Review of Leigh Ledare: The Confectioner’s Confectioner, 16th April – 5th June, Pilar Corrias, London
Leigh Ledare’s ongoing photography work generously reveals the relationship he has with his mother. In the recent solo show at Pilar Corrias fragments from his childhood, notes written by Tina/Mom and himself make explicit some elements of their relationship. Tina/Mom’s thoughts on models is a beautiful ode to the creativity of the photographer’s model, her informal hand-written will expose the love and trust she places in Leigh. A narrative develops through the notes; the relationship with Dad ended, and Leigh, in some way become Mom’s man/boy. She talked to him, revealed herself emotionally and physically. As a ballet dancer, she was trained to be invested in her body, her artistic tool. This is the back story. One day, Tina/Mom asks Leigh to photograph her, to record her aging, vulnerable body now, before it is too late, before the flesh decays into an unphotographable state; before it can no longer be the object. And so Leigh dutifully does. Complicit in this recording, he is the third person in the room whilst Tina/Mom gets it on with Leigh-substitute boys. Her acts performed for Leigh, a performance for his benefit. Does she want to arouse Leigh? Make him jealous? Or push him to reject her out of repulsion for her sexuality, her aggressive exhibitionism designed to ensnare Leigh in an Oedipal game. Does she want him to throw down the camera and fuck her, pushing aside his replacement? Sometimes she is naked and alone, still enjoying her sexuality, but without a partner, less performed. If Leigh did not record this, if he did not have his camera in the room, how would he have reacted? How did he react, used as Tina/Mom’s sexual documenter?
Which answers the question, how can a sexually explicit photograph of a woman present without question the subjectivity of that woman, before or even preventing the objectification of that woman? Through the Oedipal narrative, Leigh becomes less the exploiting photographer and more an equal participant with the subject. The two locked into their fixed positions. The captions with the photographs, descriptively position the image contents. But even without such contexts, within the image frame, the faint silvery traces of stretch marks on Tina/Mom’s stomach testify to her mother status and jar with her version of maternal she is therefore enacting.
Leigh reaches beyond this project to challenge his own position from outside this mother-son courtship. Understanding the plane of representation as ‘the site of the trauma’, the place in which his Mom revealed herself to him, but in a sense foreclosed other possibilities of their relationship, he places himself in Mom’s position by re-enacting her fantasies by being the fantasy for other women. Leigh becomes women’s object, the Leigh-object: a gift for mother? Leigh-photographer becomes Leigh-model relinquishing the responsibilities of the lens.