Identity, construction and memory in Joanne Leonard's Being in pictures : an intimate photo memoir (2008)

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Peer-Reviewed Research


When Joanne Leonard's photo collage Romanticism is ultimately fatal (1972) appeared in H.W. Janson's History of art, the image brought her recognition as an artist. It gave her the confidence to further develop her technique of making photo collages, and the collages became a means of giving expression to her personal emotions as well as her reactions to historical events and public debates. In 2008, Leonard published an autobiographical text, â??an intimate memoir', in which she presents a selection of photographs and photo collages narrating her development as an artist and as a person. Written text is added to the visual images, providing information about the content and technical aspects of the photographs and collages as well as about the stages of her life as a person and an artist. This article discusses Joanne Leonard's photo memoir by focussing on the relationship between identity and narrativity, on the constructed nature of all representions and especially represented autobiographical narratives and, finally, on the understanding and functioning of memory. The theoretical and philosophical aspects of identity, narrative identity, construction and memory are explored, and selected art works are analysed and discussed. The conclusion of the article suggests that autobiography, in all its variety, remains one of the most fascinating genres to study and that this photo memoir is an exceptional example.