It was a few months ago when American portraitist Sydney Van Leigh Armer moved to New York City after graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography from Mississippi State University. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, the 24-year-old digital content creator and photographer decided to pursue her dreams in photography and fashion after switching her major from Pre-Veterinary Science. Since her career in photography began, Sydney’s work has been published in the Streetcar Creative Arts Journal, a creative journal curated by her alma mater. She has also been featured on well-known fashion blogs such as Black Fashion, Dapper Tomboy, and Hella Thrifty.
When asked what her stay in New York is like, she answered, “I’ve been attending different conferences and events here in New York, and I collaborate with digital influencers. I submit my work to fashion blogs regularly, and I definitely take advantage of my social media platforms.”
Sydney is inspired by many photographers such as Alasdair McLellan, Tyrone Lebon, Mario Testino, and Michael Myers to name a few. According to her website, Sydney’s goal and passion as a creative is guided by her passion to push the envelopes of gender and style, particularly focusing on androgyny. To learn more about Sydney, read our interview below.
Jar: How did you get your start in photography? What inspired or motivated you to pick up a camera?
Sydney: I started relatively young, around 15 years old, but after years of doing what I thought would please others the most, I pursued my own happiness.
Jar: I love looking at your series of work. What are some things you are doing differently now from when you first started?
Sydney: Over time I’ve grown to be more visual than anything. I don’t study my peers; I study professionals, conduct tons of research, and read books. Also, I plan and strategize extensively. I’m deliberate and very particular about my diet. When I say diet, I mean what I’m feeding my mind, body, and spirit.
Jar: How would you describe your style as a photographer?
Sydney: I would say gender bending, minimalistic, and unpretentious describes my style as a photographer.
Jar: What camera do you use and why?
Sydney: I use a Nikon D3100, and it’s the hottest thing since roasted duck! Nikon was the very first camera brand I dedicated time and energy to learning. Nikon lens are the best.
Sydney’s four tips that makes for a great photo:
- Read your camera manual.
- Read more books.
- Be deliberate.
- Never stop shooting.
Jar: My definition of photography is that it’s an art that conveys a certain emotion or moments that are unforgettable. What is your favorite type of photography, and what are some ways you capture the type of emotion you want out of your subject?
Sydney: I love portraits. LOVE. My energy is transferable. I try to cultivate a vibe. (Laughs). I try to make my subject as comfortable as possible. When I’m in the studio, I sometimes ask their favorite genre of music. I’m gentle. The last thing I’d want is for them to be overwhelmed, you know?
Jar: What has your experience been like working as a photographer? How do you go about finding work?
Sydney: Being a working artist in general can be challenging. It can mentally take a toll on you. With nothing being given to you, it forces you out of your comfort zone and you work for everything. I check online job boards religiously; Indeed, NYFA Jobs, and LinkedIn. I’m always researching and applying for different opportunities.
Jar: What are some challenges you have faced as a photographer, and how did you overcome them?
Sydney: There are times where I go through phases of doubting myself and coping with creative blocks. I find myself stepping away for a few hours or giving myself a day. I meditate, cry, read, laugh, lip sync, and watch funny videos of myself.
Jar: What advice do you have for photographers looking to get into the business?
Sydney: Remember that deliberate practice makes great performance. You were created to excel not fail. As my older sister would, “Trust your process.”
“It’s Van Leigh, and it’ll always be. Peace and love forever; over and out!”