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Meet Miracle Mile Architectural Designer, Photographer, and Yoga Teacher: Lesley Castle

Image Credit: Alex Afzali

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lesley Castle.

Lesley, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My first experience with photography was in high school. I attended high school in the Virgin Islands and a girlfriend of mine was taking a photography class. Since she was my best friend, naturally, I became her model. I started modeling for her film work and was immediately intrigued by the art of photography. I left to attend college at the American University of Paris in fall 2000 studying International Relations and during my first semester sought out a photography class, which was not offered at my school. The only class I found taught in English just happened to be at Parsons School of Design in Paris. I took the night class in photography while attending all my other regular classes at the American University. My teacher was french, beautiful and introduced us to dark room processing, film, and Ansel Adams. We only worked in black and white film. This was before the digital cameras were even an option.

Soon after my wanderlust took me to Maui to live and study. I took my second photography class; again before digital cameras were available. I continued to study darkroom film processing, shot my first wedding and was enamored with photography. I was in college at the time and was advised that it wasn’t practical to study or have a career as a photographer. I put down the camera for years, though it always nagged at me to pick it back up. In 2010, I took an apprentice job as a second shooter for no pay while I trained and learned the ropes with a wedding photographer in the Virgin Islands. I was his shadow for six months but had an application in for graduate school at the time. I was admitted to graduate school at The Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles and knew that I could only study architecture at one time in my life, and this was the time. It was now or never. I knew I could always go back to my first love of photography. Architecture intrigued me because it directly shaped our experience of the world. Near the end of my 3.5-year graduate degree program, I started to shoot photography again. I shot friends and organized small photoshoots. I started to invest in camera equipment again.

When I graduated with the Master of Architecture degree from SCI-Arc in 2013, I left LA and shot a handful of weddings back in the Virgin Islands, where my family lives. I returned to LA to work in architecture and have continued to shoot photography since. In 2015, I decided that I wanted to do more creative photography work. I wanted to be more involved with fashion and lifestyle photography. Having studied at one of the most avant-garde architecture schools in the world, I learned about concept design, design critique, and more. I carried those ideas into my photography work. I sought out photography workshops to learn studio lighting. I assisted photographers shooting celebrates to learn about studio lighting and magazine work. I studied with one of my favorite photographers, Emily Soto. I am on the brink of really getting into the type of work that speaks to me as a photographer. Moving forward, I want to explore more experimental photography, and continue to shoot people, places, and fashion. I’d like my work to show more concepts and work with instant film processing to make truly unique pieces of art. Also, I always want to travel more 🙂

Has it been a smooth road?
There are always challenges. Without challenge, you don’t grow. For me, I’ve always had a wide array of creative and professional interests. I studied architecture for that exact reason. For me, architecture is at the top of the creative arts, because it encompasses so many different ideas and elements. As an architect, you learn that you can pretty much teach yourself anything. You learn that you have to be technical and creative, much like as a photographer. The biggest struggle I ever had as a photographer was when I was 19 years old and shot my first wedding in film. I hadn’t even been to many weddings and really didn’t know anything about how to shoot a wedding. I shot the entire wedding on film and never really saw the photos because I didn’t know to edit the photos before giving them to a client. I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, I worked with a wedding photographer much later in my life to learn the ropes. Shooting a wedding can be pretty scary when you first start out; you have to be somewhat OCD and make sure you tie all your bows, get all the money shots, have plenty of backup camera equipment in case anything fails on you, and be sure to back up your work immediately. This is someone’s biggest day of their life; screwing up just isn’t an option. It’s always helpful to have a second shooter when you can, especially for large weddings. Have fun, and relax. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your clients will be, the better your photographs will be in the end. Smile, have fun and enjoy the moment. I always get sentimental at weddings and feel overjoyed by seeing people so in love. Photographing this is very special for me.

Do you feel luck has played a role in your life?
This is a difficult question. I’m not sure I believe in luck, per se; but perhaps more in destiny, hard work, setting goals and visualization. I read a quote recently which says, “Our destiny is frequently met in the very paths we take to avoid it” by Jean de la Fontaine. I feel that this applies to my personal life at times. I want to go one direction so I make choices to go that way, yet destiny gives me what it wants to give me, which at times is exactly what I wanted to avoid! The good news is this usually brings growth and learning. With regards to my professional life, I visualized a life quite similar to the one I’m living now years ago before I went to graduate school, before I lived in California, or had much of a professional life at all. I think with visualization and hard work you can shape your “luck” – I do think however that life will deal you cards, and its up to you to figure out how you want to play that hand.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
For me, this is probably my determination and curiosity. Determination brought me to California; it took me to graduate school, it left a 5-year relationship to pursue my profession, and it gets me out of bed every day. Determination is the pursuit to keep going even when things get tough. It is strong, stable and reliable. It’s like a good friend that never leaves your side, ever. My curiosity has always been present. With regards to work, if I am not learning, then I am not satisfied. Therefore, I am always learning new things in my profession. Curiosity has taken me around the world to travel and live in Hawaii, Paris, Savannah, Baltimore, the Virgin Islands and now Los Angeles. I have sailed down island in the Caribbean and traveled throughout Mexico and Europe. I feel that curiosity has been essential to my success and happiness. Paired with determination it drives creative results. When I was young, I made something I named “Yucky Experiments” in the bathroom of my grandmother’s house. This was a crafted mix of toothpaste, cologne, mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide and God knows what else I found in the medicine cabinet of my grandmother’s bathroom sink. Of course, this was top secret work and only my small cousin was allowed to partake in the mixing of the ingredients. This sort of curiosity stays with me today. I am still experimenting with work and ideas on a daily basis.

What do you love about our city and what do you dislike?
What I like about LA is that it has this odd feeling of home. Since it is such a mash-up of LA natives, travelers, and those who made LA home but are from somewhere else, it has this sort of belonging feeling, like everyone is accepted. I like that there are endless things to do in this city; I am never bored. I like that I can attend the Hollywood Bowl to see musicians like Sufjan Stevens and it feels like time stops it is so beautiful on the hillside, under the stars, with great company and incredible talent being shared with you. I love that I can go to yoga at 5:45am or 9:45pm, or any time between all day long. I love that we have a strong creative community. I love that we escape to Big Sur, Joshua Tree, and wine country, some of the most beautiful places in the world. I love the food in this city and the dining options. I love that this is a diverse city with cultures mixing on a daily basis. I love that we have a strong community and history of experimental architecture. My dislikes: I don’t like it when people are impatient while driving. I don’t like aggressive drivers. I don’t like the dating culture here, the disposable attitude that some people have perhaps now due to dating apps and endless choices at people’s fingertips. I don’t like waiting in line for a bar so I avoid busy bars on the weekends. I don’t like seeing all the homeless people in the city, begging. It makes me sad. I don’t like seeing tent city in DTLA. This also makes me question so much in the world; why and how some people got to be on the street. I don’t like that water is not conserved better in the city when we live in a desert. I wish we were a little nicer sometimes to each other, everyone. I wish we were less selfish and impatient as a city on a whole.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.lesleycastle.com
  • Phone: 340.513.2156 cell
  • Email: lesleycastle@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @lesleycastlephoto

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Image Credits: Lesley Castle

 

1 Comment

  1. Lesley Castle

    November 6, 2016 at 20:29

    Thank you for featuring my work! xo All the best, Lesley

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