This set of four photographs depicting outdoor carts selling Kodak products is part of Analogue, a decade-long landmark project by Leonard comprising 412 pictures. Displayed in serial grids and organized into twenty-five chapters, Analogue documents the eclipsed texture of twentieth-century urban life as seen in New York’s vanishing mom-and-pop stores and the emerging global recycling trade. Leonard began the project near her home in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She then followed certain products—used clothing, discarded advertisements, and outdated photographic supplies—as they circulated to far-flung markets in Africa, eastern Europe, Cuba, Mexico, and the Middle East.
The obsolescence of these products is echoed by the obsolete technology the artist used to reproduce them: a 1940s Rolleiflex camera, film, and gelatin silver and chromogenic printing processes—choices made visible in the final prints by the exposed edges of the negatives. The title Analogue refers to this analog photographic apparatus and to the fact that her pictures are analogues of reality. Leonard’s project is both an urgent document and a poetic allegory of globalization. Drawing on the documentary tradition of street photography and the display methods of Conceptual art, it contributes to the genealogy of grand urban visual archives that can be traced back to the compendium of Paris and its surroundings made by the French photographer Eugène Atget more than a century ago.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Zoe Leonard inflected this sweeping documentary project with poetry and personal meaning. Titled to evoke a bygone era, Analogue consists of 412 individual photographs arranged in grids and organized into a loose narrative that unfolds in 25 chapters. Though the individual photographs stand on their own, Leonard used ordering and repetition to extend and enrich their meaning. Together, they reveal the changing character of her neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side while witnessing the emergence of the global rag trade and the boom in the recycled merchandise business.
Additional text from Seeing Through Photographs online course, Coursera, 2016