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The Alchemy project started with a simple idea, photograph something in a creative and original way, stick to a single technical approach and let the self-imposed limitations drive the creative process. The result is a year-long collaboration between photographer Michel Leroy and a wide range of professional athletes with varying body types that explores the tension between physicality and sensuality. Each moment captured is a celebration of athletic confidence and vitality at its most pure. Moments of sculptural balance, anticipation and strength define the graceful lines and organic gestures of these vivid Black and White images.
In this figurative series the artist creates body-positive images that are exaggerated and explicit without sexual objectification. By emphasizing form over identity, Leroy seduces the viewer to reveal empathy for body acceptance and the freedom to be uplifted regarding their own self-image, challenge preconceptions about size and embracing a fresh perspective on the singular beauty of the human form.
The creative process is of great relevance and bears witness to the labour-intensive technique reminiscent of a Daguerreotype in the pixel age. The photographic style was developed over months of experimentation with a mixture of analog and digital elements including camera, lens, lighting and post-production workflow to achieve the unrelenting clarity and unique dark metallic look. The images are also notable for the tactile permanence of flesh revealed through the in-camera technique that enhances textures and brings out details unseen by the casual glance.
The choice of dark bodies against a dark background focuses the viewer’s attention on form and shape over the sexuality and eroticism of typical nude photography. The physical process of transmuting the skin metallic unites the constellation of skin tones to illuminate physical radiance and emphasize the physical similarity of all bodies.
The goal of the Alchemy series is to create visually captivating, body positive images that celebrate the physicality of the human form and speak to the cultural relevance of body acceptance in the social media age.
The collaboration between Michel Leroy and the 75+ athletes he has photographed for the Alchemy series started in early 2017. The creative decision to keep the project discrete and hidden from public display for almost a year allowed for total creative freedom. Without the distraction of praise or criticism Leroy was able to explore the artistic process without influence and let the strength of the images reveal themselves as the series grew.
Images from the Alchemy series have been exhibited in solo and group shows in New York and nationally in 2018 with additional shows confirmed later this year and into 2019.