Charles Leche claims he lacks any ability to paint, draw or sculpt. But what he can do with a camera is something different entirely.
His talent in bringing architecture, animals, cultural activities and more to life is now on display in “Photography in All Its Forms” at The Atrium Gallery at Christwood. It is the first solo exhibition for the amateur photographer and practicing lawyer.
“I choose photography as a medium because I have no talent in any other form of visual art,” Leche said. “Even if I could (paint, draw or sculpt), I’d still pursue photography: My attempt is to present interesting or pleasing interpretations of ‘reality.’
“For this purpose, digital photography is brush and acrylic on steroids. The canvas is not the electronic sensor in your camera. It is your computer screen,” he added.
“The ‘art’ begins with light and composition: your choice of subject, lighting conditions, angle, crop, depth of field, length of exposure, etc., that go into creating that initial ‘sketch’ that appears on your camera’s sensor when you click the shutter. Then you apply the amazing electronic artist’s tools that are available today.”
Those techniques translate into captivating images that draw viewers in and create a feeling of being there with the subject, whether it is a foggy morning in the French Quarter, as can be seen in “Andrew Jackson in Fog” and “Pirates Alley.” Or a moment up-close with a majestic creature, such as those featured in “Alaskan Grizzly” and “Cotswolds Falcon.”
As can be seen on the gallery’s walls and in the exhibition’s title, Leche doesn’t limit himself to just a few subjects or ways of displaying them.
“This is an ‘eclectic’ exhibit. That is, the photographic images are presented in a variety of forms and subjects: black-and-white, color, large, small, aluminum, canvas, paper, framed, unframed, nature, cityscapes, architectural, New Orleans icons, Mardi Gras, etc., etc.,” the Mandeville resident said.
Leche is drawn to architectural photography, where interior rooms and building exteriors are captured in the “most ‘idyllic’ or pleasing manner possible — to emphasize the designer’s essential intent,” he said.
Yet he added that he enjoys “such a wide variety of subjects, almost ‘anything goes.’
“What I’m usually trying to do is capture the subject matter (which may be mundane) in an unusual or different way and thus capture the viewer’s interest by presenting a new or different way of seeing,” he said.
Leche’s quest to present subjects in an interesting way particularly can be seen in a series of images documenting the statues removed in New Orleans last year. Each of the four black-and-white paper prints — “Andrew Jackson statue,” Robert E. Lee statue,” “Jefferson Davis statue” and “P.G.T. Beauregard statue” — features the named statue with the entire background removed so that only a white background behind the statue is present.
“This goes back to my basic idea, which is to present different interpretations of ‘reality’,” Leche said of the series. “One of my objects was to try to capture the fact that the statues (particularly Lee and Beauregard) are intrinsically magnificent sculptural works of art, as well as important historical objects. I chose to attempt this by presenting the images essentially as etchings — with all background and other distractions removed — thus concentrating the viewer’s attention on the sculptural details. I achieved the desired effect using what I call ‘fancy footwork’ in Photoshop.”
While he has never worked professionally as a photographer, Leche’s interest in the art form began as a teenager in the early 1960s.
“My older brother showed me how to use a very old, but still perfectly useable, Leica,” he said. “I became fascinated with how light can be controlled and images produced.”
Leche’s passion for photography continued in the 1970s and 1980s when he produced images in a darkroom. He discovered digital photography in 2003, when he purchased the first Canon ‘Rebel’ DSLR.
“Six megapixels. I was stunned by what it, in combination with Photoshop, could do,” Leche said, adding that he now uses professional-grade Canon cameras and lenses.
At 71, he has done some for-pay photography sessions, but also has enjoyed what he calls pro-bono photography for the Preservation Resource Center, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and occasionally other charitable, nonprofit, or civic organizations.
“I still enjoy doing that. My hope, however, is to do much more ‘professional’ photography in the future, eventually becoming a full-time photographer,” Leche said, adding that he is appreciative that Christwood and its exhibition coordinator Ann Menge Loomis for giving him the opportunity for this first exhibition.
“Photography in All Its Forms” will be on display through April 27 at The Atrium Gallery at Christwood, 100 Christwood Blvd., Covington. Gallery hours are Mondays-Fridays, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.christwoodrc.com.
On the Horizon
Hand Building Functional Ceramic Vessels with instructor Richard LoPiccolo March 21, 28, (no class on April 4), April 11 and 18, 9 or 11:30 a.m.; or March 21, 28, (no class on April 4), April 11 and 18, 6 to 8:30 p.m., at St. Tammany Art Association, 320 N. Columbia St., Covington. $135 or $125 for STAA members, including a limited amount of clay, glazes and firing. www.sttammanyartassociation.org
Mandeville Artist of the Month-Meet the Artist, March 21, 5 to 7 p.m., City of Mandeville City Hall, 3090 E. Causeway Approach, Mandeville. www.cityofmandeville.com
The Slidell Photo Club members meeting, March 21, 7 p.m. Cultural Center at Slidell City Hall, 2055 Second St., Slidell. www.slidellphotoclub.org
Friday Nites on the Square featuring Sharon Schech, March 23, 5;30 to 8:30 p.m. at Terra Bella Village, Covington. Bring lawn chairs; ice chests not allowed. Food and beverage will be available for purchase. Portions of the proceeds will benefit the TerraBella Institute. www.terrabellavillage.com.
Mandeville Live! featuring Little Freddie King, March 23, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Mandeville Trailhead, 675 Lafitte St. Admission is free. No outside food, beverages or ice chests. www.cityofmandeville.com.
Covington Louisiana Actors Playhouse System (CLAPS) auditions for the 2018 season, March 24, Covington High School. CLAPS will perform the musicals Disney’s The Lion King Jr., Madagascar, and Honk Jr., as well as Mary Poppins, June 14 to 30. Performing and technical auditions are open to any high school student in grades 9-12 attending public or private school including students entering the 9th grade. Auditions for Disney’s The Lion King Jr. are restricted to current students in grades 6, 7, 8 and 9 only. All performing students who want to audition need to prepare 16 measures of an audition song, and they will be required to give a cold reading. Bring piano music – an accompanist is provided – or accompaniment tracks (accompaniment only; no vocals) to the audition. No a cappella auditions are allowed. A resume is requested, but not required. Technical students are required to bring a resume and will be interviewed. All students need to know their summer schedules in order to determine availability for productions. Rehearsals begin May 7. To schedule an audition, visit www.clapsonline.org.
Jazz on the Bayou, March 24 and 25 from 3 to 7 p.m. The annual event at the residence of jazz musician Ronnie Kole and his wife, Garner, benefits Easter Seals Louisiana, STARC, Safe Harbor and Slidell Cultural Arts Society. Tickets are $100 per person. http://jazzonthebayou.com/home/tickets/
Impastato Gallery & Art Therapy’s Annual Student Art Show, March 24, 5 to 7 p.m. at the gallery, 1901 Highway 190, Suite 28 (in Chenier), Mandeville. www.impastatogallery.com.
Playmakers Theater’s staged reading of Art by Yasmina Reza, March 25, 1 p.m. at the STAA’s Art House, 320 N. Columbia St., Covington. This is the second in a planned year-long series of staged readings at various venues throughout the area. Art won the 1998 Tony Award for Best Play, among other recognitions. Admission is $15.00 for all seats. For tickets, call 985.893.1671 or visit www.playmakersinc.com.
Third Sunday Concert featuring the Fontainebleau High School Jazz Ensemble, March 25, 5 p.m. (doors open at 4:30 p.m.), Christ Episcopal Church, 120 S. New Hampshire St., Covington. Admission is free.
“Building the Wall,” featuring paintings by Rand Carmichael, until March 29 at the Slidell Cultural Center at City Hall, 2055 Second St. Gallery hours are Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.myslidell.com.
STAA’s Children’s Culture Camp, April 2 to 6, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., STAA’s Art House, 320 N. Columbia St., Covington. Led by acclaimed musician and artist Grayhawk Perkins, children will learn about storytelling by writing a story, illustrating it and hand-binding it into a book, as well as songwriting, painting and crafting with watercolors and acrylics, other cultures and blues harmonica (children will receive a harmonica they can keep). The camp will conclude with storytelling and a concert showcasing the children’s newfound musical skills. Cost is $240 or $220 for STAA members. www.sttammanyartassociation.org.
Call to artists, TerraBella Village’s “Eats and Arts, April 28 from 5 to 9 p.m. The night will showcase artists and feature live jazz. Artists entry fees are $95 for an indoor space including table, linens and temperature controlled area. Indoor space is limited and is rented on a first come first serve basis. Entry fees are $75 for a 10×10 outdoor space including a table, linens, tent & limited lighting. Fee must be submitted at the time of application in form of a check or cash. Applications must be submitted via mail to TerraBella Institute, Event Coordinator, 111 Terra Bella Blvd, Covington, LA 70433 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 3 at 5 p.m.
Pottery Wheel Throwing Classes with instructor Vanessa Hock, STAA, 320 N. Columbia St., Covington. Thursday class sessions from 6 to 8:30 p.m.: April 5, 12, 19 and 26. Saturday class sessions from 9 to 11 a.m.: April 7, 14, 21 and 28. Class is limited to six spaces. Cost is $135 or $125 for STAA members. www.sttammanyartassociation.org
Tickets are available for Jazz It Up-A Private Showing, April 6, 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Pappion Artistry, 528 Girod St., Mandeville. The event will feature Christina Pappion’s artwork to be showcased at Jazz Fest, and will include a wine, cheese and a performance by Harp Entertainment and a custom hand-painted wine glass. Tickets are $28 per person. To purchase, visit www.pappionartistry.com/events.
Painting the Night Watercolor Workshop with internationally recognized master watercolorist Paul Jackson, AWS NWS, April 23-26, Abbey Art Works, St. Joseph Abbey, Covington. Cost is $450; accommodations in the retreat center are available at a rate of $112.50 per night. Contact Jane Brown at 985.373.2305 or email@example.com.
Tickets are available for the George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts’ Aioli Dinner Supper Club-Mandeville, April 28, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $300 per person. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-aioli-dinner-supper-club-the-home-of-daniela-elie-khoury-lakeshore-drive-mandeville-tickets-41793285843
Registration is open for STAA’s Fingerprints Art Camps ages 6 to 12 with four one-week sessions, June 4 to 8, June 11 to 15, June 18 to 22, and June 25 to 29, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., STAA’s Art House, 32o N. Columbia St., Covington. Cost is $220 or $200 for STAA members with family memberships and above. Participants registering for all four sessions receive $100 off. www.sttammanyartassociation.org.
Landscape and Cityscape Painting with instructor Alan Flattmann, May 8 to June 26 (Tuesdays), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Abbey Art Works, 73408 River Road, Covington. Enrollment is limited to 16 students. Cost is $180 per month. firstname.lastname@example.org or www.alanflattmann.com.
Sarah Bonnette is a freelance writer on Louisiana arts and culture. She may be contacted at email@example.com.