Landon Speers is a Master of Two Mediums
Landon Speers 
Photo by Matthew Kanbergs

Landon Speers is a Master of Two Mediums

Landon Speers is an Alberta-born photographer and musician living in Wingdale, N.Y. His profound curiosity about the world and its inhabitants has led him to create images and soundscapes that celebrate moments of stillness through the infinite details of beauty in states of growth and decay.

His journey began in a small Canadian town where he grew up in a Mormon family. This conservative and repressive environment fueled his desire to explore beyond familiar territories, leading him to the dynamic spaces of punk and hardcore shows. As the youngest of four children, Speers said, “I was told I did a pretty good job of watching my siblings’ follies and missteps. Not that I didn’t make plenty of my own.” He laughed, “It took a lot of pleading and begging, but my mom just said that she trusted me more than a lot of my other siblings, and I knew that if I messed up, then it would be gone.” An older brother would chaperone Speers, who was “aggressively taking photos,” to these shows. He shares, “The idea of getting paid to do that didn’t even register for the first few years, but it was an easy way to get into shows.”

Photography became Speers’ medium of exploration and expression, a tool that helped him step out of his shell and connect with diverse communities. “It gave me a reason to go out and be a little more bold,” said Speers. “It opened the door for me. It’s essentially what I’m still chasing.” There is indeed a shyness to Speers’ portraiture; subjects are often slightly obscured by objects, light, or both and often appear to be simultaneously hiding and emerging. “In a very simple way,” he explains, “that’s what I come back to as far as like, why do I do this? Why do I enjoy doing this? Why do I want to do it more? It’s just curiosity and oftentimes affirmation to embolden someone that was shy growing up.”

Speers received his two-year technical diploma in Edmonton, then moved to Toronto, where he worked for several years as a freelance photographer. When he moved to Brooklyn, he got an opening spot for a friend’s band called Purity Ring, an atmospheric pop group. Speers also worked their lights for several tours. On a tour in Germany, Speers was sightseeing with the band and ended up spending a lot of extra time there. He explained, “Berlin happens to be on almost the exact latitude as Edmonton, so I was fascinated by the German countryside. Lots of trees were familiar, a quality of light.”

Of his many endeavors, he said, “I just rode a wave of opportunities that were coming to me, but then felt like neither music nor photography were getting the attention they needed.” He began concentrating more on photography and has worked for a venerable list of publications, including The New York Times, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, and many others. On his travels for these publications, along with the extra time spent in the various landscapes (“My friends know that road trips take me twice as long because I’m going to pull over a lot,” he says), Speers also began to collect field recordings. This collection turned into an immersive album and book called “Wild Rose,” which he released in 2018. The ambient tracks of layered sound are accompanied by images of landscapes in states of growth and decay. He designed the project to allow viewers to engage with it in a personal, exploratory manner, without explicit narratives or geographical constraints. “I was genuinely trying to make a choose-your-own-adventure,” Speers offered.

“I had like a loose framework of how a pacing went, but kind of offering up for someone else to digest. That was more what I was interested in versus dictating how you consume what I made. I’ve always liked the idea of drawing a visual experience or a sense of place from sound.”

Speers’ sense of place is shifting again now that he is finding and building community in the Hudson Valley. He references Dutch Landscape Architect Piet Oudolf (architect of The High Line in Manhattan) as an influence. “He uses native, indigenous plants, and part of his planning is for how it will look in the off season,” Speers explained. “And up here in particular, like blue thistle in the wintertime still looks so beautiful to me. Or the way a dead tree can look as pretty as when it was really thriving. So, the idea of a cycle, the idea that there is presence, the way to express that I am alive. The wind on my face, feeling cold on my skin, going to a great concert — those things make me feel more connected to a presence of my life here on earth than something that just seems to come with so much nonsense and baggage. Often, decay is part of that.”

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