Indian intimacies

Leatherdale's photos go beyond beauty

MARCUS LEATHERDALE at Lehmann Leskiw Fine Art (626 Richmond West). to August 26. 416-922-1914. Rating: NNNN

Surrounded by Marcus Leatherdale’s Bharat: India photography show, you sense that every image associated with India you’ve ever seen or imagined must be re-evaluated.

A celebrity photographer in New York in the 80s, Leatherdale has documented India since moving there in 1993. His photographs attain a beautiful but relentless intimacy that lets you venture into unknown territory.

At first view the photos are merely beautiful, but once you scratch the surface of his sensibility, you’ll experience moving into a Joseph Conradesque heart of darkness .

Gitanjali, a member of rural India’s tribal royalties, clad in lush traditional textiles, seashells and gold jewellery, poses while hiding half her face with her hand. The portrait strikes an ambiguous chord of strong spirituality and subtle eroticism. Portraits of royals are displayed between photographs of human skulls, machetes and spears. The intriguing primal feeling of these works might lead you to speculate about the photographer’s safety in the Indian outback.

Even though the work is indisputably real, a mythic strain runs through the chocolatey matte prints. Snowball & Johnson, an image of a midget jester and his dog, hints at a magic parallel universe behind the apparent realism.

Leatherdale’s show displays the craft of photography at its very best, offering a brilliant perspective on a side of India few have experienced.

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