"I grew up Catholic, my mother was a nurse and my father was a scientist. Sex, outside of the realm of reproduction, was something we never talked about," Brooklyn-based photographer Joanne Leah tells Konbini.
However, looking at Joanne's work, one would never think that sex was ever a taboo for her.
Themes of sexuality, fetishism and bondage are widely explored in Leah's conceptual and daring photographs. Playing with suggestive elements – colorful rope, egg yolks, glitter, flour, etc. – Joanne creates sexually-charged, yet subtle, sophisticated imagery.
Born in Germany, Leah was adopted at birth and grew up in southwestern Virginia. She and her husband lived in Pennsylvania for ten years, but the artist finally found herself moving to Brooklyn after her divorce.
Creative from a young age, Joanne originally studied sculpture and switched to fashion design because she wanted to make "wearable sculptures." Photography classes were something she took on the side.
However, her interest in photography grew over time and became the optimal way for Joanne to apply and capture the full scope of her creative expertise. The artist tells Konbini:
"It took me four years of experimentation and failure to define my current aesthetic.
When I first started, I created images that were very erotic, then I decided to do the complete opposite and focus on dark classical portraits.
I was bored of shooting dark images and reversed again and worked toward a bright and vivid color palette."
"My images are always evolving and have become more about the process of making them.
I spend most of my time thinking about ideas, making sets and props and working with bodies."
Most of Joanne's subjects aren't professional models – she rather chooses to work with friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers. According to the photographer, the most important thing in a model for her is their interest in the type of ideas she is exploring with her work.
It's not hard to notice that predominantly, Joanne chooses female models to pose in front of her camera. Why is that? The artist admits it has been a conscious choice to portray mostly women, and the reason related to the fact that female sexuality is still broadly suppressed in our society.
"The cultural Madonna-whore complex limits sexual expression, sends mixed messages to women about sexuality.
I explore themes of objectification by using ordinary materials placed in fetishistic contexts, and hope to expose these contradictions."
Joanne says she has recently ventured into the realm of male form as well. "I am completely open to all gender identifications," she tells us.