Mandy Lea, a nomadic photographer who describes herself as being from Austin by way of Colorado, left a traditional lifestyle to pursue her passion.
The 33-year-old Lea spoke to members of the Brownwood Art Association’s Photo Group Saturday, explaining how she made the jump from a typical lifestyle to exploring and documenting the beauty around her.
“Photography was my passion, but I was afraid if I did only that, it would become like work,” Lea told Photo Group members. As she found out, it didn’t.
Lea first became interested in photography as a teenager, but studied the Chinese language in college and lived in China for two years.
“I was married and we were about to buy a house, and that’s when it happened,” Lea said.
She decided that life wasn’t for her. She got a divorce and began a career in photographer. After 10 years at Precision Camera and Video in Austin, she started her trek, living out of a teardrop trailer hooked behind a Jeep.
“When I’m asked who I am, I first say I’m a photographer,” Lea said. “The next thing I am is an artist. I hope you are artists, too, whether it’s in music or anything else. I’m also a storyteller, and I hope one of my stories will feed your passion.”
Lea described her photography as 40 percent technical — the types of equipment she uses and the skills to use them — then 20 percent editing, and 40 percent passion.
“I see photography as being in touch with your feelings,” Lea explained, “and then taking those emotions and somehow making them flow through the photograph to the viewer. I think that is the reason why people are drawn to my work. There are a lot of good photographers out there who understand the technical side but don’t know that happiness.
“I encourage you to be happy. If you are happy, your work is going to show that.”
She challenged members of the group to do what she does — use photography to document the beauty around them to experience everyday moments, whether secluded in nature or while adventuring with friends.
“You don’t have to move from home or travel great distances,” she said. “Just go walking. Take active trips. Every artist has a passion.”
Lea said her hope is that her photography will inspire others to create an artistic vision of their own experiences. She has even developed a mission statement: “Show people things they wouldn’t normally see, to make people do things they wouldn’t normally do.”
“But you have to allow yourself to trust what you thought would never happen,” she added. “That’s a huge step — like going from zero to one, or going from thinking it’s impossible to happen to thinking it could happen.”
She showed an image, which is also on the home page of her website www.mandyleaphoto.com, that Lea said represents the moment that became a turning point for her. Her photos are posted for viewing online, and are available for purchase.
“If you remember and think about one thing I say today for the coming week, and it motivates you, then I’ve been a success,” Lea said.
Members of Lea’s audience were mostly members of the Photo Group and the Brownwood Art Association, but two who follow Mandy online traveled from Mansfield to hear her presentation.
The program was part of a month-long focus on photography at the Art Center, 215 Fisk. An exhibit of Photo Group members’ works continues on display this week.