Yola van Leeuwenkamp has quite the color palette. Her eye for tweaking colors and layering texture – combined with her striking portrait style – has put her among some of Montreal’s most sought-after creatives. She’s also worked with one of our fave clothing designers L’Enfant Roi on one of his recent campaigns. We caught up her recently in between jobs, and this is what she had to say:
LF: You use an interesting color palette in your images. Can you talk a little bit about that?
YL: Color is all around us. I’m not sure what it is about color that makes us feel happy or sad, but in any case, I’m presently collaborating with a few Montreal artists (writers, actors, illustrators and photographers) for a book about an old bordello. This will be very colorful… so will be the next Arcade Fire clip I collaborated on…
LF: You play a lot with texture… what is it that about adding a texture to a photo that changes it for you?
YL: It makes it look more like a painting or just more organic. To me anyways…
LF: Can talk a little bit about the process behind the L’Enfant Roi’s photos?
YL: Well the photographer Mathieu Fortin, a friend of mine, asked me to do the photo retouching of his pictures, knowing that Pier-Yves was going to play with them after, in his own style of painting over & cutting the pictures. We don’t see much of my work, but I’m still proud to have been part of this collaborative work.
LF: What is it about photographing people that intrigues you?
YL: People in everyday life intrigue me. I love observing people in the streets, in parks, at work, eating, playing, partying… Sometimes these people intrigue me so much that I need to capture their beauty.
LF: Do you use film or digital?
YL: Both, but mostly digital (sadly).
LF: Without totally giving away your secrets, can you talk about your process in some of your series Les confins chromatiques. The colors are so beautiful!
YL: I use actual artifacts such as colored smoke and in post-production, I enhance the effect by layering a bunch of other pictures. For the colors, they just come out of my head.
LF: How do the environments play a part in your photography?
YL: They normally influence the model, who then gives me what ever energy the environment inspired in them. Then of course, I find interesting compositions…
LF: You wear many hats as production designer, artistic director, stylist, photographer, illustrator and artist. Can you talk about this?
YL: In the old days, men and women would keep their jobs most of their lives. In our days, we change jobs often. So what I’m saying is that I don’t think I’m much different than other people; I have many jobs that motivate me, but since I have so many, I juggle and I might keep doing them longer. I love my work!
LF: You live in Montreal. How is the creative scene there?
YL: It’s boiling!
LF: Favorite destination or travel stories that you want to share?
YL: I traveled quite a bit in my short life. My three favorite trips where Nagano, Japan in 1998 with my family at the Olympics. An amazing experience! The Japanese are the nicest people. Second favorite trip is my first back pack trip with my best friend Linda in Spain. We were going to visit my uncle in Logroño (Casa Verde) during our two weeks there. But he forgot to pick us up at the bus station, so we decided to go on our own. The cab driver dropped us in a small town, and said it’s that way, pointing to a dark road (it was 3 a.m.). We walked and walked on a dark Spanish countryside road, but we were swept away by the magic of it all, the mountains that resembled castles, the very clear milky way over our heads and scary stories we invented. It can sound childish, but I guess that, at heart, I am still a kid! And finally, my incredible trip to India. A total of three weeks, one week alone and two weeks with my boyfriend, at that time. It was such a culture shock that I cried my first week in the country… but in the end a life changing experience. I absolutely have to go back. My good friend Takur and his family still call me once in a while to ask about me and wonder when I will be back in their country. It’s a promise to them and myself, that I will travel again to those beautiful lands.
LF: What gets you off? Literally or figuratively?
YL: Talent, literally and figuratively.
LF: What inspires you? Favorite art or work?
YL: So many things inspire me. I don’t really have one artist in particular. I am a collector of things – pictures mostly, clothes, old books, textiles, animals, humans in general, light, weird un-useful objects and music of course!
LF: How fast do you live?
YL: I don’t stop!