The power of neo-burlesque is rooted in the charisma the performer exerts over the audience. On stage, the artist controls the illusion of what is and is not revealed. As artists, the burlesque community is quick to block general photography, which makes the attendance of a performance a one-of-a-kind event.
Leland Bobbé, alongside his producer wife Robin Bobbé, worked collaboratively with burlesque performers to craft images, which removed them from the stage and served to highlight the formalized essence of their character as individuals and as a persona.
These photographs further present the spirit behind each performer and the individual approach taken in the art form of burlesque. Nudity is a secondary element to the art and the individual. The photographs exhibit an honest grittiness, capturing a diverse array of body types portraying confidence and comfort in one’s own skin rather than an airbrushed representation of fantasy. In addition, American standards of female beauty are being challenged and turned on its head. Here all body types are welcome and accepted…what is important and exciting to the audience is that the performer is comfortable in their own skin, not whether or not they have that airbrushed show girl look.
“I thought that photographing burlesque performers in a style that reflected the realness and grittiness of the New York Neo Burlesque scene would be an exciting project,” says Bobbé. Researching his idea, he found that most photographs of burlesque performers were either shot during live performance, shot in a “behind the scenes” documentary style or in a pin-up style. Says Leland, “My intention with these photographs was to capture the glamour and impact that neo-burlesque performers bring to the stage in straight-ahead, real and honest studio portraits. By doing this I was able to reveal the essence of their character as individuals showing each performer’s personal approach to the art form of burlesque”.
The project culminated with a highly acclaimed 3 month exhibit at The Museum of Sex in New York City. The series has also has won numerous award including Graphis Photography Annual, Graphis 100 Best in Photography; International PX3 Award, Loupe International Award, Aperture International Award and was featured in The New York Times. In addition, the series has been published internationally on numerous websites and blogs including Feature Shoot, Esquire Russia, Rezalutions, Urbania and Creative Workbook.
About Leland Bobbé
Leland Bobbé, a native New Yorker, has been a professional photographer for over 30 years. His work spans both the fine art and commercial worlds and has been shown in galleries and utilized by advertising agencies around the country.
Bobbé’s award winning photographs tell more than they are showing. The photographer’s images delve beneath the visible surface of the world we see and provide a glimpse of a hidden dimension that lies beneath. Like a poker player that blinks, each image has a “tell” … a crack in the facade that allows us to delve more deeply into the psychology and inner workings of his subjects. Beneath his unflinching portraits of Women of Fifth Avenue, armored with make up, cosmetic surgery, and opulence, we see the frailty of old age and the specter of lost beauty. His beautiful portrait series, Neo-Burlesque perfectly captures the creativity and glitz of these performers in a classic studio setting and was exhibited in the spring of 2011 at The Museum of Sex (NYC). His wind blown and forgotten umbrellas in Stormy Weather remind us that even the shields we devise to protect ourselves from the elements eventually succumb to their force. In his most recent series, New York City Wall Art, he is photographing the ripped, tattered and peeling posters that appear on many walls around New York. This creates an unintended collage affect and forces the viewer to deal with disparate elements that aren’t normally viewed together but do exist in reality.
His series, Half-Drag offers a unique perspective on the drag queens behind the make up, while providing provocative social commentary on gender identity, normative ideas about gender roles, and the traditional male/ female paradigm. Not surprisingly, Half-Drag has gone viral, appearing on over thousands of blogs, websites and online magazines in over 30 countries including Vogue Italia, Huffington Post, ABC News, The Sundance Channel, AOL and MSN (please see Press tab for most recently media). He also appeared on the first guest segment on the newly launched HuffPost Live.
A fan of photographers like Steve Pyke, Garry Winogrand, Richard Avedon, and Harry Callahan and painters like Mark Rothko and Edward Hopper, Bobbé contends that his greatest influences lie elsewhere:
“I find my influence comes more from a state of mind fueled by rock and roll, Miles Davis and great films. A boldness and simplicity runs through my work. In all of my portraits, although the subjects vary greatly, I always direct them in a similar way; which I think reflects my personality. I find that the photos that might make me a bit nervous and uncomfortable to shoot are often my best.” [Official Website]