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

leire unzueta bosque


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 to his personal growth, which explains why his images have become brighter and more spacious for some time now.

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 it's nice in these times to hear him say "now I dedicate myself to what I like".





You earned 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 a decision as difficult as a life change is usually?

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

Realizing that the years passed while I felt stuck, doing something I was good at and with people I appreciated but who didn't 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 that I did not get out of and wanted to do things that really fulfilled me.

It scared me. It took me many years to make the decision but I think it has been one of the best things I've ever done.

Leire, we know that you photograph another type 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, due to availability, the closest thing was the forest. Then I became fond of it and began to discover how light entered, etc. And I realized that it really was a walk in which I disconnected from everything else and connected with myself.

A way to be creative and at the same time reorganize my ideas, calm "my little mental tarita". A little therapy.

This has been changing at the same time as me and I have been leaving behind the dark landscapes to photograph with more warmth, other environments, other landscapes. And complementing each other is liking it a lot.





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 what is special about each day. Because I have liked the clouds of that day or because I have been lucky enough to see that sunset or because I have been with someone and I have had a delicious coffee. Beauty does not necessarily have to be something, but can be everyday moments of everyday life.

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 like it a lot Gregory Alan Isakov, New love and Bon Iver. Pretty melancholic music. I think it would go that way.


What is the creative process behind your photographs like?

I don't know if I have a creative process as such. I usually go to places 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.

Both parts are equally important, but sometimes I feel like I almost enjoy finishing the photo more than taking it. I don't quite know why.


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

to pine Forest photos smell of wood, wet grass, rain.

On the other hand, the photos of the coast always smell of the sea. To the wind. It's hard to describe.





Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere. In the morning when we get dressed, when we decide what 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 somehow.

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 20:00 in the afternoon. I was in the woods and I picked a fern.

It was a photo that today represents the change. Because of the situation I 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 my job. 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 favourites.





You started traveling when you were very young, what do you think it has given you? What do 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 a thing.

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

Travel in my life is a change of routine. It's 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 subject. I would love to learn more. The only thing I do is apply lotion after the shower. 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, 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 better or at least have a coffee.

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

It gives me freedom. And besides peace and tranquility. It makes me want to go out, see new places, sunrises, sunsets. I feel that photographing nature brings 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 his web and his Instagram.



Text Verónica Martín / Photography Leire Unzueta