Portfolio Cheyco Leidmann in Tunica Magzine New York S/S 2014
Foxy LadyCheyco Leidmann released several mythic photo books in the 1980s that established him as a master of color with a twist of sexy fashion. His photographs were later used to illustrate book and album covers of disturbing works of fiction such as those of Truman Capote, John Fante, Thomas Pynchon, and has kept reinventing his visual language ever since.
Foxy Lady came out loud, acclaimed with noisy titles: "Rocking photos," "An avalanche of colors" (this one was inspired by Leidmann’s comment: "Color must be able to shock, like an avalanche)," "Color Choreographer," "A rainbow of madness," "Sex, symbol, drama," and many more until "the count was more than two thousand portfolios and reviews globally published in the print press. I didn’t keep track anymore." Almost every person to whom I have mentioned the name Cheyco Leidmann while fishing for anecdotes here and there reacted with a variation on "Of course," sometimes followed by: "Do you like his work?"
Yes I do! One single image can in a strange way bring together Bosch, Bond et Bowie, and many more geniuses whose names start with a B or other letters. In a photograph from the book, a woman sits in the middle of a crossroads, on a yellow Papillon chair, in front of a red and narrow building. A yellow sign announces "Motel." While comfortably wearing a tight pink bathing suit, the woman raises a pint of beer, and her empty eyes pierce through a thin golden mask. The dark side of the moon lights the scene. Each road surrounding the heroine is as unwelcoming as the other. A curtain blocks the window on the second floor of the building: there must be something happening in this bedroom. Or is it the tainted car that seems to be waiting for something? Or perhaps it is the character, whose hand is firmly leaning on the seat as if ready for action. While her body is appealingly human, we don’t know if the mask hides a woman, a zombie, or a robot.
"Your suggestion of ‘behind the scenes’ is great. If I had a curtain to lift, which I don’t, there are no hidden mystics. And actually there are no anecdotes which I could recall being worth talking about. Only incidents, yet too nihil to mention." Here is the true story: "I was cruising a 1980 film thriller in which the suspect is a serial murderer picking up homosexual men in NY and taking them to cheap motels to kill them. In my knowledge the motel in the background of where I set up this image was one of these locations."
The golden lady, with her red-painted mouth, looks eager to bite. Her teeth are probably molded in the same metal as her mask and would reproduce the same reverberating sounds of synthesizers. Heavy Metal, R & B, and Punk influenced him. "The procedure was such that I listened to different genres of music at night and sketched down the ideas of images I was intending to realize. After location hunting, I then decided which idea was right for which particular setting."
So cruelly you kissed me…* There is pouring blood on certain images.
Set up throughout the West Coast, in the desert and other open landscapes and sun-filled skies, Foxy Lady is like a saucy honeymoon photo album that could turn into a flashy nightmare. One that lasted more than a romantic month. "From the first initial idea through creating the images, through the procedure of doing a book—many don’t realize the amount of work which goes into it unless they have done I themselves—till finishing the whole process: about two years at a nonstop pace."
The wondrous bride with the mesas of Monument Valley in the background. Her lying on a shiny car. Her losing a pump on a grassy Californian boulevard. Her again, dressed in a bright polka dot t-shirt in front of a casino. Her blocking the view over the light-house with her sculpted legs – the nasty husband has the habit of taking pictures from his pocket so that he only reveals his wife’s curves, and rarely her eyelashes. Here she is again, taking a nap under a palm tree without suspecting that King Kong is ready to drop fluorescent paint on her immaculate trousers. Her, again, at the door of a neon-lit diner. She is wearing the same over-curving skai leggings as comic book’s super-heroines do. She relaxes by a tiny swimming pool that matches the wavy shadow of her thick flying hair. The surname of James Bond’s enemy, Octopussy, would fit her as well. Octo standing for October. The trip goes on at a frenetic rhythm despite some misfortunes. In another photograph, she appears shaving her armpits by the remainders of a crashed plane.
Eventually, they visited wilder places.
LC: Cheyco, can you tell me about your experience with editors, at Vogue or Photo, for instance, with whom you worked a lot?
CL: I left this chapter in the jungle.
LC: How did you decide to go to the US for Foxy Lady? Was it an assignment or a whim?
CL: It was not really whimsical; a Dutch publishing company supported my idea. Initially, though there was a desire, a dream, a biological need for me to realize this project. I have always been mesmerized by the monumental United States, by the grandeur, the enormous variety, the landscape of sky and space with no boundaries, and the cityscapes which have an eloquence on their own. The 80s were a fertile decade. The biggest trick was to do something that I had not seen before, with a lot of courage.
LC: Some of your photos are really cinematographic. How much were you inspired by cinema?
CL: I am a scene out of a movie. The images are the frozen frames of an ongoing film. In America there are locations that look like a giant film set. I tried to make these artificial places come to life. By extension, I tried to create something historical. There are always influences but no guidelines.
LC: Can you give a few examples? Which musical trends or visual elements were you inspired by or in opposition with?
CL: What really influences me is everyday life. I try to stay away from distraction.
LC: Who were the people around you at that time?
CL: There were many people around me for better or worse. I respect their privacy by not revealing their identities.
LC: Can you tell us who were the models?
CL: Foxy Lady is not about ‘models’ and subordination. It is about coequal women expressing their vision!
LC: I am sorry. How do you like your martini?
*Excerpt from Killing Moon, by Echo & The Bunnymen
Note 1: As the limited length of the interview suggests, Cheyco Leidmann often preferred not to talk. He even spent an opening with a piece of tape covering his mouth.
Note 2: All Foxy Lady images were taken in original settings, temporary with built decor, genuine orchestrated, not manipulated, therefore having something permanent and putting one in contact with the wealth of the image.
Note 3: Ypsitylla von Nazareth is Cheyco Leidmann’s partner in crime, stylist and producer. "I worked with a ‘unit’ and Ypsitylla von Nazareth kept them together and also contributed her enormous creative energy through styling," he precisely noted.
Note 4: Cheyco Leidmann also revealed that among his favorite movies are The Devils by Ken Russell and Cul-de-Sac by Roman Polanski.
'Foxy Lady' images are currently exhibited at CU-1 Gallery in downtown Miami.
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Cheyco Leidmann: Foxy Lady
This was originally published in Tunica Magazine New York, No. 3 S/S 2014