Asia Society – Michelle Caswell interview:
MC: Isn’t this a romantic notion of Indian culture? How does your work differ from colonial portraits of India?
ML: Initially I looked at colonial pictures [from India] and I thought these could be such extraordinary pictures if there wasn’t such a barrier between the person who shot it and the “specimen”…. I certainly hope my pictures aren’t coming off as that. I’m just trying to depict the pure cultural aspects of India up to the point where they’ve all decided that in order to be modern, they’ve got to be Western. And that irritates me. You can be modern without being American; I think that is possible. To see people who are willing to trade off thousands and thousands of years of glorious traditions just so they can be modern is deplorable. So if you want to call that romanticism, fine.
First known for his arresting portraits of New York City celebrities (Hidden Identities series-Details) in the 1980s, in 1993 Leatherdale began spending half of each year in the Indian holy city of Banaras. Based in a 200-year-old house in the old city, he began photographing the diverse and remarkable people there, from the sadhus (holy men) to celebrities, royalty to the Adivasi (tribals). Each year, for the months he lives in India, he works out of his studio and then travels extensively, setting up makeshift studios in villages and carefully negotiating among some of India’s most elusive figures to make his portraits. Marcus relocated to Chottanagpur, Jharkhand, where he has been focusing on the Adivasis (tribals) of India. When not in India, Marcus is now based in Portugal (Luso Studio) and commutes between Europe and USA. In April, 2015, his show, Hidden Identities, will be up at Bernarducci Meisel Gallery in New York City. http://www.marcusleatherdale.com.