Lens Like an Eye

Photography captures a moment in nature, like an unblinking eye.

Leslie Leong, primarily a nature photographer, seeks to use the camera lens as an extension of her own eyesight. Her images are breathtaking, bright, gorgeous visions of animals and the environment in all their glory.

“The natural environment is my theme. I try to bring scenery into focus, and help people notice how amazing our environment truly is. I incorporate how we view nature, and its beauty, into how we have to behave with it.

“It’s a cooperative state, us and the natural world,” says Leong.

While Leong has only lived in Whitehorse for a year now, she is no stranger to the cold depths of the North. A former Northwest Territories resident turned Australian, she moved back to the Yukon from Australia because she missed the sense of togetherness and the “sometimes intimidating, yet incredibly rich” artistic community in the North.

“I always knew we’d be back in the North. There’s just this supportive feeling here, and as an artist, I am eager to share what I know with my neighbours,” says Leong.

Leong first became interested in photography in 1978, driving along the Dempster Highway before its official opening. “It called out to me. I knew I had to pursue photography after our trip up the Dempster.

Despite her early introduction, she didn’t pursue photography as a career until 1994, when she left her day job as a civil engineer to “pick up something completely different,” she says with a laugh.

Her work led to two books, Northwest Territories themed, one covering the land before the creation of Nunavut, and the other following the white mystery of the land in the Northwest Territories.

Leong took time off from her photography to focus on building a life in Whitehorse, only to discover a show space opening up at Baked Café. With only 10 days to prepare a show, she jumped right back into the artists’ mind space. “I just threw everything together, fortunately I had some canvases already done and just seized the opportunity,” Leong says.

Her images are pure and vivid. One of her favourite pieces in the show are ice-covered trees set with an orange glow, from her time in the Northwest Territories.

Her show at Baked Café runs until Sept. 9. That’s not all Leong has to look forward to, however: part of Leong’s photography focuses on the concept of “seeing” as a camera lens would see. Thus, she teaches art photography courses with an eye toward the conceptual vision of the camera lens and techniques to accomplish that.

“I want to train people to use the camera as their eyes — a tool for creation. When we see as a camera sees, we can create amazing images,” says Leong.

Her courses run with both the City of Whitehorse and Yukon College. For more information, check with the Canada Games Centre and Yukon College. For more images from Leslie Leong, visit her website at www.leslieleong.com.

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