In Conversation : Marissa Patrice Leitman Lucky All The Time

Marisa Patrice Leitman is an American photographer and artist currently living in Berlin. Her work has been featured in Dazed Magazine, LIFO Magazine, Booooooom, PH Museum, Waif magazine, KQED, and SF Camera Work’s Forecast 2020. She is a past CO-founder of Hit Gallery in San Fransisco and currently runs Way Out Magazine.

Lucky All the Time was published by aint–bad in the spring of 2021 and is now available for purchase in the shop! 

Lucky All the Time

The photographs in this book make it seem as if you have a camera by your side at all times. Is this the case? Is this what allows you to capture these types of moments?

I had it with me all the time. It’s super heavy-so it was definitely a labour of love. Photographing has always been really important for me in forming relationships. One thing with my camera that I used while shooting this project is that- they’re fucking huge. So when I was shooting some one they knew they where getting shot. I also did have them on my person a lot which is probably why my back is so fucked up.

I think a photo tells as much about the person taking the picture as it does the subject—You can tell a lot about the relationship; even just in a practice way of how close some one is. I’ve always viewed my relationships through the lens of a camera (which perhaps is not the healthiest thing). But I also think the camera has had a presence in those relationships as much as the people do.

While it maybe doesn’t “allow” me anything, I think taking pictures makes me feel more engaged with things on a deeper level. I think there’s a lot more that goes on before the picture or the camera is even a question that allows you to shoot. I don’t really like the analogy of like a camera as a “backstage pass” or whatever , it more guides you to admit your attractions. I think there is a lot more of an exchange happening for it to exist in those simple terms.

Do you consider yourself to be a documentary photographer?

Definitely not. I feel like documentary photography has this association to me of like an ivory tower that someone looks down on to the world; There’s a wall between them and their subjects and they don’t get their hands dirty. I don’t feel so interested in explain “my world” to people who don’t understand it. It’s hard to dissociate photography from showing some kind of truth or something that actually happened yet to my there’s something more artistic to it, almost spiritual in a way. It has a true magic. Yet, I feel more interested in getting at what something felt like than what it looked like. When I take pictures of people it feels like an exchange and a collaboration. It’s somewhere between that line or real and poetic.

Some of the images in the book are very intimate and personal. Are there ever moments or situations that you decide not to make a photograph? Or is nothing off-limits?

Definitely. A lot of the book was happening during these big tragedies like the deaths of my friends or Ghostship and I was really conscious when making the edit of the book to not be trying to show any of those event in a hierarchy. I’m not one of those photographers who can take pictures on someones death bed or something. There is a line that is too far for me. For some there isn’t. Im more interested in representing a pace of life rather than these exact moments. It feels like ice fishing, like there’s a big surface and only somethings get pulled up.

There’s a lot I don’t show. What I do show is always a challenge in my self to go deeper and become more honest with my self and my surroundings but there are experience I feel need no reproduction. I started the project when I was 18 and by the end of it I felt like a totally different person. Even now my life feels totally different, for one I sleep a lot more. This period of like seven years there where a lot of high high and lows lows. When making the edit of the book I never really wanted to transparently show or explain that.

Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into photography? When did you know it was a career path you wanted to pursue?

I’ve done it since I was a kid. I remember having a shitty Polaroid camera (back when you could just buy Polaroid at the drug store) and taking it with me everywhere! I’ve always been interested in photography. My mom says I got it from her because she used to shoot a lot. So maybe it’s in my genes. Maybe I pursued it as a career path because I’m a masochist.

What motivated the move to Berlin? How has that been during the pandemic?

A fucking nightmare in the beginning. I moved in the winter during covid, everything was closed for like the first six months I was here and on top of that my Californian ass definitely didn’t know how to deal with snow at all. Why did I move here?…I have no fucking idea…possibly a massive life mistake? A small existential crisis? Just kidding. I moved because despite really loving the community was from I felt like If I moved anywhere in the states I would just be following a really predictable life path. Anywhere I went I would just be moving from a subset of the group of friends I knew from the Bay. I needed a big change and a challenge and I definitely got what I bargained for.

What do you hope readers take away from your book?

This is always a tricky question. I’m not sure. I think for me personally I always define good work by work I relate to them. So I hope in some ways people can relate to it…but not too much. Because it’s MINE! Just kidding.

Your first photo book has been published! What’s next for you in the photo world and life in general?

Just trying to get through…Just kidding. I’m turning a different direction for a bit. I’m working on launching an online magazine called Way Out, which should be launched in the next month or so. There are conversational style interviews with all sorts of people; from photographers, musicians, perfumers, Dj, painters, One therapist, you name it! We talk to them about the core of what their practice, views on bigger picture things, and everything in between. Everything I do somehow always involves people , I guess I’m just a people person.

To view more of Marissa Leitman’s work please visit her website.

Grab a copy of Lucky All the Time with FREE SHIPPING in the shop!