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Leigh Ledare: Personal Commissions (2008)

Leigh Ledare
Personal Commissions: “A dream into the Real. Very sensuous, cheerful, SWF, 38, gifted, charming looking for a distinguished very affluent hi-end art lover, a patron to share great heights. Ext#6910”, 2008
c-print
50.8 × 36.2 cm
20 × 14 1/16 in.

Leigh Ledare
Personal Commissions: ‘Beautiful, tall and slender 28 y/o seeks well connected man. If U attend A-list gala events in NYC, are kind and bring a date let’s have some fun!!! Ummmm. Ext#4803’ (2), 2008
c-print
50.8 × 36.2 cm
20 × 14 1/16 in.

Leigh Ledare
Personal Commissions: “Demi seeks Ashton Kutcher. Very attr single white Female 44 seeks tall attr responsible honest sexy sweet & financially stable younger man, 25-35 for possible relationship. Ext#7449”, 2008
c-print
50.8 × 36.2 cm
20 × 14 1/16 in.

Leigh Ledare
Personal Commissions: “FIRE. Sexy, beautiful WF, dominant wants a very willing, submissive who understands his place, for creative + complicated discreet plau. Tribute. Ext#6795”, 2008
c-print
50.8 × 36.2 cm
20 × 14 1/16 in.

Leigh Ledare
Personal commissions: “She Said Yeah. SWF, sharpest knife in the drawer, and best looking too. You definitely want to get to know me. Seeking man who can keep up w/me. No judgements. I’m pretty unconventional. Hopefully you like it that way” (1), 2008
c-print
50.8 × 36.2 cm
20 × 14 1/16 in.

Leigh Ledare
Personal commissions: “Beautiful 50-ish woman looks 30, Anna Nicole type looks, seeks very generous + understanding gentleman, for ongoing friendship / relatioship first. Ext#7461, 2008
c-print
50.8 × 36.2 cm
20 × 14 1/16 in.

Leigh Ledare
Personal Commissions: ”She Said Yeah. SWF, sharpest knife in the drawer, and best looking too. You definitely want to get to know me. Seeking man who can keep up w/ me. No judgements. I’m pretty unconventional. Hopefully you like it that way.” (2), 2008
c-print
50.8 × 36.2 cm
20 × 14 1/16 in.

Leigh Ledare
Personal commissions: “Let the Good Times Roll. 1 Blond, 53 yrs old, curvey, buxom, slim, clean, petite. No diseases or drugs. Seeking healthy, honest, reliable, financially secure younger an for discreet sensual fun. Ext# 1084”, 2008
c-print
50.8 × 36.2 cm
20 × 14 1/16 in.

Leigh Ledare
Personal Commissions: ‘Beautiful, tall and slender 28 y/o seeks well connected man. If U attend A-list gala events in NYC, are kind and bring a date let’s have some fun!!! Ummmm. Ext#4803’ (1), 2008
c-print
50.8 × 36.2 cm
20 × 14 1/16 in.

Leigh Ledare
Personal Commissions: ‘Trophy needs polishing. Attractive, intelligent, sweet and caring midwestern SWF, 25 seeks man to take me to my potential. Quiet and shy person, but have another side. Looking for man means, a leader.’, 2008
c-print
50.8 × 36.2 cm
20 × 14 1/16 in.

For the project Personal Commissions Ledare answered Women Seeking Men personal advertisements posted in various New York City newspapers. While primarily serving as a vehicle for seeking out companionship, these ads often referenced phrases such as “tribute”, which only thinly disguised the subjects’ participation within an underground economy of intimacy, sexual gratification and material validation. Clearly,economies such as these are driven by aspirational fantasies of class mobility or even romantic love, and often depend upon anonymity to preserve the charge of private desires upon which they draw.

Ledare’s interventions into this framework started by reconfiguring the expectations attributed to him as a male subject. While Ledare paid each of the women her asking fee (anywhere from $100-$300), rather than sleeping with the women, or capturing them on film, Ledare inverted the camera’s gaze. He started by redefining this payment as a commission fee, explaining to each of his subjects that it would be her job to direct a photograph of him inside her apartment, and that in doing so she could position him absolutely any way she desired—clothed, unclothed, etc… Foregrounding a female gaze, this reversal posed a false equivalence, one still caught up within the limitations and containments by which our society looks at sexuality and gender.

Echoing the anonymity of the original ads, the resulting images act not as portraits of Ledare, but rather as indirect portraits of the women who photographed him. This is registered vis-a-vis the women’s agency in directing Ledare, through the representations of the apartments in which they live, and through the point-of-sale self-descriptions that their original personal advertisements advance. The ads—in each instance displayed directly below the resulting photograph—act as the gateway into this economy, one which is classed and gendered. These ads are caught up as much in self-description as they are in anticipation of the male desires to which these women must play.

The Personal Commissions were made in direct response to Ledare’s work Pretend You’re Actually Alive, a project that focused on the dynamics within his family which hinged around his mother’s complex display of sexuality to a number of ends: to find a benefactor and companionship; to shield herself from the fact of her aging; not to mention as a means of negating her father’s expectations for how she should behave as a daughter, mother and woman of her age. Moreover, the women whose ads Ledare answered served as surrogates for his mother, vis-à-vis the personal ads she herself had avidly placed. This located her behavior inside a social field and a collective set of issues, where other women were responding to similar issues as her own.

Installation view Leigh Ledare: Personal Commissions at Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin, 2019