This American Life – Crista Leonard

Crista Leonard and her camera took a road trip from LA to Portland last year and the results are pleasing to our eyes and soothing to our souls

Interview by Sam Haddad, photography by Crista Leonard

Hey Crista, so how did your road trip come about?
Hello…! I went over to the States to be a part of the presentation of the Element Eden origins of Eden video which was held in a sort of secret garden type location with white tigers, exotic birds…it was pretty amazing. Since I’d crossed an ocean to be there I figured I might as well stay on and explore.

What was your route?
We started off in LA, drove on the 101 through Big Sur (very annoying route to take with a photographer, I stopped every 100 metres), spent the night in Santa Cruz and then onto San Francisco. I spent a week milling about SF and then went onto Oregon via the Golden Gate Bridge ending up in Portland. I was supposed to continue the road trip through to Colorado but I crashed my cousin’s car…. shit happens. I ended the last part of my trip on the plane, Colorado, Wyoming and New York.

Did you have any pre-conceived ideas of what you wanted to shoot?
No not at all, I just wanted to document what was around me, which was incredibly liberating, no moodboards there!

Fast food establishments seemed to figure a few times, tell us about that?
Ha ha true! I guess it’s a European’s fascination with this fast food nation. I loved the William Eggleston colours and kitshness.

What else do you think is quintessentially American in 2012?
Internet censorship apparently? Republicans on a rampage? I love the US though, the cities are awash with creativity, people are educated, polite.

What kind of people did you meet on the trip?
Amazing ones…from hip Californians, to Wyoming Cowboys to mellow Portland artists and sassy New Yorkers. Actually I had an amazing experience in Wyoming and, this is terrible to admit, but I didn’t have my camera on me! I went to a bar with an original bullet hole above the bar from back in the day, and I ended up having Roller Derby girls as bodyguards (roller derby is this super aggressive sport where girls basically hit and push each other to the ground) ruled over by this crazy proper cowboy whose grandfather had been the sheriff of the city, Laramie.

What were the highlights?
Watching the sunset over the Hollywood hills, sleeping on a beach in Big Sur, watching pelicans fly over Encinitas, climbing up a tree drunk in San Diego, ending up in a dodgy bar in Oakland, getting lost in San Francisco, everything about Portland, the cowboy roller derby night in Laramie, deciding that I had to move to New York the moment I landed.

And any lowlights?
Yep, crashing my cousin’s car was definitely shitty, I went into the back of a beautiful vintage Saab and all I could say to him over and over was “I’m so sorry, your car is beautiful” and there were lonely moments where I’d be travelling alone but those moments are good too.

Do you have anymore photo trips in the pipeline for this year?
I would love to plan some more trips this year…as usual everything depends on finances so let’s see what happens, but I want to do a road trip through Norway, that would be good.

Crista is an Element Eden Advocate

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