britt k leckman

I have been taking pictures for as long as I can remember. My interest in photography from the start was encouraged and supported by my parents. When I was nine or ten, my mother lent me her Kodak Retina camera to take photos in and around my childhood home in the California coastal town of Seal Beach, located just south of Los Angeles in Orange County. To facilitate my growing interest in photography my parents generously allowed me to pay for my film and processing fees at the local drug store on their charge account.

Being your typical late 1960's surf and beach crazed Southern Californian youngster, I was deeply immersed in surf culture of that time. So naturally I wanted to take photos just like those stunning images I saw in every issue of "Surfer Magazine". Needless to say this was more than a little unrealistic. However, I started to carry the camera around with me when I was about 12 or so, which helped to open my eyes to the shape and form of life around me. That little Retina camera and some of those very early images I took back in those gloriously carefree days of sun and surf survive to this day buried somewhere deep in the bowels of my mother's garage. Dramatic changes came to my life when I was about to enter Middle School, we left the beaches that I loved so much and moved to an unfamiliar life in the mountains of Colorado. In Colorado, as luck would have it I had the good fortune to become associated with the two most important photographic influences in my young life. The first was my High School Photography teacher Hal Jones, and the other was the Canyon Courier Newspaper, where I worked in the Darkroom and on assignment for two years. As I aged and one hopes became more responsible, my father lent (or gave...) me several of his more expensive cameras to use. These included his Voigtlander Vitessa and a beautiful Rollei 2.8F twin lens medium format camera which he bought while we lived in Europe when I was 15. I used the Rollei off and on for nearly a decade, whenever my interests coincided with the more demanding nature of the camera. Alas the Rollie was stolen along with my first Leica while I was working at the National Press Club in Washington DC. This was an event that filled me with grief, the depth of which still surprises me to this day.

Photography has always been a large part of my life, and I have nearly always found myself working in positions that allowed me the opportunity to take photos on the job. When serving with the U.S. Coast Guard aboard the icebreaker Polar Star, and later the USCGC Midgett, I acted as the ship's photographer. This allowed me to get photos of the vessels from perspectives not often encountered by the ships crew, such as from the air, or from the floor of a dry dock. After leaving the service, I took a job as the Audio Visual Services Manager at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. I was able take advantage of the numerous press conferences and special events held in the world renowned club. In 1991/92 I spent a brief period of time in Moscow Russia, just after the fall of Communism, working at the newly formed Moscow International Press Center and Club. That gig didn't last long, but it was fun, and Moscow at that time was rife with interesting photographic possibilities. On my return to the States, I coasted my way through a photography degree while working at Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University.

After all the years flirting with photographic legitimacy, it was not until I was in my 40's that I landed a full time position as a professional photographer. Since 1998 I have been working at the Federal Reserve's headquarters in Washington DC. First employed in the Graphics Section, where I was responsible for all aspects of what was then film based Photography. These responsibilities included a darkroom complete with E6/C41 color film processing facilities. Early on in the new millennium, I was able to move the Federal Reserve's operations into the digital age, the darkroom was removed in 2003, replaced with two large format ink jet printers. I have steadily worked my way up to the position of Senior Photographer/Digital Media Analyst, within the recently created Digital Media Services unit which incorporates the growing emphasis on Video production and multi media.

Photography has evolved in ways that I could not imagine just a a decade ago while studying for my photography degree. Digital was on the horizon to be sure, but was priced so that only the really successful newspapers could afford the technology. When I started working at the Federal Reserve in 1998, it was a 100 % film shop, with processing facilities on-site for both Black/White and E6/C41 color films. I currently shoot about 17,000 - 20,000 images a year for work digitally compared to perhaps fewer than 1000 frames of film per year when I started. On any given day I can shoot about the same number of frames at 8-12 frames per second when covering one of my Daughter's numerous sporting endeavors.

I can't remember the last time I actually printed anything in a traditional wet darkroom, however for sentimental reasons I still have a full darkroom in my home. Over time I have come to feel that the process of printing to inkjet printer from a digital file rather than the physical negative or transparency affords me so much more control in the look of the final printed image. With digital technology (whether by original digital capture with a camera or from scans made from film) I can can better realize the image in it's final form as I saw it when I took the tripped the shutter.