BODY POSITIVE IMAGING FOR THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGE
The Alchemy series is an ongoing collaboration between photographer Michel Leroy and a wide range of professional athletes with varying body types that explores the tension between physicality and identity. The images are simple in form, but rich in ideas and emotions. Each moment captured is a celebration of athletic confidence and vitality at its most pure. Moments of sculptural balance, anticipation and strength define the graceful lines and organic gestures of these vivid Black and White images.
In this figurative series the artist creates body-positive images that are exaggerated and explicit without sexual objectification. By emphasizing form over identity, Leroy seduces the viewer to reveal empathy for body acceptance that transcends the self-image obsession of social media.
There is clear evidence linking social media use to body image concerns, excessive dieting, body shaming and a desire for a "thin ideal" that impacts personal body confidence. While tens of millions of followers recognize that all online imaging is touched-up and slimmed-down to maximize the prettier and thinner aesthetic no one can escape feeling worried their body doesn't measure up against the sheer volume of perfectly curated media posts.
In the view of the artist it is vital to preserve what makes each of us unique and push back against imaging that reinforces the cycle of negative self-objectification where people view themselves as products for consumption. Therefore, Leroy is optimistic that by sharing photographs, videos and publishing stories from the Alchemy series viewers will be uplifted regarding their own self-image, challenge preconceptions about size and embrace a fresh perspective on the singular beauty of the human form.
The creative process is of great relevance and bears witness to the labor-intensive technique reminiscent of a Daguerreotype in the pixel age. The photographic style was developed over a year of experimentation with a mixture of analog and digital elements including camera, lens, lighting and post-production workflow to achieve the unrelenting clarity and unique dark metallic look. The images are also notable for the tactile permanence of flesh revealed through the in-camera technique that enhances textures and brings out details unseen by the casual glance.
The choice of dark bodies against a dark background focuses the viewer's attention on form and shape over the sexuality and eroticism of typical nude photography. The physical process of transmuting the skin metallic unites the constellation of skin tones to illuminate physical radiance and emphasize the physical similarity of bodies over ethnic diversity.
Intentional shadowing and the ambiguous mixture of masculine and feminine posing further blurs the lines between gender and identity challenging viewers to question their assumptions. The result of these creative decisions are images that are familiar at a glance but invite critical inspection and are open to more than one interpretation.
Michel Leroy was born in America in 1971 and grew up in Montana. He lived in London and Florence before finding his way to New York City in 2000, where he established a reputation as an award winning entertainment and advertising photographer with a clear style that captures an authentic connection to real personalities from olympic athletes to celebrity chefs.
Leroy’s early self-directed portrait series “Rally Bikers”, a celebration of the diversity of biker culture in the American West, set the tone for a series of high profile photographic projects that define a style of unrelenting black and white portraits which reveal texture and detail beyond the casual glance.
Alchemy, Leroy’s most defining project, began in 2016. This striking body-positive figurative series explores the tension between physicality and identity. The photographic style developed by the artist over a year of experimentation with a mixture of analog and digital elements produces arresting clarity and a unique dark metallic look.
In addition to his ongoing dedication to personal projects, Leroy continues to shoot advertising campaigns for leading agencies and brands, including: Adidas, Intel, L'Oréal, Travel Channel and The Food Network.
Leroy’s extensive awards and honors include The Eddied Adams Award for a Portrait Series, Graphis, Communication Arts, PDN, PX3, American Photography and the Sony World Photography Awards.
Leroy received a BFA in Photography with a minor in Communications from The University of Dayton in 1995 with a year abroad through Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
ARTIST EXHIBITION RECORD
2018 Jamaica Center for the Arts, Group Exhibition, Curator Catherine Peila, Queens, NY
2018 The Creative Center Charity Auction, Curator Sasha Mallon, New York, NY
2018 Volition Gallery, Art of Subculture, Group Exhibition, Curator Sona Viola, Orangeurg, NY
2018 FotoSolo Pier 94: Alchemy - Balance and Anticipation, Solo Exhibition, New York, NY
2018 Southern Poverty Law Center Charity Auction, Curator Julie Grahame, New York, NY
2018 The Wall at BP, Alchemy, Solo Exhibition, Curator Michelle Stanek, New York, NY
2018 Santa Monica Art Studios, APA LA, Off the Clock Exhibition, Group Exhibition, Juror Laurie Kratochvil, Los Angeles, CA
2018 Saatchi & Saatchi LA, MOPLA (Month of Photography Los Angeles), Traveling Exhibition, Los Angeles, CA
2018 Old Print Gallery, APA NY, Proof Sheet Exhibition, Group Exhibition, Juror Bruce Byers, New York, NY
2015 Saxon Heart, Rally Bikers, Group Exhibition and Fundraiser Auction, Brooklyn, NY
2013 Nelson Fine Art, Rally Bikers, Group Exhibition, Saugerties NY
2011 Superfine, Rally Bikers, Spirit and Legacy, Solo Exhibition, Brooklyn, NY
AENY18 FOTOSOLO Award - Michel Leroy