have with a return, there was an inherent draw to combine the two in a way I’d avoided in the past. I always have seen music as a very visual thing & also love score music so having them gestate to one end seemed like a fitting return to both.
Where did you take these photographs? What do these places (and subjects) represent for you?
I’ve intentionally avoided speaking too much on the geography of these photos publicly. The locations span through out various places in North America & while some locales seem more obvious to folks, others could be any where that resembles something familiar to the viewer & I’d prefer to keep it that way.
The places represent some escape, respite & peace to me. Having them remain unknown to others might offer the same when viewing. There’s a sense of whimsy I’d like to keep in tact with the project so adhering to that seems fitting.
Was your portraiture approach an intent to personify these landscapes?
Entirely yes. I wanted to have the process be about me placing myself in environments & being struck by particular elements in nature in the same way I would a person I encountered on the street. There was a desire to practice awareness in my surroundings that started in nature, that I’d then carry back to urban spaces to seek out the same things there. I found it made my time in the city a bit more peaceful & also imparted some presence in my daily life through that approach. There were aspects about this I’d noticed in the past but never really was conscious about then. There’s one particular park here in Brooklyn that is my favourite to visit & a few trees that I really enjoy checking up on through the years to see how they’ve changed & refer back to older photos of them in younger states.
How photography has nourished your music, what relationship do these two mediums exert on each other?
I think it’s pretty common to be interested in different mediums, but I think the fact that I’ve mostly treated making music as a passion project with little expectation has allowed me to enjoy it as a kind of escapist retreat. Its felt like a safe space to lose myself in and after the fact I’m able to return to my normal flow with a renewed outlook. It’s been advantageous in that it’s still creative & productive, but think because it engages different parts of my brain, my more pragmatic side can take a needed pause. Much of it ends up being pretty impulsive & spontaneous so ultimately has formed this sort of meditative quality that I really appreciate.
I think I’m still learning more about how they influence one another, but can say I think music affects my photography more than the other way around. I know inherently I’m drawn to certain things in music & photography that share themes, such as repetition, limited palettes, texture, space, a sense of presence, tension in conjunction with peace, etc. The aural aspects of all of that conjure up visuals in my head that are fun to play with in their own way. I can listen back & see hues, landscapes & imaginary places that lend themselves to exploration & wandering through that mental space.
Because my music is often minimal & sparse, I think it’s lent itself to nuance & subtlety in my visual work as well. I feel like editing an image is similar to mixing or mastering audio, in that it’s a practice of finding the small details that collectively impart the whole with a greater sense of intent.
Was making a book the ultimate goal from the beginning, what did it bring to your project?
It was the end purpose yes. I hadn’t released music in some time & nothing physical in years. I also hadn’t had a project focussed enough yet to feel a book was warranted but knew it had been a goal of mine for a long while. The idea of shedding my music pseudonym & embracing a physical result of both things combining was just a driving force to take it all more seriously & really reflect on my process & entrench the approach I had to the whole project. I intend to have this be the way I release music from now on though. Accompanied by some visual component that’s intentionally made to accompany it.
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