Bold & vibrant: Behind Leanna's lens
Early in high school, Leanna Siupinys knew she would pursue photography as a career — it was just a matter of what university she would choose. That choice was clear once she discovered Ohio University’s visual communication (VisCom) program and took a campus tour.
“I chose OHIO because of the high-ranking VisCom program, but I also chose it for the kindness and community I found here,” said Siupinys, a junior commercial photography student. “Everyone went out of their way to help me on my college visit. A professor from VisCom took time out of their day to sit down and chat with me about my thoughts on the University and the photo program. I love the Bobcat community — I’ve found it here at school, back in my hometown when I’m wearing OHIO gear, and through alumni.”
She expected to learn and grow in her photography and editing skills, but the opportunities offered to Siupinys in her time at OHIO have far exceeded her expectations. Take, for example, her internships.
Siupinys interned with an upscale food photography studio, BurkleHagen — whose regular clients include Burger King, Olive Garden, and Tim Horton’s; and she interned with Jim Jordan Photography, a world-class fashion and celebrity photographer based in Los Angeles.
In the spring of her freshman year, she met Andrew Burkle and David Hagen, co-owners of Burklehagen, during a food photography workshop they hosted for OHIO students at their Cleveland studio.
“I stayed in contact with them and they offered me a full-time photo assistant internship for the summer after my freshman year of college,” Siupinys said. “I usually worked on set as a digital tech and photography assistant, and when I wasn’t working I was probably eating the surplus of ‘ugly’ chicken fries that were deemed unacceptable for the photos by the food stylist. I learned how to build extremely intricate photography sets and gained experience working directly with clients by creating photos for social media campaigns.”
The next summer, she was unsure if she could find an internship as good as her last, so she decided to search long and far. As far as clear across the country. Siupinys moved to Los Angeles for the summer after her sophomore year for her internship with partner companies, Jim Jordan Photography and White Cross Management.
“I was totally unfamiliar with the talent management industry previously, so I went into this internship with an open mind and I found that I really enjoyed it,” she explained. “Every day I was touching base with our models, communicating with their clients, signing our models with agencies, booking photoshoots, and calling agencies around the world. Interning at Jim Jordan Photography improved me as a photographer and stylist.”
In addition to learning inside the workplace, she also attended many events around Los Angeles, where she was able to network with other people in the creative industry. Siupinys attended gallery openings and book signings for many high-ranking creative individuals. While out and about, she met Gordon Ramsey, Tyler Shields and Cary Elwes.
“It was like a dream,” she said. “It was so fun to explore a completely unfamiliar side of the country. When I wasn’t at work, I was exploring all that LA has to offer, or practicing to skate on my new longboard I bought in Venice at the beginning of that summer. I also took trips to Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Denver and Las Vegas during that summer. I am so glad I got the opportunity to intern out of state to explore so many new places and experience so many new things. I could easily see myself moving out to LA after graduation.”
Siupinys’ resume is impressive even excluding those internships. She’s held the executive position as photo editor for Thread Magazine for two years now which she will continue through next year. She’s in charge of managing, curating, editing and archiving all images for each quarterly published issue. She leads their team of 20 photographers, facilitates photoshoots, and leads their weekly photographer group meetings.
She’s also had many opportunities to travel in her time at OHIO. Siupinys is a member of the Ohio University Multimedia Society, which travels every semester to a different city to shadow multimedia companies. She also visited New York City for the PhotoPlus Expo, the largest annual photography event in the U.S.
When Siupinys was in the Big Apple last November, New York City based fashion photographer Lindsay Adler invited her to assist her in a studio environment with a team of photographers, assistants, stylists, makeup artists and hair stylists.
“I draw a lot of my inspiration from Lindsay Adler,” said Siupinys, a Chesterland, Ohio native. “She’s at the top of the photography industry, works with the biggest fashion and beauty brands, and has been featured in many major fashion magazines. She actually invited me back again recently to assist and to discuss the opportunity of me interning for her this summer. I can’t wait to go back!”
Most recently, Siupinys traveled to the Cayman Islands in December with a group of VisCom students for the Fashion Photography and Videography study abroad trip, where they worked to create content for five different brands. Siupinys said she gained so much knowledge in those two weeks that she could not have acquired by sitting in a classroom.
However, there are some benefits to classroom learning, when it comes to the equipment and technology VisCom students have access to: Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras and lenses are readily available to students.
“Any lens you can dream of, VisCom probably has it. The equipment room also has video equipment, audio equipment, lights, reflectors, drawing tablets, and more that I probably don’t even know about," she said.
"We also have studios that are larger and nicer than most professional studio environments I have seen, and I have been in quite a few," she added. "Having access to industry standard equipment and knowledgeable professors will improve your portfolio ten-fold. In fact, I don’t have a single image from high school in my photography portfolio anymore, and I still have another year of college to go.”
All of these experiences have shaped Siupinys into the photographer and creative she is today. She’s made friends, connections, memories, and a lot of photos at OHIO, and the opportunities that have opened up for Siupinys in her time at the University continue to blow her mind.
Siupinys describes her aesthetic as bold, vibrant, crisp and colorful. Her inspiration comes from other creatives, friends, family, as well as everyday places, color palettes and objects. Oh, and the faculty at Ohio University.
“I would absolutely recommend OHIO to anyone interested in pursuing photography, whether they are more interested in the commercial photography or photojournalism track,” she said. “The instructors in the School of Visual Communication are Pulitzer Prize-winning, book-writing, award-winning, inspiring, creative, crazy-talented individuals filled with industry experience. The best part? You can call all of them by their first names! As amazing and driven as VisCom is, it is also a very casual environment. Professors leave their doors open at all times signifying students are free to stop in.”