As a photographer, storyteller, and nomad passionate about meeting people, Leah Judson needs reliable power. Her latest project, “Before We Could Drink,” highlights extraordinary young people under the age of 21. You can learn more about the project here.
Leah went to a service project in the Czech Republic as a part of a high school trip while living in Germany. College students from the United States came into document the week she was helping the community and would present a slideshow of photos from each day. On the last day, Leah saw a photo of herself that brought her to tears because it was the first time she had felt seen, despite feeling in the background of social groups in school.
“It was in that moment I realized I wanted others to feel the same way I did, so I set out to learn about photography as a teenager,” she said. “I wanted to make others feel seen and heard in the work that I became passionate about.”
Leah’s travels have taken her to over 20 countries and covered more than half a million miles across the United States alone. With a degree in New Media Journalism, Leah loves to photograph people and specializes in portraiture. Based in Washington, DC., “Behold. Her,” brought together women in an intimate setting to discuss stigmatized topics and then later interviewed and photographed to create an archive of voices on pressing issues.
Her newest project, “Before We Could Drink,” focuses on telling the life stories of eight people under the age of 21. From an airplane pilot in Florida, a bull rider in Maryland, and a Navajo-Chippewa Cree activist in New Mexico, these young adults are breaking boundaries and trailblazing their life paths. Leah’s thrilled to highlight them all and says the process for finding her subjects was through word of mouth and a great colleague, Phoebe Meyers, assisting with the project.
“I want them to feel seen, give them a voice and a place that has them reach their potential without any judgment,” she said. “I parked and camped out with them and their families for anywhere between two and five days.”
She also was able to fundraise over $5,000 in scholarships for everyone featured. All in all, the project means a lot for Leah because of the bonds she created quickly with everyone. She jokes that she’s now informally adopted eight kids and is excited to keep in contact with them and their families!
What’s in the Skoolie?
Leah used plenty of resources when finding the right rig that would be home for the tens of thousands of miles. She was able to connect with the co-founders of the National Skoolie Association, and quickly converted them into believers of the project. They were able to negotiate for their personal rig and since then, Leah has turned the school bus into a home studio on wheels.
The project officially kicked off this past fall in the skoolie. Here’s what powers the 25 foot, 2002 Chevy Express 3500 bus:
– Cerbo GX
– Touch 50
– 2 170W 4×9 flexible Battle Born Energy solar panels
With help from her husband and father in-law during the carpentry and electrical process, it made the goal to complete the build in three months achievable. Let’s look at some of the top power draws in the skoolie!
With a mini Magic Chef refrigerator that wasn’t DC powered, Leah admits that’s where most of the power is drawn from. On the bus, she ran recording and filming equipment through the bus for podcast microphones and charging stations for camera and drone batteries, along with outlets for laptops.
If you’re looking to get a similar system for your school bus, check out our Battle Born Energy Motorized 30A 200Ah Kit. It’s a great starter kit that is compatible with solar and all components come pre-programmed.
Leah’s advice for anyone looking to get into the field of content creation is to not compare your work and life path to others. She admits to disconnecting from platforms and made more time to explore her ideas away from screens. She advises other solo female travelers to learn the maintenance and systems onboard prior to departure to avoid learning too much in the moment when help isn’t always accessible and pay extra attention when in any unfamiliar surroundings. Lastly, people should realize the bus still drives like one, no matter how much it feels like home, so make sure it’s well insulated and shelving units are secured.
What’s Next for Leah Judson?
Leah plans to release each piece of the series starting at the end of January 2022 and throughout the rest of the first quarter, so stay tuned to see how the stories will be shared. The subjects of the stories are narrating their individual episodes to really extend the idea and opportunity to allow them to be in control of their voice and narrative.