Onward Artist: Meet Photographer Natalie Leonard

Welcome back to Onward Artist. In this segment we’ll continue introducing you to the Penn State student art scene. The students in these stories would rather spend hours in a studio than a stadium, but remain as Penn State proud as any other student.

From artists with vivid, colorful pieces, to those who gravitate towards simpler, more abstract themes, we’ve seen quite a lot of talent already. This time we put down the paint brush and picked up the camera. Meet photographer Natalie Leonard.

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Leonard posed next to her Photography club’s exhibit, ‘Figuring it Out.’

Leonard is a senior at Penn State, and a BFA candidate in photography in the School of Visual Arts. Hailing from Muncy Pennsylvania, Leonard grew up with Penn State culture. Though her parents bled blue and white, she initially thought she wanted to study art in a big city.

“At first I wanted nothing to do with Penn State, but once I visited the campus and considered all the opportunities I could have here compared to a small art school, I was sold,” she said.

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Leonard points to one of her pieces in the Photo Club’s exhibit in the Patterson Gallery.

Leonard was a junior in high school when she discovered her love for photography. Soon after, she attended a pre-college program at the Prat Institute in Brooklyn, where she sharpened her skills and got her first taste of professional photography. Her career in photography has blossomed rapidly ever since. Leonard serves as the current president of Penn State’s photography club and the photo director at VALLEY magazine.

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Leonard’s portrait of Catherine Perry for Valley Magazine.

Leonard gravitates towards portraits, but explained she enjoys photographing experiences that feel real and in the moment. Her work is heavily influenced by many of the fashion photographers she’s worked with, as well as her favorite designers.

“Each photograph is a dialogue between me and the person I am photographing, a documented moment that always seems to continue to evolve even after I walk away from the camera.”

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Leonard’s piece “Dancing Man” in the Photo Club’s exhibit.

Leonard first got involved in the many realms of the art scene at Penn State during her freshman year. She’s completed multiple internships already, most geared towards fashion photography. Thus far, Leonard has worked with Interview Magazine, Alexander Wang, Harper’s Bazaar, and Esquire.

Her success doesn’t stop there, though. Leonard is also quite the entrepreneur. After getting some experience in fashion and photojournalism, Leonard decided to start her own brand. With the help of some friends and past co-workers, she began her own online publication called POND Magazine. ‘POND’ is an outlet dedicated towards thoughts, music, and anything artistic.

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Leonard’s cover for Pond Magazine, celebrating the publication’s two year anniversary, featuring model Christian Coppola.

“It started as a pretty basic blog and has now transformed into a full digital space constructed for collaboration and exchange,” she said.

Though compiled and curated solely by college students, POND has already made a splash in the realm of artistic journalism. From interviews with Penn State artists like Mute Cities, to indie rock sensations like Mac Demarco, Leonard’s online creation is already soaring. While most Penn Staters like to lay low during spring break, this senior plans on spending her time in Austin, Texas at SXSW, where she will work as press covering shows and interviewing up-and-coming artists.

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One of Leonard’s photographs titled, ‘Jax’

“Every day a new door opens and a new opportunity presents itself to us,” she said. “Every day we see ourselves reaching a larger audience. The interest and support still surprises and excites me.”

Whether working with humble State College bands, or fashion icons, Leonard has already made a name for herself. Interested in seeing more of her work? Check out more here! 

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Know any local artists that you think should be featured? Email [email protected] with any State College painters, sculptors, musicians, poets, or any artist in between who deserves recognition.

About the Author

Carolyn Popescu

Current senior studying Advertising and Visual Arts, Carolyn has a passion for entertainment and music. She also loves photography, film, graphic design, social media, and all things in between. She's the current Sony Music Marketing Representative for State College, so be sure to reach out to her with any local music scene questions, ideas, proposals, or if you just need someone to geek out about music with. (Contact her through [email protected] or [email protected])

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