Pretend You’re Actually Alive Photographs by Leigh Ledare.
PPP Editions, New York, 2008.
color and black & white illustrations throughout, 8¼x10¾”.

This is the first book by Leigh Ledare a recent graduate of Columbia University. It is an intimate look at his mother, and their sometimes oddly close relationship. Included are personal writings by Ledare…interesting, yet sometimes skanky photographs documenting their artistic collaboration. Ledare employs a raw, intimate, “snapshot” aesthetic placing him into the lineage of Nan Goldin and Jim Goldberg. He knows how to manipulate this genre, and does not fall into the trappings, which many young photographers who dabble in this lineage tend to do. Ledare’s work feels indulgent, but more performance based when compared to his peers. The book feels very personal, and you inevitably feel like a creep probing through someone’s dirty undies.

The design of the book has the look and feel of Raised by Wolves, but the spine doesn’t break as soon as it’s opened. It is also housed in a graphic slipcase, which does not give any signs of the intimacy within.

Regardless of your moral compass, this is an interesting book with strong design. Add it to your collection before it is out of print, and out of your price range. -PIP

Composed in its entirety of photographs, written anecdotes and ephemera, Leigh Ledare’s first book, Pretend You’re Actually Alive, is a searingly intimate investigation of the artist’s relationship with his mother, a once-promising prodigy ballerina.

Both a revealing family album, and an unfolding of the relationship between Ledare and his muse/mother, Ledare’s photography and video work involves creating strategies to navigate the themes embodied within this extraordinarily complex relationship. 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.

Pretend You’re Actually Alive is foundational to Ledare’s continuing investigations around portraiture, issues of authorship, collaboration, performance, authenticity, and an ongoing inquiry into the ways in which personal boundaries complicate subjectivity. -PPP Editions

Pretend You’re Actually Alive is published in an edition of 1000 slipcased copies.

Pretend You’re Actually Alive is available at Amazon