Looking Back

Richard Learoyd

BY Richard Learoyd, September 1, 2016

Found photograph, courtesy Richard Learoyd


We asked Richard Learoyd to tell us about a picture that meant something to him, and why. Richard Learoyd: In the Studio, an exhibition of his images made with a room-sized camera obscura, is on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum through November 27. 


“Is he dancing?”

I have owned this photograph for over 20 years. I don’t recall where it came from, but I have a vague memory of someone giving it to me, or maybe finding it. The picture is around five inches long and is in a cheap wooden frame with a string taped to the back. It has moved studios with me four or five times and has survived my periodic purges of excess belongings. I see it almost every day. When I was asked to choose a picture for this small article, it was sitting on top of my computer monitor, and it made me question why I have kept it.

This picture reminds me that photography is a transformative medium. It illustrates that a photographer always shows more than intended. It tells me about the subtlety of gesture, and that enigma is not always the product of intent.

I think I will always have this picture, with an opportunity to contemplate the nature of photography, in a quiet personal way.