Andrew Paul Leonard’s photographs in this solo exhibition were chosen for reflecting the beauty and mystery that usually goes unseen beneath the surface of New York’s Hudson River and other waters that surround us.
He stumbled upon The River Project’s Wet Lab a few years ago and met Nina Hitchings and quickly fell into a discussion about phytoplankton. Leonard was excited to discover that he could work with them to collect plankton in special nets. Many of the photos in this exhibit are of plankton gathered in collaboration with TRP.
Using a scientist’s tool and “eye” to capture the splendor of a miniscule world beyond the normal range of human vision, Leonard has documented this new frontier in a style uniquely his own. He strives to portray two distinct worlds through his photography -- one characterized by high-contrast experimental imagery evocative of Man Ray, the other composed of special optical effects reminiscent of surrealism. Together, these worlds illustrate an infinitesimally small stage where color and light merge to create a commercial product unlike the Pop art and computer graphic imagery flooding today’s markets. With comedy, pathos and a sense of the sublime, Leonard’s photography captures and highlights the mesmerizing patterns, shapes, and colors found in even the tiniest realms of nature. Leonard “surprises with the familiar.” In his photographs, nature’s inner space often mirrors our human world. For example, the surfaces of kidney stone crystals resemble alpine landscapes; neuronal dendrites can mimic bare tree branches against an overcast sky; and skeletons of microscopic sea organisms seem to have faces and portray moods.
Andrew Paul Leonard was born in Manhattan and grew up in Hartsdale, New York. As an avid student of photography and biology at Hampshire College, Leonard’s fascination with the morphology, colors and shapes of leukocytes led him to his visual and technical training. He created art prints of electron microscopy from optical microscopes. Through further technical studies at the University of Massachusetts Microbiology Department and Cornell Medical College, as well as his work for audiovisual companies in the late 1980s, Leonard honed his skills and mastered such varied tools as the Forox and Marin animation cameras. During the economic downturn of the late 1980s, Leonard dedicated his talents to the commercialization of microscopic photography for pharmaceutical advertising and created his own company, APL Microscopic. His equipment now includes the Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope and the Helium Ion-Beam Scanner. In 2015, Leonard photographed cancer cells and, in April of that year, his photo of HER-2 positive breast cancer cells appeared in The Wall Street Journal. Leonard’s photograph of a human bone marrow stem cell was featured on the cover of Time magazine and Leonard’s image of a human embryonic stem cell was featured in Time’s “Best Photos of 2006.” Follow Andrew Paul Leonard on Instagram to see more of his work.