Turning the Tables on Taboo

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Last Tuesday evening, soft-spoken photographer Leigh Ledare 00 PH shared his disturbing and sometimes pornographic photos and video as the latest speaker in the Photography department’s fabulous TC Colley Lecture series.

In work such as the series Pretend You’re Actually Alive (2008), Ledare attempts to make sense of his troubled relationship with his domineering mother, who is featured frequently in his images. In effect, he reframes their relationship with his camera. But his photographs also pose universal questions about archetypes, gender, ethics, taboo and agency ­– the role of the photographer vs. the role of the subject. 

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Ledare explained to the audience that each project he creates is a lens through which he views former projects – meaning the themes he explores continue to develop over time. The lack of boundaries in his relationship with his mother – both physical and emotional – seemed “normal” when he was a child, and his ongoing work allows him to revisit and renegotiate the terms of that relationship. 

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In a related project, Personal Commissions (2008), Ledare reversed roles with his mother, playing the part of the model while older women he connected with via personal ads played his mother. It’s all very complicated and fraught with dark emotions, he explained – emotions that are normally hidden in the “cultural blind spots” he prefers to look at through the lens.

The next TC Colley Lecture, scheduled for Tuesday, November 5, at 7pm will feature Justin Kimball 85 PH

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