On Zoe Leonard

Figure 1: Zoe Leonard (1989) Three untitled photographs, taken from airplane windows

Leonard’s work deals with the idea of how we understand the photographic nature of photography. This is important as it really identifies the impact that photography can have on our understanding of the world. Leonard uses this really effectively and in simple terms for the reader, for example in the way that she leaves the border of the negative (Fig: 1), as Fi Churchman points out “as if to remind the viewer – and maybe herself – that these are compositions: the world framed by another’s viewpoint. Put simply, all perspectives are constructs” (Churchman & Leonard, 2018). This really resonates with the way that my own work has developed as I have become interested in the way that the photograph constructs – even place its own inanimate agency from its characteristics. It feeds my idea of how photographer, photography, and photographed elements can be unreliable in the construction, Leonard’s idea of ‘perspectives,’ or as she notes “where you look is only half the picture” (2018).

Now that I have started to consider my project as a way of responding to belief, and to acknowledge that these all may be tenuous – even my own. I am drawn to Leonard’s intentions for her work. My project has developed to also look at the way that elements of class, misinformation, conspiracy, and personal histories are all susceptible to unreliable narration. Leonard echoes this in the way that she says: “I’m consciously making space for the viewer and unfolding a kind of visual and spatial essay for them, in the hope that the viewer responds with their opinions, experiences, emotions. It’s not about trying to convince you of mine [Leonard’s], but to elicit yours” (2018). This is a useful way of thinking about the presentation of the work. I have considered putting together a sequence of the work, which could differ from publication to publication in order to undermine the experience that an individual brings to it, or would it just make it a more personal individualised interpretation of the work? Both would be the case. Wendy suggested that this kind of presentation could work to support the way that we all have a subjectivity when reviewing the family album and I would be aiming to build in this by highlighting the way that photography is a construction.


Churchman, F. & Leonard, Z., 2018. Zoe Leonard in ArtReview. [Online] Available at: https://www.hauserwirth.com/ursula/23142-zoe-leonard-artreview [Accessed 21 April 2021].

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