Monday evening found me sitting for a portrait for photographer Leslie Jean-Bart. As part of his latest creative series, Leslie requested each “sitter” come with a significant personal object. I chose a Venetian mask I bought during my visit to that city. Was there ever more appropriate prop for an actress? It is a very interesting experience to ‘sit’ for someone while they observe and photograph you. There must be a trust established between the artist and the subject because in spite of the clothes, the props, the war paint, you feel transparent. There is a sense of surrender: you do not control what the artist sees or how he interprets your offerings: a smile, a gaze, a head gesture, lowered eyelids, laughter…
I am not sure what Leslie will name his series but as he uses a water concoction in which the subjects are mirrored, I can only think of Narcissus. According to the legend, Narcissus falls in love with his own reflection in the water. A different and interesting interpretation of the tragic myth is not Narcissus’ self-love but his curse at being unable to recognize his own reflection. Perhaps unconsciously, Leslie recreated the conditions of the myth so he could capture the moment of self-recognition or non-recognition as each subject was confronted with their own reflected image.
When Leslie sent me the images, the photographs surprised me; he had chosen two portraits- one joyful, the other pensive. They had a brightness and softness I didn’t expect and amazingly, without having set out to do so, they replicated the symbol of theater: the two masks of tragedy and comedy. The perfect portrayal of an actress!
Thank you Leslie for ‘seeing’ me and translating it so beautifully in photography!
Leslie Jean-Bart is a New York City-based freelance photographer who shot for Sotheby’s, BMW, and other clients specializing in objects of desire. For fifteen years, he has been giving visual shape to verbal ideas.