Celebrity photography is a genre that never runs out of steam. Portraits of movie stars, artists, statesmen, musicians, athletes… Henry Leutwyler knows something about this – he who has made portraits of celebrities like Julia Roberts, Michelle Obama or Rihanna, and who works for such prestigious magazines as Vanity Fair, the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Vogue or Time. The Document exhibition, at the Musée des beaux arts of Le Locle in Switzerland, a product of 12 years of research and discovery, presents itself as a portrait gallery of objects that belonged to celebrities that Leutwyler would have been able to photograph had he been born but a few years earlier! There is something fascinating about these images because, even though we are looking at a comb, a key, a wristwatch, a guitar, a shoe, a pair of glasses, a glove, etc. very quickly it’s no longer the objects we see, but their owner’s portrait that takes shape in our mind: Elvis Presley, James Dean, Gandhi, Bob Marley, Gene Kelly, John Lennon, Muhammad Ali, etc. Authentic and worn, these objects invite us into intimacy with celebrities in unprecedented ways. Irving Penn said, “Still life is a way of representing people. They are in the background, simply the camera doesn’t focus on them.” Leutwyler doesn’t contradict this, but prompts us to reread the story differently, with all the unexpected emotional charge that this collection of singular objects entails.
Nathalie Herschdorfer is an author and photographic historian.
Henry Leutwyler : Document
From 18th June to 15th October 2017
Musée des beaux-arts Le Locle
2400 Le Locle