Chasing Sunlight And Shadows In SoCal

Photos by Joel Barhamand

San Diego-based artist William LeFevre on the city that inspires his work

While he spends most of the day shooting projects for local businesses and other private clients, it’s the last few hours of daylight that you’ll find photographer William LeFevre searching for his best light. It’s when he feels reflections have the most impact and can get the most layered visual effects in his more artistic work. After the sun went down on a particularly beautiful day in San Diego, we sat down with Lyric at Park 12's resident artist to talk about trading in his Wilson for a Nikon and learned more about his work and inspirations. 

Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in Lafayette, LA. I lived there for the first 18 years of my life and it greatly influenced my love of art, music, food and culture.

What were some of your early hobbies?
I grew up playing the guitar and tennis, and I was the #1 ranked junior tennis player in Louisiana in the 14, 16 and 18-year-old age divisions.

What brought you westward to San Diego?
I moved to San Diego to attend San Diego State University in September of 2002.

What is it about the city that inspires your work?
The diverse culture and border city influence of Tijuana along with the harsh sunlight plays a big role in my work. I really like playing with harsh light and shadows, and San Diego provides this with its endless sunny and cloudless days. The downtown [and] Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego provide tall buildings to create shadows and incorporate harsh light and shadow play into my work. Also, the Chicano influence in San Diego provides vibrant colors and culture that I really appreciate in terms of my photographic work.

Photography is a passion for you, and it wasn’t your first career. What did you do to pay the bills before?
I’ve had many jobs to pay the bills, but I was not passionate about them like I am with photography. I was the head tennis pro at Del Mar Country Club in North County San Diego. After this, I was a yoga instructor for some time. Also, I traveled around the United States auditing car dealerships for two years.

When did you first pick up the camera?
I bought my first camera when I was 18, before traveling to 10 cities in 6 countries around Europe, during the summer of 2003. I would continue to shoot when I would travel. I went back to Europe 5 more times, then to Costa Rica and Japan, always with my camera, between the years of 2005- 2011. In 2012, I started taking and editing pictures on my iPhone. I then bought a Nikon DSLR in 2015 and started to move away from phone photography and more into full frame digital photography.

You shoot black and white, and color. When do you decide to do one over the other? Is there one you prefer? 
I choose to shoot black and white based on light and shadows. I feel black and white photography is abstract to begin with since we don’t see in black in white. I try to heighten the abstract aspect of black and white photography by shooting in a style with high contrast with extreme light and shadows. I tend to shoot color when I want to capture the colors of buildings, houses or clothes a subject may be wearing in a shot. I also find that colors in the early morning sun as well as the evening golden and blue hours to be a fascinating and beautiful aspect of photography.

Our suites have both and we think they complement each other perfectly. Tell us about some of the works we have.
Three of the pieces that you have are “puddle reflection” photos after heavy winter rain here in San Diego. The two [that are] color are of an isolated subject where I feel the colors compliment the photo on its own. In the black and white puddle reflection picture, I was able to incorporate a large building into the reflection to add an extra layer to the already abstract quality of both a puddle reflection photo and black and white photography. I [also] like to play with [window] reflections. I usually look into windows during the last 2 hours of daylight, and I’m able to get reflections of the streets, buildings, and vehicles while I look into the window and compose a photograph with many visual layers. Two of the pieces (the boy at the fountain and the man in yellow) are examples of how I like to capture human emotion in a candid, decisive moment.

We love the man in gold; tell us about him.
I’ve walked by this man many times, but on this day his suit was matching the house. I took this photo and knew it was a keeper based on the emotion I captured on his face paired with the matching yellow suit.

There’s a grid component to all the images we have – is that something you incorporate consciously or was it all by chance?
I consciously incorporate this “grid component” into almost all of my work by following the rule of thirds and leading lines as techniques of composition. I achieve this look in my pictures by using an extra wide-angle lens. All of the pieces that you have except for one are shot on this extra wide-angle lens to achieve this look.

What type of camera(s) do you use? I know you shoot 35mm too.
I use a Leica SL mirrorless digital camera and a Leica R 6.2 SLR 35mm camera. I use the same four lenses on both camera bodies. The lenses I use are 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 80mm focal lengths.

What are you working on now?
I am currently shooting freelance photography for small businesses around San Diego as well as shooting headshots and portraits. I am about to shoot my first professional tennis tournament, and I am planning to be in one or two group shows this upcoming year along with putting together my first published photography book.

Check it out
Lyric at Park 12
101 Park Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101