Leo Rosas was born and raised in Venezuela where he spent his childhood skateboarding. By winning a Red Bull photography contest in 2007, he came to Austria where he lives now with his family. Leo has been a Peli Pro since 2018 and produces workshops and YouTube videos for photographers. Find out more about him in this exclusive interview.
PELI: You are a professional photographer with a very unique style. On the one hand you take beautiful portraits that communicate tranquility, on the other hand your photos are packed with movement, power and action when you photograph skateboarders, dancers and other athletes. What piqued your interest to start photography?
Thanks for the complement, there are two main factors that gave me the motivation to start photography:
1) By nature, I have an interest towards artistic expression. I am also fortunate enough to be the son of parents who work with a professional mathematical astrology (System GR) developed by my father which made them understand my qualities right from the beginning, so they always put at my disposal options to nurture my creative aspect of life. From music and drawing and graphic design lessons, to National geographic magazines and the most important thing a true support and honest advice on things.
So basically, even if I was not doing it consciously, I was training my eye since I was a kid. Once I went to some primary school trip in the Canaima National Park in Venezuela and I brought an automatic analogue Kodak camera from my mother and came back with “landscape” photos only… (quite average or bad images) But I remember that my intention was to create something beautiful to look at.
2) I am self-motivated to do things on my own when I have a specific interest, getting to know skateboarding as a sport was a perfect opportunity, there were no fixed schedules, no official competition with anyone so, if you take this kind of sport in a positive way, it is a great way to build up your person even more, it gives you responsibility and discipline towards a goal. If I wanted to learn a trick, I better try it, analyse what went well or wrong in order to be able to change or repeat otherwise you don’t progress which is frustrating or you fail which can be painful when doing a sport like skateboarding.
By the time I consciously decided that I wanted to buy a camera to take photos, I've already many years collecting Surf and later on skateboarding magazines. I got a SLR camera with a classic 50mm lens and I was shooting buildings, and some portraits but then I obviously started shooting skate action with my friends. After one or two years I got my first digital camera which I got with the idea of having a faster process of experimentation and a faster workflow to be able to see mistakes to correct and improve.
It was a perfect combination and is the first advice I give to any person who wants to learn something, mix the theory and the practice with topics and elements that you care about, otherwise is a much slower path to cross...
PELI: In 2007 you won the Red Bull Photo Challenge. What is the story behind this photo and what happened after you won the prize?
LR: In terms of the Red Bull Photo-challenge, it was not like one single picture but a few steps.
For qualification anyone could submit images of their portfolio (up to 10 images). Then Red Bull Photofiles in Austria selected the best 4 applicants and I was one of them.
Once this is announced we had 2 hours time individually with a Red bull athlete to produce content in the city to take him anywhere we wanted and create a selection of action, portrait and lifestyle. Lastly, all four photographers would cover and deliver a selection of images. Once all submitted, Red Bull Photofiles announced me as their winner and the prize was becoming their main photographer in Venezuela and a one-month trip in Austria for holidays and training in brand and quality standards.
Back in Venezuela I participated in their second edition of the Red Bull Illume competition and here I was the semifinalist in the category close-up. All this helped for them to consider me as a good addition to their team later on in 2011.
In 2011 I join the Red Bull Photofiles where part of my job was to create briefings and review shoots from Red bull around the world, offer workshops and trained over 40 photographers from different countries with similar trainings to the one I received back in 2008.
From every person I worked with, from every photographer I trained, there was something I learned so this was definitely a positive impact on my career and develop as artist and professional.
PELI: For how long have you been a PELI Brand Ambassador and what PELI equipment do you usually use when you have a shoot/project or when you’re travelling?
LR: September 2018 was the beginning of our relationship and the first case I got is the one I use the most: The Peli Air 1535 in grey.
love that I can bring the Peli cases to my shoots and just step on them when needed, shooting athletes happens often that the subject is taller than 1,74 cm :)
The Peli in my last trip to Panama is just a need. Getting on a boat and not worry about your belongings when there are lots of vases or when you arrive to an island without any pier and you need to jump in the water.
The most special feature of a Peli in my opinion is that it simply works, it is not trying to be more than it needs to be. It is a product that works and the adjustments and features that come with innovation like the air series and like TSA locks or color designs are not compromising the foundations of the product a strong, reliable case to carry and protect your gear.
PELI: A couple of years ago you moved from Caracas to Salzburg in Austria near the Red Bull Headquaters. Did the new environment, the different lifestyle and culture have effect on your work as a creative?
LR: Yes definitely , but if you see the positive aspects of things. You can ignore any negative if there is one, and use all to your advantage. I am sure many people I know could not have deal with the change of lifestyle, but for me it was all worth it and a very positive change of environment for my goals.
PELI: How does a normal day in your life look like there?
LR: When I was working at the advertising agency, there was always time to share with friends and my wife. Part of sharing could be creating something for personal projects. When I travel I travel for work because even if is not an assignment, I am thinking on creating something on that place… so there is always a need in me to create, is just my nature and I understand it and use it in the most productive way I can.
Since 2017 I became a freelancer and in a way it’s similar to when I started skating. You need to do the work in order to see results, there are no shortcuts but there are learnings and experience that you can bring with you from previous years.
PELI: Looking back, what project have you worked on that is very special or memorable to you?
LR: All of them, even the ones that I don’t show, each one was an opportunity to create something, even if I felt it was a failure then I can learn what to avoid if the opportunity repeats. In terms of which one I like to show on my portfolio the most, portraits and conceptual work with athletes and other subjects.
PELI: What advice would you give someone who is seeking the same line of work?
1. Follow your nature: Try out many things and then select what you enjoy more.
2. Once you decide on something be constant and find people who are a positive influence to you and your goals.
3. Keep this present: The moment you think you are good, there is one or more people somewhere training and getting better than you.
PELI: We are extremely pleased that you are a part of the Peli Brand Ambassador Team and are looking forward to many more years of collaboration. Thank you for your time.
LR: I am honoured and grateful to be part of the team.)