Visualized spotlights visual artists in the music world.
Landon Speers is a multi-disciplined artist with photography and music as his crafts of choice. You may recognize his music moniker, Headaches, from some previous posts on here. Today though, we’ll be taking a look at his photography.
Landon’s work tends to feel like a visual diary of sorts. While documenting images of some great artists (Purity Ring, Steffaloo, Kuhrye-oo to name a few), Landon creates very intimate, honest portraits of them. Seeing these artists on stage sometimes makes us forget that they are just humans like the rest of us. But Speers reminds us in a beautiful, genuine way. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to ask Landon a few questions about his beginnings, his process, and his future.
We also have a new track from Landon that you can listen to as you get your visual and reading fix on.
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Edmonton, Alberta. The same oil and heart land that spawned the likes of Born Gold, Purity Ring, Kuhrye-oo, Sean Savage and others. I usually describe it as a great place to grow up and an even better place to leave. Being in the middle of the prairies in a place that gets winter for half the year you realize that isolation breeds creativity. A lot of touring bands aren’t going to come through and if you want stuff to be happening you can’t really take a passive approach.
The community there is large enough to have enormous breadth in diversity but small enough that the overlap and support from what would often be disparate crowds is overwhelming. I came from a very religious home and so embracing and becoming involved with the punk and hardcore scene ended up being the biggest catalyst for my perspective on things shifting in major ways.
When did you become interested in photography? First camera?
My brother won a rather junky point and shoot camera in an office raffle. It was a Pentax I think. We shared a room as he’d run into some trouble with things and had to move back in with the family. I was probably 14 at the time and just started borrowing his camera all the time. I had awful deviantART and Photobucket accounts where I’d post all the hyper-saturated, super contrasty photos all teens loves to take. Sometimes, I was even mega artsy and plastered intense lyrics to intense songs over top of them. It was super cool.
Further into high school, I was shooting a lot more and ended up meeting a couple people who had nice cameras. They were also shooting photos at shows. I was getting more and more into music and liked the idea of doing that too. I had a shitty part time job where I saved my dollars, borrowed some money from mom and dad and bought my first camera at 17.
I started going to every show with my camera, shooting and posting all the time. People got to know me as that guy. It was an awesome way to meet people, get involved and get into shows for free. For the first while, it was just punk and hardcore shows, but as my tastes and perspectives evolved, it began to include all sorts of other genres as well.
I studied photography in college and went through phases of thinking I’d end up working in wildly different areas of the industry. Closer to the end I thought I’d be shooting food and architecture and was even starting to get some work at it. But when school ended I took a step back and realized all the work I felt most excited about was much closer to what I am doing now. Knowing that that was what I needed to pursue, I moved to Toronto and worked in the photo industry for a few years. At the start of this past summer I moved to New York to continue working on my music and photography.
For music, you go under the moniker of Headaches. Did music come first in your creative expression?
I didn’t start making music until two weeks before college started. I’d fruitlessly tried jamming a bit with people trying to get a mediocre hardcore band going. During that time, I was also getting into electronic and neo-classical music. Mainly ambient/drone stuff and score music. I’ve always been super big on cinematic music.
Music for the first while was done on this awfully bugged out audio software in the Nero cd-burner suite. I’d import 30 second clips I recorded in Microsoft sound recorder and go from there. My first show was when Cecil Frena (Born Gold) announced a show and I saw my name on the poster.
How has music influenced your photography?
Music is how I really got into photography. It’s been the biggest motivator by a long shot. Before that, I just was a kid dicking around taking shots of flowers up close or ‘dramatic’ stuff after rainfall. Getting into music with a camera in hand opened up the door to a lot of connections, many of which are still the close friendships I have now. I’d say the majority of people I connect with socially are tied to music in some capacity and thankfully a lot of people who make music need photos and often look interesting.
With your projects, do you articulate a concept before shooting, or is it a more organic process?
The projects I have are a place I can work on what ever the hell I want. It’s a way for me to pursue ideas with out worrying about the outcome or if it might end up looking different from the work I most often do.
I am really critical of art/artists that take themselves too seriously. On one hand, I can really enjoy conceptual ideas and approaches to creation. There is a lot of appreciation and inspiration to glean from that kind of work. On the other hand, I often think “who fucking cares?” We’re all trying to figure ourselves out. We’re all working with our own identity and perceptions, society, blah blah… Having an essay I need to read before I can ‘appreciate’ your art can be a big turn off. So, I guess this is the long way of saying that the projects I work on can and have been both. However, I try to avoid acting like the more conceptual stuff is earth shatteringly important and needs to be treated seriously.
Some projects have been very articulated concepts with specific execution, exploring something of interest to me (like sleep and dreams for example) and others have grown to be projects in a more natural ways based on what the images end up sharing while documenting a certain time, place, person or theme.
How do you feel about concepts versus aesthetics? What is more important to you?
I think this is kinda tied into the last question about concepts. Ultimately I want to see things I like—that I react to. But I don’t even think I’d base it on aesthetics in a ‘beauty’ sort of way—I think it’s more of the power to engage me. There’s some fucking ugly and abhorrent work out that that is totally awesome and engaging. I guess ultimately I can appreciate a concept and get stoked on it, but most often react to things more visual engaging. I’m a real person in a real world. I’d rather not get so wrapped up in ideas and concepts that I lose touch with what 99% of everyone is experiencing (i.e. Not giving a fuck about how cool you think your ideas are).
How was touring with Purity Ring?
Touring with Corin and Megan was great. It was my first time touring and performing and there was heaps of reality that came with it. Highs were highs and some lows were lows. Overall it was an incredibly enjoyable and enlightening experience. Being in a van with cutie pie sweethearts for a month is great and trying to come to terms with myself in a performance aspect was real too.
Do you have different ideas and feelings towards creating music versus taking photographs?
This is something I’ve never really thought about. I’d say I approach them both in similar ways or react to things I like in general in regards to them both. Elements like texture, repetition, layers, small details and tone/vibes. I mean the same tablet I use for editing photos I’ve started using for edition music too so I feel like it’s a fairly fluid thing. There’s not much effort but into switching gears. When I want to work on one, I work on it. Being able to hop to the other often keeps things refreshed when I come back to them.
What are some of your future endeavors?
At this point, I’m trying to finish two EP’s and find labels for them. One is mostly material I produced for tour with Purity Ring and the other is stuff I’ve made since. I’d like to start playing more here in New York too.
I’m also catching up on all the new work I shot the past few months. Stuff from tour, the summer and Iceland with Purity Ring etc. I have hundreds of frames to scan and go through. I’d like to find something to do with all the shots from tour when they’re done as well but we’ll see when I get there.