Leah Jing McIntosh, Writer & Photographer
Talk about a woman after our own heart - Leah Jing McIntosh is the Founding Editor of Liminal magazine, where she curates a beautiful interview series. We thought we'd turn the tables and give you all a glimpse into her world as a writer and photographer. Thanks Leah!
What do you do?
I am the founding editor of Liminal magazine, an online space which explores, interrogates and celebrates the Asian-Australian experience through long-form interviews, photographs and art. I see each interview from start to finish, from choosing who we interview, to interviewing and photographing our subjects, to editing and uploading the final document out into the world. Outside of Liminal, I also write stories, photograph moments, and draw feelings.
Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?
When I’m working on a big project, I have a few words above my desk. They change—last year, in London I was completing my Masters in English literature, so I had ‘you are so lucky. do something worthy of this luck.’ At the moment, for Liminal, I have ‘work hard. be kind.’ Writing is a solitary act, so when I get a bit lost, glancing up at these lines is a simple way to re-centre.
What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?
I don’t collect milestones, but when I travel I usually end up collecting a few stones. Recently: a rounded, dark stone from the time my boyfriend locked the keys in our car next to a waterfall in Iceland; a soft grey beach stone with a jagged side from Majorca, a present from my mate Corky; a thin, flat rock with a blue-white vein running through the middle, from the time my friend Michael accidentally led us into a ravine trying to find the white cliffs of Dover. Forgotten in jacket pockets, they’ve become daily reminders of silly adventures.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I have to be a bit vague about these because I think they’re under embargo! But I’ve just been awarded a grant to run poetry nights next year. Poetry is always best read aloud; I’m really excited to work with and support emerging and established Melbourne poets of colour.
I’ve also recently been selected for exhibition at the end of the year, featuring my portraits of the Liminal interviewees.
What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?
I love Sarah Hagi's prayer: God give me the confidence of a mediocre white dude.
Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TedTalk, ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ gives me strength, and every time I watch she reminds me why I make Liminal—to ensure that the vast, beautiful multiplicity of Australian stories are told.
What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?
I’ve read and re-read quite a few things this year, many of which have both tested and nourished me. In books: Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not in the Mood. In poems: Jenny Zhang, Ocean Vuong, Warsan Shire. In comix: Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s Skim, Eleanor Davis’s How To Be Happy, David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp. In photographs: Ren Hang, Ryan McGinley, Sophie Calle—in particular, her book Blind.
What is your dream project?
I’ve been dreaming of a print edition, a Liminal anthology—something to have and hold. I would like to have glossy, thick pages, with colour photographs—so I’m holding off a little while longer.
What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?
I really love the learning that comes through ozmosis—via the environment you’re in, the people you surround yourself with. As an English literature major, my experience of design and photography doesn’t come from formal training but rather from a lifetime of creative influence from my mother. In creating Liminal, I’ve also had incredible support from the editor at Metro, Adolfo Aranjuez. My advice to anyone who wants to enter an unknown field is to find a mentor, and to listen hard.
What places are important to you?
Elwood beach in the winter. Mecklenburgh square in spring. A certain stretch of the Yarra, in Richmond, where it feels like you’re in the middle of the bush. My best friend’s sofa in Footscray, the one with the dip in the middle. The treehouse my Dad built in our garden, nestled in a huge old banksia tree. And the tiny white messenger box in my phone, because many people I love live overseas.
Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?
Quite a few of my female friends are in publishing, writing and photography, and this year I’ve met many more—when I first began Liminal I had no idea that it would allow me to gently, often accidentally, piece together a sprawling network of inspiring humans. I am very lucky to have gained such a passionate and supportive team in Linh Nguyen, Adolfo Aranjuez, Baya Ou Yang, Kamna Muddagouni and Whitney McIntosh.
What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?
At Liminal, we publish interviews with talented Asian-Australians, whose voices are often mis- or underrepresented in Australian media. So—big surprise—I would like to see less racism. Because maybe we don’t need Red Symons asking Beverley Wang, ‘what’s the deal with Asians?’ Maybe we don’t need to give racists airtime just to draw controversy. I’d love to see more informed, more intelligent, more progressive media.