JL and Marlene DietrichBeginnings
"In one sense, I began 'being in pictures' as an infant in front of the camera. My twin sister, Elly, and I, at the age of eleven months, alternated in playing the part of one baby in a Hollywood comedy, The Lady Is Willing..."


Right: Marlene Dietrich on the set of The Lady Is Willing

(Columbia Pictures, 1942) with Joanne or Elly Leonard, 1940





I didn't start out to become a photographer

"I didn't start out to become a photographer. My path led me from upper-middle-class Los Angeles, where I was born, to the impoverished streets of West Oakland, where I first took up my camera with conviction. This outcome was nothing I'd imagined as the twin daughter of an aristocratic and artistic Jewish mother and a musical, erudite European father who was a refugee from the Nazis. When I entered college, I had pictured a liberal education followed by romance, marriage with children, and maybe a job on the side. I never imagined becoming a photographer, professor, and feminist or inventing my own visual forms of  "intimate documentary."


Studio in West Oakland


Above: Cypress Street Studio: large photo of building exterior and two small photos of interior, ca. 1963 

Photograph by Joanne Leonard





Inspirations"That night those feelings joined a long day's work and single parent life to leave me limp and despondent; I couldn't face the cleanup. Slumped on the couch, I turned on the TV and, wonderfully, found a biographical documentary on the setbacks, overcomings, and victories in the life of Eleanor Roosevelt. The portrait was a tonic, revealing the resilience of a woman who never won kudos for her role as homemaker but came into her own in a world arena. Suddenly, borrowing from her energy and inspiration, I got out a kitchen step stool to record the household chaos, then cleaned up and, savoring my small triumph on the home front, rephotographed."


Living/dining/bedroom before and after cleaning, 1976

Photographs by Joanne Leonard










© 2007 Joanne Leonard
site design: Catherine M.


Joanne Leonard - Being in Pictures