Leire Unzueta or how to have the courage to leave a “normal” job to dedicate yourself to photographing forests


Leire transmits calm. Not only in his photographs, but also when he speaks.

He photographs forests like no one else, they are his hallmark, and his work evolves in parallel with his personal growth, this explains that for some time now his images are brighter and broader.

He says that he is lucky to continually search for beauty, but the reality is that what he has is the gift of knowing how to see it.  

He always liked traveling, art, photography and nature. And these days it is a pleasure to hear him say "now I dedicate myself to what I like."





You made your living as an English teacher until one day you decided to dedicate yourself fully to photography. What is that strong purpose that helped you make such a difficult decision as is often a life change?

It took me and it cost me many, many years, therapy included. Leaving a stable job, even if it was not an ideal job, was not easy.

Realizing that the years passed while I felt stuck, doing something that I was good at and with people that I appreciated but did not bring me happiness, was hard.

In the end I realized (being aware that I am very lucky to have the possibility of being able to do it) that I was in a loop from which I did not exit and I wanted to do things that really fulfilled me.

It scared me. It took me many years to make the decision but I think it was one of the best things I have done.

Leire, we know that you photograph other types of, but what do forests have that you can't find elsewhere? 

I started photographing forests because I always traveled to nature, to spectacular landscapes, but of course, only once a year.

When I returned home, I felt that I needed to continue photographing nature and, by availability, the closest thing was the forest. Then I was getting a hobby and I began to discover how the light entered, etc. And I realized that it really was a walk where I disconnected from everything else and connected with myself.

A way of being creative and at the same time reorganizing my ideas, calming "my mental tarita". A little therapy.

This has been changing at the same time as me and I have been leaving dark landscapes behind to photograph with more warmth, other environments, other landscapes. And complementing one and the other I am really enjoying it.





How do you understand beauty?

Beauty is subjective. I think I am very lucky because I am constantly looking for the beautiful. Not only in photography but also in everyday life.

I try to find the special of each day. Because I liked the clouds that day or because I was lucky enough to see that sunset or because I have been with someone and I have had a delicious coffee. The beautiful does not necessarily have to be something, but they can be everyday moments of the day to day.

Photographing nature leads you to seek the beauty of landscapes. I'm looking all the time.


What music would you put on your photos?

I like very boring and slow music. I am very into quiet folk music. With guitars, pianos, violins ... I really like Gregory Alan Isakov, Novo love Y Bon Iver. Pretty melancholic music. I think the thing would go that way.


How is the creative process behind your photographs?

I don't know if I have a creative process as such. I usually go to the sites looking for specific weather conditions and the possibilities that there may be for photos.

I look for the composition and shoot the camera. This is the "easy" part. For me, the most creative part and the one in which I experiment the most comes later, at home, when I edit and color the photographs.

The two parts are just as important, but sometimes I feel like I almost enjoy finishing the photo more than taking it. I don't really know why.


If they had a scent, your images would smell like ... 

Pine. Forest photos smell like wood, wet grass, rain.

On the other hand, the photos of the coast always smell of the sea. To the wind. It is difficult to describe.





Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere. In the morning when we get dressed, when we decide what to do to eat. In books, in what you see, in what you learn, in what you talk to people, in museums.

The inspiration is in the day to day, it can be in your references or in other photographers. This does not mean that from time to time you do not have creative blocks, but you have to accept them and suddenly the inspiration returns in some way.

In those moments I try to flow and force myself to go out with the camera.


What is your favorite photograph and what story is behind it?

I have several. One that represents a change in my life. I did it on a very, very dark afternoon around 8:00 p.m. I was in the forest and I caught a fern.

It was a photo that today represents change. Because of the situation he was experiencing at that time. Things at home weren't quite right and that's when I started going to therapy and made the decision to quit work. In fact I have that photo tattooed on my arm.

There are also others that I like because of their colors, because of what I lived at that time or because of the place where I was. I have many favorites.





You started traveling when you were very young, what do you think it has given you? What does travel mean in your life?

Traveling has given me everything. I have learned from other cultures and that there are many things beyond our borders, other realities. Neither better nor worse, but they remind us that there are other things and ways of living.

I have seen spectacular places. I have lived very nice experiences, I have met many people. Traveling, if you can do it, is the best money invested in life and I have spent a lot, but I do not regret anything.

It is the best way to know the way we live.

The travel in my life is a change of routine. It is disconnecting, seeing new places, eating different food. We always try (until now) to travel abroad. For me it is a very important part of my life.


Is there some kind of ritual or skin care that you have been doing all your life?

The truth is that I am quite denied on this issue. I would love to learn more. All I do is give myself cream after showering. Both on the face and on the body, but I would like to know more.





And finally, what makes nature so present in your work? What does she call you?

I am a fairly introverted person, I defend myself well in very small groups, which is why it is very difficult for me to photograph people. I feel that before taking photos of someone I have to create a bond, that I have to get to know them more or at least have a coffee.

Photographing nature gives me the opportunity to work alone, to do what I want a little, without having to depend on anyone.

It gives me freedom. And apart peace and quiet. It makes me want to go out, see new places, sunrises, sunsets. I feel that photographing nature gives me more on a personal level.

I really enjoy it. I can make a whole plan to take some photos in a nice place.

Thank you very much, Leire for allowing us to travel through your photographs and accompany you on one of your walks through the forest. If you want to see more of Leire's work, here is her Web and his Instagram.