Wow, the second week in a row I've been able to recommend a book by a family member or friend. How lucky to know so many talented people! Leigh Ledare's Pretend You're Actually Alive has been years in the making. It's an intensely intimate and often shocking portrait of his complex relationship with his mother.
The photographs, letters, and personal notations often evoke the reaction “Oh my god! That's his mother?!” Not a totally surprising reaction to shots of a crazy eyed woman nearly always spread eagle and naked, wearing tiaras, wearing wigs, getting spanked, pointing to herself with a kid's magic wand, or getting tied up in bed with her young, carnie boyfriend. The book is not just relevant as shock value, though. It begs people to question what is normal, and how does someone exist when faced with such an abnormal upbringing.
Leigh has managed through documentation and this book is a culmination of his journey so far. He's far from over in his continued work, he has a series of amazing photographs of outsiders and rebels he took on a trip to Russia that I hope too will end up published for more people to see.
The photographs themselves are beautiful. I, of course, am particularly fond of the black and white portrait of my sister, who was once married to Leigh. My only qualm is that too often some of his greatest photographs get lost in the page folds when laid out as a full spread. But aside from that it's a beautiful and unsettling.
The limited edition book can be purchased here.