Letha Wilson

(Born 1976 in Honolulu, Hawaii; Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY)

When I moved to Syracuse from Colorado one thing that really stuck with me were the annual weeklong family backpacking trips in the Rocky Mountains. We would have a camera on the trip passed around among family members. There were no people in the photographs. They’re all of mountains, rivers and lakes. I carried those photos around with me in Syracuse. They started to enter my work. 

Photography is just one of the tools I use. I’m skeptical about being identified as a photographer.

I started to do room installations in grad school, to think big, merging photography and sculpture. Everything clicked for me. ‘How can a landscape photograph be contemporary’? ‘Why are there all these rules around photography and why is it treated apart from any other medium’? In the Village Voice, photography was listed separately from galleries. I saw this as an opening.

I travel in my head to places I’ve been remembering them. What I like about landscaped images is that people bring it to their own experiences and they touch on that. I purposefully didn’t want to use the figure in my work. I wanted the viewer to be the figure in the landscape. The landscape could be open to any kind of person. Everyone would have a different experience to bring to it. The landscape would be common ground.

What I find continually interesting about photography is that it has this origin in science and how you make an image appear on paper with chemicals and sunlight. There’s the science but it’s magical. There’s always a learning from the material by observing it, pushing it, testing it, test, trial, error. I’m interested in breaking down the preciousness of the photograph.

I remember a transformative experience at my first artist residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute. I had this moment where I was hesitant. I thought ‘press yourself, trust yourself’. It was this release of a barrier. Suddenly I thought ‘yes, do whatever you want’. You’re not really aware of these barriers you place on yourself. At that moment I thought ‘okay, just do it. Do what you want.’ It felt very powerful.

–Conversation on May 14, 2020

Listen to our conversation here:


Selected Image from the Collection:


Wilson, Letha, Joshua Tree Bronze Push (Broken Ground Flip), 2016, Photographic, Framed: 59 x 45 x 2 1/8 in.