A Photographer of Whom You May Not be Aware: Tom Leininger


© Tom Leininger

I had the fortunate experience of connecting with a few internet friends at last month’s Society for Photographic Education national conference in Dallas. One of those was Tom Leininger, who also has the dubious distinction of being, I believe, the first person to purchase my Rank Strangers ‘zine (copies still available, hint, hint).

Like me, Tom is a recovering photojournalist pursuing a hybrid career, and he recently finished his MFA in Texas. He showed me his thesis work, Sidelines, about public personas on display at parades, which is quite nice. And then hidden under the box I found another project, one that resonated with me about the sale of his grandfather’s sewing machine repair shop in Pennsylvania, Sale Day. For many of us the photographs that touch us are the ones that trigger our own memories and nostalgia. While glancing through these photographs I had vivid recollections of summers spent examining the treasure trove of my grandmother’s attic, where I discovered 1940’s era toys, and 50’s prom dresses. It is a place I still visit happily in dreams.

Yes, Virginia, there was a time when people named their towns Intercourse and there was no pun intended. This was a time long, long ago, before Martin Parr was born.


© Tom Leininger

Wallpaper, I fetishize, it’s true.  Another memory the pictures evoke is of my grandmother painting over the beloved fecund strawberry vine wallpaper in the room I occupied in her house.  She was surprised to learn of my disappointment over the loss, but again my childhood dreams had been filled with secret gardens filled with strawberry vines covering stone walls.  It was only later, reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, that I learned that wallpaper could present itself in more nefarious ways.

© Tom Leininger

© Tom Leininger

So poignant for me are the traces of time, toil, productivity and endurance left in the worn heel mark of the carpet where Tom’s grandfather faithfully pushed his machine’s treadle.

© Tom Leininger

© Tom Leininger

But I am still me after all, and I can only indulge in nostalgia and weepiness for so long, the project will run you through the gamut of emotions and I always like to end with a smile.

© Tom Leininger

© Tom Leininger

Yep, I know this post is as much about ME and my feelings as it is about Tom and his work.  But I would argue isn’t that what art is supposed to be about? How it touches you?  There are different ways to navigate this, sometimes we mediate through humor and wit, sometimes by accessing our remembrance of things past as in above, and countless other modalities.  For me they are all good and valid as long as I feel that the source comes from something true in the creator.  This project for me is that.  Oh yeah, and Tom also received recognition from Center’s Singular Image contest Curator’s Choice with the first image (handily beating me, I might add, thanks a pantload!).  Well done Tom Leininger!


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