JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you want to be growing up?
KATJA DE LEÓN: When I was a kid I wanted to be everything. I still do. When I was 16 I decided to become a photographer. But before then it was actress, singer, writer… Occasionally I would go through an identity crises, want to be a doctor or a marine biologist. In reality I wanted to be neither of those things. I liked the pictures of whales in books, I watched too many medical dramas on tv… Now, I am a photographer, but I want to be all those other things too.
JC: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
KDL: I’m inspired by the Pre Raphaelites and obsessed with shadows. Yesterday I liked the sound of a plane and the sight of a seagull. That was very inspiring.
JC: What are you up to right now?
KDL: Well… too many things. As usual my eyes are too big for my stomach. I want to learn as many languages as I can while I still can, I’m writing a film with a friend of mine, starting a small online company that will hopefully become a big one… As for the photography, I’m working on a few new portrait series. My biggest challenge at the moment is parallel parking.
JC: Have you had mentors along the way?
KDL: I did and do. A lovely young man by the name of Brian Van Wyk has been incredibly kind and helpful. My friend Casey Bennett, a portrait photographer in Victoria, BC, has been a great sounding board and advice-giver. As well as Collin Vine, an entrepreneur I met on my travels (he co-founded Zirtual). He’s helped me so much too.
JC: Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you?
KDL: I’ve actually just moved to Cape Town. My feet have not yet touched the ground… but… life is beautiful here. I can walk to the beach, I have an endless list of potential locations for shoots. The people are so friendly, the city is so alive. I’m buzzing. I feel like I can do anything.
JC: One piece of advice to photography graduates?
KDL: I didn’t go to university, but I would say trust your intuition.
JC: If all else fails - what is your plan B?
KDL: Well, thing is… There is no plan A. If I fail, if things don’t work out, I’d like to think I could move on to something better. I think… maybe making movies would be plan A, and I really hope that plan doesn’t collapse. But no problem is permanent. Nothing is. I’m laughing now because I haven’t answered your question. Hmm. If the film making thing doesn’t work out I’ll… keep trying until it does.
JC: Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community?
KDL: It’s essential. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, to be part of my own creative tribe. Connection is everything.