Leigh Ledare: Pretend You’re Actually Alive

I recently discovered the work of Leigh Ledare, a recent graduate of Columbia’s MFA program. Ledare’s project Pretend You’re Actually Alive is an intimate portrait of his mother, a once-promising prodigy ballerina, and an exploration of his relationship with her.

Currently, Pretend You’re Actually Alive is on view at Andrew Roth in New York, up until June 14th. As the press release states,

Pretend You’re Actually Alive can be viewed as an archive of a mother and son’s shared, private moments amidst the desperate attempts to renew her identity as a dancer – this ­time working as a stripper in a club beside her parents’ apartment. Pretend You’re Actually Alive is also a mapping of Ledare’s mother’s efforts to commodify herself – initially through her precocious childhood talent, later through her overt sexuality, and eventually through the portrayal of herself as an archetypal victim – in efforts to find companionship, attention, financial security, and a benefactor before her youthful, marketable currencies expire.

Ledare’s photographs and videos bring to mind the work of Larry Clark, Nan Goldin and Richard Billingham. The work is both haunting and beautiful.


Mother in New Home, 2006
© Leigh Ledare


Mother As Baby Jane, 2004
© Leigh Ledare


Pink Stain, 2007
© Leigh Ledare


Black Wig (Mom in New Home), 2006
© Leigh Ledare

The book of Pretend You’re Actually Alive, which is now available signed through Dashwood, comes in a slipcased edition of 1,000. If I had the money, I’d buy one.

See more of Ledare’s work here, here or here.

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