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While many may list their phones or wallets as items they carry with them at all times, for Leiko Manalang it seems her camera takes precedence – even forgetting her wallet when we met. Her camera however, wasn’t forgotten.
“There’s a camera in the boot of my car! It doesn’t ever really leave me,” she says with a laugh.
Having a camera in close proximity may seem unnecessary, but when you consider that Leiko’s love for photography is based around street photography and it’s unpredictable nature, having one with you becomes a necessity.
And for Leiko, street photography is about so much more than capturing someone in their natural habitat, it’s a chance to learn something new about someone unfamiliar.
“Your camera is a great invitation to know someone. Whenever I take a photo of someone I always like to know their story as well,” Leiko says.
“When people take street photography overseas, sometimes they just a snap and then walk off. That’s not how you do it. You want to know someone first, and if they have an interesting story you want to know that. That’s the only way you can get some sort of connection to your image. I hate it when people take a photo and just walk out.”
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Much like her inspirations Gregory Crewdson and Diane Arbus, each one of Leiko’s images tell a story of its subject.
“I take photos to make people feel something, not just to put out an image that looks good,” she says.
Choose any one of Leiko’s images and chances are she can tell you the exact story behind it. One such image is the photo of her friend, who hands spread and covered in paint reveals a large scar along her stomach.
“While we were working at the Workers Club and we were removing the paint, she told me this story how she had three surgeries in the same area,” she says.
“The first surgery was to figure out what was wrong with her, the second surgery was because they fucked up and she had a serious problem and the third one they opened her up because she had a hernia.
“So I was interested and I asked her if she could express how she felt about the situation and she said, ‘What the fuck’ and made the gesture in the photo. I wanted to get a photo of the main thing at fault and her hands showing how she felt.”
From initially not knowing what she wanted to do after graduating from high school, Leiko has since found her passion from a chance opportunity.
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One night while working sound production she was given the opportunity to take photographs of a gig at Bended in Geelong when the regular photographer was off sick.
“I started taking snaps of the night and I fell in with photography through music, and then I got interested in weddings and portraits and all that stuff,” she says.
“It was that moment of realisation where I knew I didn’t want to be in that position again and that’s how I felt about my sound production course. It killed me from what I love doing.”
After dabbling in various forms of photography, including assisting Stevie van der Chys with lifestyle shoots and taking gig photos every weekend since that first time in 2011, Leiko has found what she wants to do with her career: architecture photography.
Studying interior design at the Gordon helped fuel her passion, and as she animatedly dissects one of her architectural images on her phone, her love for architecture is undeniable.
From initially not knowing where she sat career wise in the world, Leiko has certainly found her place and is taking over it one photograph at a time.
Website: leikography.com
Facebook: facebook.com/leikography
Instagram: @leikography
Written by Amanda Sherring