The Creative Unconscious: What's your name, age, and professional title? Where are you currently employed?
Anthony Ponce De Leon: Anthony Ponce De Leon, Photographer, Self-Employed
TCU: What hobbies do you have outside of your professional field that keep you inspired and motivated to generate personal work? How do they inspire you?
APDL: My professional field is also my most time consuming hobby, so I don't get to turn it off very often. The problem with that is most "inspiration" doesn't happen while I'm working with my camera in hand. Some of it does, and the details don't occur until I'm working with a subject on a location and trying to frame a photo to make everything work, but the fun inspiring nonsense happens when I stop actively thinking about it in terms of photography.
Writing [also] helps [a lot]. Jotting down jokes, idioms, or cheeky anthropomorphisms help keep my imagination active. Tom Robbins is the king of creating incredibly visual stories in just a few sentences. Stop what you're doing and go read Jitterbug Perfume.
Thrift shopping, biking through industrial parks, the woods and people watching are also things that take my mind off photography while still playing with my imagination. I love stories about cowboys, gypsies, indians, mythologies, hobos, pirates, pioneers and vikings. Most of my photographic subjects are characters, so having influences from other creative figures or lifestyles (fantasy or otherwise) really help inspire my work. Particularly characters that live on the cusp of society and nature. Their lifestyles, choices, religions and legends are all a little closer to the dirt and trees and rivers. Nothing lets imagination fly higher than being grounded by choices made in the reality of nature.
There are really boring parts of reality too but when I reach in and tilt it just a little bit, and let my mind wander off for a second, things can get really exciting --photography is a good exercise in that. The only way I really practice that mindset is by consistently applying something imaginative to common things and situations.
TCU: Do you have a hard time balancing being a creative professional and generating personal work that you're proud of?
APDL: I'm a commercial photographer, not a fine art photographer. Yes, I love me some creative freedom on client projects, but I'm also grounded enough to know that there are economic forces behind my actions, that I need dollars to buy things, so I have to put what the client wants before what I want. The compromise is to try and find something in commercial work that I can treat like personal work --making my artistic goals align with client goals.
Having to take gigs that I'm not particularly inspired to work on is an accepted reality of successful freelance artists. Not everyone is so lucky as to be able to make a living as a freelancer. As an artist I have to challenge myself to make something "boring" into something "interesting;" turning photos of candles or pastries or whatever into something I'm excited about and can throw myself into. Getting into the habit of romanticizing everyday circumstances makes it easier to find the interesting parts of seemingly boring situations.
TCU: What time of day do you feel the most creative? What about the most productive?
APDL: I'm a morning person. I make my most creative and productive choices between 6am and 9:30am. I can't concentrate if I know I have to do something later that day, so mornings are pretty important. I almost never go to sleep later than 11pm --being a morning person has changed my lifestyle quite a bit, but I like preserving those early hours for myself. I like being up and at it hours before everyone else, it's my superpower.
TCU: What are your creative goals for the future?
APDL: There's a ceiling on how much someone can do alone. In the future, I want to get into bigger projects with other artists. I love stories, particularly movies, and movies are not solo gigs. I'd like to contribute a creative role in film projects as a writer, creative director, or director of photography.
TCU: Are you working on any personal projects right now? If so, can you share a little bit about your inspiration and your creative process?
APDL: Almost all of my current processes take digital media and attempt to mimic the peculiar antiquities of analog imperfections. I use digital because of its fast workflow and nondestructive nature, but film and alternative processes are just too [random] to replicate perfectly. In the future, I'll be messing around with a few different mixed media techniques.
It's a weird source of inspiration for a visual artist, but Tom Waits is one of my biggest influences currently. I want to make photos that look like he sounds. The raw, creative, casual, humble, wise, humorous, antique, and greasy storytelling pulls all of the triggers at once. You know that feeling when your fever breaks and the aspirin is starting to kick in and maybe you're not gonna die, but you're actually still hallucinating? Isn't that, like, the best feeling in the world? Tom Waits is that.
TCU: Anything else you want to add?
APDL: I've been at this for about four years now. I majored in Political Science, and like so many other graduates, I couldn't find a job in the field I studied. Photography was a side project, then it was supplemental income, then it accidentally became my primary income when I couldn't pay the bills any other way. There is no "made it." It's a constant grind, and I never get to clock out of work. I have scores of professional weaknesses that affect my career that I have to actively compensate for. It's stressful, it's scary, there is no safety net, and there is no map to success. In freelance or starting a business, you have to prepare yourself to find joy and motivation in handling circumstances that cause breakdowns in other folks.
You can find out more about Anthony and see more of his photography at www.poncedeleonphoto.com.