Indiana State University Newsroom

Proof positive: Photography student shoots the Wabash Valley, world

October 2, 2013

From winning a competition to experiencing a new country, Austen Leake has photographed many opportunities since attending Indiana State University.

In his earlier years one could see him shooting different areas of Terre Haute with a point and shoot camera. After years of practice and a new 35-mm standard camera, Leake captured the winning photo in Terre Haute's Year of the River competition.

"It was a great opportunity to be able see my work presented around town. I still feel really honored to be able to be involved and that it is a great project. I was pleased to find out I won," said Leake a senior art major.

In Leake's black and white photo, Mary Kramer, Art Spaces executive director, and a group of panelists from other organizations, found a compelling image that represents the Wabash Valley and could really capture someone's attention right away.

"I like his other work and I think he is a really strong photographer and an artist so it is very exciting. I look forward to seeing what he does in the future," said Kramer.

Leake submitted a picture from a previous summer project because it included the railroad tracks and the river. During the summer of 2012, when he worked as part of Sycamore Artists Residing in Our Town (SARIOT), he concentrated on photographing community landmarks and buildings.

"That is why I chose the picture I did because it is a good way to get the whole point of the Year of the River and to incorporate downtown Terre Haute, which links up with the river," said Leake.

Since elementary school, Leake said he has learned about Terre Haute and Indiana's history, which he tried to capture with his photo. In shooting photos of Terre Haute, Leake's path often takes him to Fairbanks Park.

"Terre Haute would not be here without that river. When people talk about the Crossroads of America, they don't really factor travel by river anymore. I think that was the jumping off point for me because we wouldn't have highways or railroads to stimulate our economy without the river. I think that is the reason Terre Haute is here," said Leake.

Leake waded through mud and water exploring sites along the banks of the Wabash to find the perfect location for the photo.

"I think that is kind of my strength, to find unique points of view and to take something from a different angle that most people not see," he said.

Fran Lattanzio, Indiana State professor of art and design, has noticed Leake has begun to maturing in his work as he produces art that is more recognizably "his."

"He has a sense of what will work for him and how best to approach his subject," she said. "It definitely shows maturity in his portfolio."

Leake often wanders off roads and railroad tracks to find unique landscape sceneries around the Terre Haute community.

"I think that is my favorite thing to do is just explore and go off on a pathway or find an old building," he said.

Like a photojournalist, Leake wants to capture a picture that tells a story.

"Something you find interesting in the middle of the woods, I feel like I reported on that; I told that story without writing. I am just capturing and showing it to people," he said. "I just think shooting is sort of like reporting on what is going on in your environment that people might not notice."

During his 2013 summer break, Leake explored a new country and environment in Morocco. He traveled there with Indiana State's class in Environmentally and Culturally Sustainable Local Economic Development (ECSLED). For three weeks, he recorded what the group did and saw.

"It was by far the most insane and exciting, yet somewhat of an eye opening experience," said Leake, who saw the ocean and desert for the first time on his first trip out of the country.

He learned a great deal about the Moroccan culture and religion as well as himself.

"I think I took a lot for granted and that was one of the eye openings just to see how little some people had over there and that has stuck with me. There are people over there that have so little and made me appreciate everything I have here. It makes me want to give back more and try to help out more because I am in a privileged position," he said.

This once-in-a-lifetime experience would not have happened without Indiana State University's help, he said.

"I am always going to be grateful for Indiana State, which helped pay for a lot of that trip since I was shooting the photography over there. It was a great experience and I don't think I have will have that again," said Leake.

Since Leake shoots photos with film, he said he spends more time in the art department's photo lab than his own apartment.

"I really enjoy being in the dark room and we have one of the most impressive dark rooms in the state. I think Indiana State has one of the really good art departments because they have teachers that still want to teach oil paints and teach us the dark room, still have old school papermaking, printmaking and sculpture."

From art to political science, Leake said his Indiana State classes have opened his eyes to the world.

"They [Indiana State] let me figure out where I really wanted to be. I am really enjoying my time now because I have found my future passion and, hopefully, career."Some of Leake's work will be at Turman Gallery in ISU Fine Arts building until Oct. 11. The opening of the show is Oct. 4 from 3 - 4:30 p.m.

Prints of Leake's picture are available at Art Space Inc. Contact Mary Kramer, executive director, 812-235-2801, to purchase a copy.

Photo: - Indiana State University student Austen Leake's winning photo in the 2013 Year of the River photo competition captured both of the two railroad bridges that cross the Wabash River at Terre Haute.

Photo: - Indiana State University student Austen Leake looks through the viewfinder of his camera during the 2012 Sycamore Artists Residing in Our Town (SARIOT) summer creativity project. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - Austen Leake develops photographs he shot as part of the 2012 Sycamore Artists Residing in Our Town (SARIOT) summer creativity project at Indiana State University. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Writer: Beth Pickerill, media relations assistant, Office of Communications & Marketing,