Woman Crush Wednesday: Grace Ann Leadbeater
Interview by Sophie Hur
You’re a beautiful writer, Grace Ann! Are the pieces of writing included in your series, Pray For Me, preplanned artistic choices or are these impulsive thoughts of yours that have been written down on the closest piece of paper to you and if so, what prompted you to incorporate them?
They’re impulsive thoughts. I felt pretty low when I started Pray For Me. I just got so lost in my head that I was scribbling on anything that was close enough in an attempt to get myself out. I guess the frantic writing had to be incorporated in the series—I felt pretty needy, pretty unwavering about that part. And I went with short-form because I couldn’t sit still for long during this time. And through this process, through making this work, I lifted myself up high enough to get out. Things are more jovial these days. I like all the yellow.
How do you find the courage to release these incredibly vulnerable parts of you out into the world? What would be a piece of advice you would give to a young female artist who perhaps feels intimidated by producing pure, honest work?
Oh, by all means, be a private person to an extent. Don’t let people get to your insides too quickly. But also by all means, be open to receiving love. It’s OK to brush the knees of others and to stand too close when you’re telling a story that fills you with utter elation. Don’t be embarrassed about those sorts of things. Embrace your lumbering ways. Write down those things in your phone, on blank paper, on grocery store receipts. Then tell others about them, but only if you want to. And if you do want to, spill your guts into your work.
Your work consists of individuals and places that you hold close relationships with. What is it about these relationships that stimulate you to capture a moment?
Most times my inclination to make an image is unsuspecting. Today at work, I was deep in sickness. You know the deal: coughing, staggering across the room, mouth full of phlegm. In the middle of it all, my friend showed up out of nowhere, at my desk, bearing a bag of age-old remedies: oranges, tea, coconut water, and vitamin C. The gesture gave me a jolt up my spine. I gave him a sloppy, sick-person hug in return. And as I looked at him, I thought, Jeez, I really wanna photograph you now.
What camera do you use and what is your relationship with it? For example, is it your first/favorite camera?
I use a Hasselblad 500c. It’s not my first camera, but it’s my favorite. The way it captures color and light is like some temperamental heaven, I swear. It’s a gives-you-goosebumps type of camera.
I’m curious… Did you write a lot before you picked up a camera or was it photography that stirred you to write?
I started writing eagerly at six, and photographing at eight. I had a bout with reading and writing and stewed over the struggle for longer than necessary (it wasn’t until I was ten or so that I could read without anyone’s guidance). Even so, something nudged at me to keep at writing. I used to write letters to my cousin Jubilee. That pen pal relationship lasted for ten years. It kept me writing no matter what was happening around me. I think it's what got me into it, along with my parents constantly gifting me Composition Books. I still have every letter from Jubilee—they’re filled with all kinds of stickers. My favorites are the Lisa Frank and cherub ones.
Describe your creative process in one word.
If you could teach one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
How listening to others with earnest will allow us to better understand astrophysics.
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
The last book I read that weighed on me was The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. I thought I had moxie until I read Mary’s childhood tales—sheesh. You want your vitals shot out? To lose some sleep as you roll in these retellings? Then read the book.
And sometimes after these moments, I make work and it’s awful, but sometimes it’s really good.
What is the most played song in your music library?
“Gustavo (Live)” by Mark Kozelek.
How do you take your coffee?
With soy milk. (Please no one email me expressing concern about my consumption of a soy product. I’m fond of moderation, and soy milk is absolutely delicious.)