Point and Shoot with Leeroy T
Shooting up top of an active volcano, gunning motorbikes through the chaos of Bali or cruising to a smooth hip hop beat, photographer and meditation teacher Leeroy Te Hira exudes an easy calm that contrasts with his black-swathed, tattooed 6’3" frame. We hit the brakes to discuss his love of rhythm, the racial slurs of Sydney’s south coast, and belief that a higher state of consciousness can be gained from a shared experience.
When did you start taking photos?
On a trip to Bali. My sister was teaching photography at RMIT and lent me my first manual camera. I youtube’d the settings at the airport and started taking snaps by the pool, at the beach, sunsets, trying to work it out. Since then I’ve shot portraits, families, fashion, heaps of active and lifestyle, and heaps of weddings. My camera has taken me from Sydney to Melbourne, Byron Bay, Bali, Sri Lanka, Los Angeles…all over the globe.
Shooting weddings – tell us about that?
When I shoot a wedding I try to create images that capture the moment and the mood of the day. I hate the staging and cheesiness of traditional wedding photography, and work documentary style, hanging back, instructing as little as possible.
Do you have a favourite wedding?
My friends Adrian and Sophie got married at Semara Beach House in Seminyak, Bali. I shot for 3 days, capturing the events, the location – all the tiny details that tell their story. They first met at a cafe in Manly where Soph was working as a barista. Adrian went in every day for coffee but it took him a few months to work up the courage to ask her out. She was waiting.
What are you looking for when you're shooting yoga or active imagery?
Capturing movement in a creative and artistic way, with strong composition, with an edge – that’s important. I don’t want it to look like anything thats been done before.
How did you get into it?
I practice yoga and pilates, and go to the gym. When I started getting serious about photography I was taking classes at a yoga studio in Melbourne. I looked at their social media and thought I could do a better job. I grabbed a flash kit and a couple of mates, and we shot up against the graffiti in the area. I showed my mate Duncan from Power Living and he asked me to be their in-house photographer. I’ve been their sole photographer ever since.
Do you come from a creative background?
No! I worked as a financial controller in advertising for 12 years. I’ve always been interested in aesthetics and drawn to creative people, but I didn’t think I had it in me until I picked up a camera. I expressed myself through my appearance and through music.
Has music always been huge for you?
Yeah, I resonate with hip hop. More the beat than the lyrics. I have to concentrate really hard to hear words but I used to be a drummer and I love the rhythm.
How did you get into that?
When I was 16 we moved from a multicultural school in Coogee, to a small seaside town where racism was very strong. I didn’t even know that the insults thrown at me were racial slurs. I hated it for a while but started drumming in a band that that played Nirvana, Metallica and the Chilli Peppers. It wasn’t long before the kids worked out that I was cool.
What brought you back to Sydney?
An economics degree at Macquarie University.
What were you listening to then?
Dance music. Back then the gay clubs were the best clubs – DCM, Biblos, Good Bar. Tagging along with DJ friends, going to the latest bar openings and hanging out with the owners was a way of life. We'd dance all night then go to Black Market, a day club. Most people there looked like they were on day release from prison. It was bad.
Then you disappeared for a few years. What happened?
My partying was coming to an end and I was a bit lost. I had a certain status in the clubbing world but without that I wasn't sure who I was. My best friend was practicing Vedic Meditation. It looked like he was sleeping and I thought, I can do that. Soon after I did a course in Vedic Meditation, and four years later I became a teacher.
Why Vedic Meditation?
Vedic Meditation allowed me to experience a depth of rest I'd never felt before. Most meditation techniques are either contemplative or concentrative, but what we practice is effortless transcendence, the repetition of a mantra that moves you into a zone of de-excitation. You feel peaceful and calm, and remove stress from your system.
How do you feel when you practice consistently?
Clear. I'm less reactive and my intuition is very finely tuned. I trust my decisions, pick up on signs that I'm heading in my right direction and experience a lot of synchronicity – randomly bumping into someone in a coffee shop who leads me towards a new project or opportunity.
Can anyone learn to meditate?
For sure. I've been teaching private one-on-one and small group sessions on Sydney's Northern Beaches and overseas for 6 years now. Helping people to tune in to a state of flow.
What else puts you in that flow state?
Photography, racing go-carts, riding a motorbike through the traffic in Bali.
What do you think of Yoga Cucina?
I love the idea. You're breaking down the stereotype of yoga being an ultra clean activity by incorporating food and wine. To me being conscious doesn't involve the removal of everything. A higher state of consciousness can be gained from a shared experience.
Anything else people should know about you?
I only wear black. It's part of my being. The end.
Tune into Leeroy's photography here.