Claustrophobically tight photographs swoop in on iconographic items, cropping them with cramped proportions and inadvertently making each one even more special. In Henry Leutwyler’s third book with Steidl, Document, the Swiss photographer captures a diverse array of memorable paraphernalia, bottling up a little part of history with every snapshot.
The image of John Lennon’s circular sunglasses make a renewed impression photographed against a blank, white background. Then there are the startling and slightly maudlin images of Prince’s hieroglyphic guitar, and Michael Jackson’s embellished white dance shoe, which the singer wore during a concert tour. Every famous memento is made to seem more significant and more heigtened in its cultural context when shot against an isolated white backdrop, transformed almost suddenly into a vision from another time.
With his strong eye, Leutwyler creates a new identity out of inanimate objects. An old pair of Converse sneakers which once belonged to Gene Kelly are imbued with intrigue. Kelly’s persona, that of a strapping and exuberant dancer, seems at odds with the image of worn-out sneakers, though the association is an interesting one. The shoes not only bring Kelly back into the mind of a 21st century viewer, but also add an extra layer of dimension to Kelly as a celebrity icon. What was his life like outside of his films? What were his defining feaures and posessions when he was going through the movements of a pedestrian?
As a short exhibition description puts it “these still-life portraits invite the viewer to explore and perhaps better understand the owners to which the items once belonged.” Now, they're the property of the masses—well, if you buy the book. Check out more images from Document below:
The exhibit for the photography book Document begins November 3rd, and runs through January 8th, 2017 at Foley Gallery in New York. Find more details about the show, here.