Henry Leutwyler — Behind the Curtain
It’s art at its finest: The glittering ballerina glides to center stage in a series of elegant pirouettes that make a swan seem gawky. The audience is riveted, gasping with envy as she leaps, en pointe, into the arms of her male counterpart. They fly across the stage and the music surges to a triumphant denouement.
The New York City Ballet Company has long provided the mass populace with narratives and tales told through dance. But behind the curtain, an entirely different story is told. Swiss photographer Henry Leutwyler takes us backstage to the sweat and the pain that goes into such a flawless performance. His ballet series, some of which has been submitted for our Photography Annual 2014, is gripping, authentic and, in some ways, even more enchanting.
Leutwyler is best known for his compelling black-and-white portraits of people, whose subjects stare unflinchingly back at the viewer. Perhaps New York Times Magazine photo editor Kathy Ryan describes Henry’s work best: “Powerful, graphic, almost chiaroscuro. The blacks are real blacks.”
How does Henry Leutwyler make his portraits talk? Amina Meer divulges how the Swiss photographer captures what’s in the soul of his subjects, through a lens that frees his subjects from their contexts in Graphis Magazine Issue 345.
“The penetrating vision is partly due to what Henry considers a European approach to a project. Positioning the subject in a corner of the room, the photographer comes in close with his camera.
The corner means that they can’t go left or right, and I come close so they can’t come forward or back. They’re a little scared it takes them out of their context.”
Henry laughs, “It’s a kind of psychoanalysis for me. I’m a very shy person. Imagine, to go in front of Gorbachev or Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan. Someone important, whose ten minutes are worth more than the session. To face him/her, I get closer and closer. I shoot from about 25 centimeters away. The lens is so close, they could kiss it. they always say, ‘I can see myself in the lens,’ and preen a little. But it’s not a gentle way to take pictures.
“It’s not pretty either—It’s unflinchingly beautiful.”
Henry Leutwyler is a Graphis Master, whose work has been represented in our Photography Annual 2008, Photography Annual 2010, Photography Annual 2002, Photography Annual 2007, Photography Annual 2009 and Issue 345.
If you are new to the blog, hello and welcome to our worldwide community, which is composed of some of the most influential designers and photographers of our time. We are always looking for new talent and would love to see your best work. Submit an entry over here, and become a professional member today at graphis.com.
To check out more work by Henry Leutwyler, click here.
Photographer: Henry Leutwyler
Title: ‘Megan LeCrone’