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The Monochromatic Vision of Gianna Leo Falcon

To create her haunting, contorted stills, the NYU student and photographer strips color and subject down to their barest forms.

Born and raised in New York City, Gianna Leo Falcon is a New York-based photographer currently attending New York University as a Mental Health major.

Although photography had been a mere pastime in her early years, Falcon came to realize that by dabbling more in the visual arts, she found herself enamored with the medium. Falcon spoke with “Study Breaks” about her work, her style and her plans for the future.

Aliyah Thomas: When and how did you get into photography?

Gianna Leo Falcon: I started shooting just out of interest when I was about fourteen or fifteen—I had a camera and I took some pictures. But it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I started to become more interested and, over the past five to ten years, I’ve kind of taught myself photography and started to build it up as a passion.

AT: The photos on your website are amazing. I’d imagine that it takes some editing to get them the way you want them to look.

GF: Very limited. Very minimal editing.

The Monochromatic Vision of Gianna Leo Falcon
A photo by Falcon

AT: Really? That’s interesting. Do you have a specific method for post-processing?

GF: Exactly. I already have a method, so it doesn’t take me very long.

AT: Do you use any kind of editing software?

GF: Capture One.

AT: A lot of your photos utilize monochrome. Is there a reason why you lean toward black and white as opposed to color?

GF: No, just aesthetic. I like the way that it looks better. And it’s a lot easier to match something or—how do I explain it? So, especially when you’re doing fine art nudes, I feel like black and white gives you more leeway to be aggressive with an image without it looking real, because monochrome is not reality.

AT: Speaking of monochrome, there’s your “Visual Diaries” photoset. Is there a story behind that?

GF: They’re just visual diaries. Just kind of like a look into my mind.

AT: That photoset and a lot of your other work is comprised mostly of people. You seem naturally inclined to photographing them, but are there other things that strike you?

GF: No. That’s it really. People are interesting.

AT: So, sort of in the same token, what is the perfect picture to you? Is there a “perfect” photo you could take?

GF: Um, I don’t know if I ever really thought about it like that. I don’t actually know if I can answer that question for you. It’s more like a feeling, or like I just felt that we really nailed it or I was on that day and I took a really good photo, but I can’t imagine the best picture. It’s just about how the photo makes me feel, I guess.

The Monochromatic Vision of Gianna Leo Falcon
A photo by Falcon

AT: How would you advise someone with no solid experience with images to get into photography? I hear, “Pick up a camera and take pictures,” but do you have any other advice? 

GF: No. That’s the most important thing that a photographer can do: To spend time with their camera. It’s like the only thing that’s gonna make you better—taking photos, making mistakes, learning from your mistakes. It’s not just taking photos, but it’s processing them, editing them, becoming familiar with your camera, watching YouTube videos. Like really getting to know your camera so that it can become almost like a second nature, you know?

AT: Yeah, definitely. So if you could go in any direction you wanted to with photography, would it take you somewhere other than where you are now? Are you content with the work that you’re doing?

GF: I have a ten-year plan. I’d like to have books of my work published and have really proper gallery openings where I’d have representation, so that is certainly a dream of mine. But I’m not in a rush. I don’t think artists are made overnight, and I think I’m doing pretty well in the presence of my contemporaries and people that I admire. So I mean, I’m not content with where I am, but I think that I’m in an okay place.

AT: Are there any photographers who really influence you to do better for yourself? 

GF: Oh, definitely! There’s a photographer named Sally Mann, and there’s also Francesca Woodman, but mostly Sally Mann. And I’ve also been in the company of some pretty talented artists as well, so I feel kind of inspired by some of my friends. And also sometimes, to be honest with you, I try not to look at too much photography because I don’t want to get influenced. I don’t want to look at something and want to copy it. All of a sudden, the lines are blurred. Sometimes it’s nice to kind of keep your palette empty, you know? You have to just go with what you want to do in your mind.

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Aliyah Thomas

Mount Saint Mary College

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