Leia Morrison is a 23 year old photographer, based in and working between both West Wales and London.
She caught our eye after working with Hiut Denim, a brand we absolutely love and who we felt she really captured the spirit of. Her work evokes nostalgia; soft, flattering light, beautiful subjects and rugged landscapes come together to create the feeling of endless summer.
We met Leia and models Megan and Freya at the incredible Fforest Farm in Cardigan for a product shoot and had a day filled with laughter, food and, of course, too much coffee, and we caught up with Leia to learn all about photography, inspiration and home.
How long have you been a professional photographer?
I’ve been a photographer for years, but I guess I’ve been working with commissions and things since my second year of uni in 2018. That’s when I started getting jobs.
Where did you go to uni?
Bristol UWE. It had great facilities, I loved it there. I spent a lot of time in the darkroom.
What made you get into photography?
I think it was inevitable because I come from a family of artists. My mum’s a painter and my dad used to work in film, but now is an art festival curator, so it’s in my blood, I guess. I’ve been going to galleries ever since I was a baby, so I think I’ve always absorbed art and it was inevitable that I’d find my own pathway in the art world, I guess.
Who inspires you?
I guess I have to split it up a bit. I could say the people around me; my mum and dad are artists, and my sister.
Then there are my friends from the photography world like Chip Skingley, and Izabelle Dodd, we bounce ideas off each other all the time, so they really are fundamental to my inspiration.
I find a lot of inspiration on Instagram too, Lauren Maccabee and Max Miechowski are amongst my favourite artists.
In the bigger picture, artists like Wolfgang Tillmans, Siân Davey. Mainly photographers—I’ve always been drawn to work with faces in it. But Bill Viola inspires me in a different sort of area of art, especially his exhibition Life Death Rebirth. Everywhere, really. It’s hard for me to pin it down.
What’s your favourite format?
Probably 120 medium format film. I’ve got this huge Mamiya, I love that camera. I only shot digital before uni but my friends have big medium format cameras. I just love it because it’s such a slower way of working, you’re really in the moment. With digital you can have a look and see what you like and what you don’t like. With film, especially one you’re looking down at rather than having it to your face, you’re really in the moment and able to talk to your models. You know you can’t look at it after you’ve taken it so you really take a moment beforehand to look at what’s going on.
Yeah, and you don’t shoot 100 photos at once.
Yes, it’s special. It feels very special now seeing as the price of film’s gone through the roof!
Do you develop your own film?
I don’t anymore. I did at uni but there’s nowhere locally that I can, which is sad because I love it. It’s one of my favourite parts of the process, getting into the darkroom and doing it myself. I’m looking into building a darkroom, so hopefully soon I’ll be back in the dark!
It’s such a mindful process, I love it.
I feel like you’re so connected to your work when you’ve been with it at every stage. There’s a whole process that’s quite intimate, really. You really are part of your photos.
That’s such a nice way to put it. I’d love to try old school photoshop on physical prints. Do the whole process.
It’s funny, isn’t it? We now have the ability to do it so quickly and it’s so easy, but you sort of crave the process back again. You don’t want to skip the steps.
What’s your favourite thing to take photos of?
People. Always people. I just love capturing different lifestyles and personalities. I feel like my objective is always to get the authentic person, so get their personality across rather than something quite stale. I feel like most of the time I’m shooting is spent making the person comfortable to make them less rigid in front of the camera. I like to have something quite relaxed. So I guess—relaxed people are my favourite thing to shoot.
What do you want to try out or do more of?
I’ve never enlarged my own colour film, so that would be really cool.
Otherwise, I do just love working with independent brands, and brands that are just starting out and are trying to have their look and bring it to life.
I love working closely with other people. I love the collaborative side of photography; it’s not necessarily something I haven’t done before, but it’s just what I love to do. That’s always the goal, to meet new people and work with people who are like-minded and have a vision they want to bring to life if that makes sense. The more the merrier. Some of my closest friends now, I met shooting, which is really nice.
What’s your favourite thing about Wales?
Well obviously it’s beautiful; I mean, that goes without saying. The Ceredigion coastline is my favourite place. Whenever I was stressed at uni I would get on the train, come back and go for a swim, which is really nice. I’ve got such a bond with the sea here.
I’m going to say the people again, but there’s such a beautiful pride people have about being Welsh. Especially amongst my friend group, everyone’s just so proud to call it home. Even my friends from uni who aren’t from here, they see it as their second home, and I think it’s just how much of a hub it is. It’s just so friendly. Whether it’s the people or the landscape, with the sea inviting you in; it’s friendly, familiar, warm, cosy.
I’ve only lived here for around five years, but Wales really does feel like home.
It’s very good at doing that! I think it doesn’t take long for it to feel like home, either. In the pandemic, I think a lot of people had to go home and it was very stressful, but I felt so fortunate to be able to come back to Wales. It just feels safe and is everything I love about a place.
What’s your favourite season?
Summer! I love summer. I’m not a winter person. It’s funny because my mum’s work is all about the snow and winter and the cold, and I thrive in the summer. So one of us is always busy making work, which is nice. I used to really hate the winter, but now I can sort of see the beauty in it. I think I’m slowly making my mum like the summer more, which is nice.
I live for the summers, especially in Wales. It’s like a little haven.
And having that clear, warm quality of light all day is incredible.
When the days get longer it’s just the best. You forget in the winter that the days will ever get longer, and then once summer arrives you’re like, what was I ever complaining about? It’s amazing here.
What’s your favourite time of day?
If I’m awake in time, the first light of the day is amazing, from a photography point of view. I love the morning shadows you get. But also the last light. It’s either the beginning or the end of the day. Or both, can I have both?
It’s cliché because I think every photographer would say the golden hour, but especially when you’re on the west coast and the sun’s going down and you’re on the beach, there’s nothing better than that.
What’s your go-to coffee order?
I always sound funny when I order my coffee—I get a decaf oat milk flat white. I feel like such a Karen. I’m too busy and hectic, and if I have any caffeine I’d just be shaking, so I have to get decaf. And I just like oat milk, and flat whites are just the best.