The Portrait: Simple Yet Complex, Obvious Yet Profound Part 1: The Eyes

By Judith Leitner

Over a century and a half ago, most folks were unable to create tangible visual links to their past. Many lacked the financial means necessary for creating pictorial inventories of themselves and their ancestors through the pricey art of Portrait Painting. Then, in 1839, Charles Daguerre in France and Henry Fox Talbot in England both announced that they had devised a way to ‘fix an image’, and the art and magic of Photography was born. With its affordable price tag, this clever novelty would enable everyman to express a primal, compelling need: to record, share and collect memories in pictures.

Cityscapes and still-life studies were the focus of the earliest photographic endeavors, as both subjects tended to be immobile during long exposures. Portrait photography evolved swiftly and concurrently, as technological advances in optics and chemistry allowed for less extensive exposures and richer images. Studios burst on the scene to accommodate the torrential parade of everyman and aristocrat alike. Since then, we’ve been voraciously crafting portraits and positioning ourselves in the ‘decisive moment’.

In spite of his deep ambivalence towards modernity and middle class values, the bohemian poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire allowed himself to be ‘mechanically reproduced’ by a [...] continue the story

Seeing Light And Shadow

By Judith Leitner

It all begins with light and shadow: opulent daylight softly slipping through a window and illuminating a lovely face, deep shadows stretching across wide valleys and cavernous crevices, dazzling light glistening on ice or crafting strange forms along sand dunes, elongated shadows within dawn’s emergent light and dusk’s fading glow, dense light within grey fog, mellow open shade on a bright summer day, harsh and calculating flash light in a dark room: these and an infinite array of other expressions of light and shadow are the primary shapers of meaning in a photograph. Indeed, the word ‘photography’ literally means ‘writing (graphy) with light (photo)’.

The first time I taught children to ‘write with light’ I quickly understood that all they needed – after a very basic intro to the camera and film – was a few lessons in exploring light and shadow. Outdoors, we wandered and observed how time of day, weather, open air and rooftop canopies informed qualities of natural light and shadow, and we played with the flash in daylight. The children were amazed when they perceived the ways their hats blocked light and cast dark shadows on their faces. Indoors, we looked at diffused window light, [...] continue the story

Rosa: A Story of Love and Memory

By Judith Leitner

July 27, 2012

I’d like to share a story with you, a splendid story.

I began crafting this journal years ago, when I was searching for a way to understand my mother Rosa. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and I was coming home from ‘Away’ after a long absence. I remember that moment of insight when I understood, with sparkling clarity, that my camera would be my paper and my eyes would be my pen and Rosa would be my story’s artful hero.

 

 

I made pictures of Rosa for 10 years. Her story became, through my camera’s lens, a richly textured narrative about family, everyday life, relationships and home and hospital landscapes. Love, memory, change, mind, beauty, the photograph, light and shadow, hands, windows and space and time- above all time- became themes and questions that wove themselves in and out, over and under in my visual journal; indeed, these themes were natural metaphors for Rosa’s illness. Throughout my story, the camera held my hand, allowing me as daughter and artist to stand back and to step in – the duality of detachment and intimacy.

In my next entry I’ll tell you about the beginning of my journey as daughter [...] continue the story

The DeMoe Family: Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Genetics

Using breakthrough imaging technology, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are learning how Alzheimer’s pathology progresses in people with the rare, early-onset form of Alzheimer’s, whose genetic mutation determines that they will get the disease. The film follows the DeMoe family, five of whose six children carry the mutation, and we learn about the emotional and personal toll it takes.

The Nanney/Felts Family: Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Genetics

Looking at the Nanney-Felts family in Tennessee, this film explores the role of genetics in late-onset Alzheimer’s and the quest to find additional genetic risk factors for the disease.

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