Stephen Leonardo Photography
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The Art Gallery of the Rockefeller State Park

Due to Hurricane Sandy the Reception has been rescheduled to November 18th from 12:30 - 3:30 pm. Seeing Trees - Photo Exhibition


Schnebly Hill Road
The Photographic Art of Stephen Leonardo

By Ernest S. Quick
Hook Magazine

When you enter Act IV, a hair and beauty salon in Tappan, you enter another world -- the spiritual and visual world of its owner Stephen Leonardo. On the walls, beautifully framed and matted, are Stephen’s photographs of the American southwest. It’s a world that Stephen has captured because "of its spiritual qualities — the openness — the majesty — the feeling of calm." His choice of subject is varied -- from the vast expanse of Schnebly Hill in Sedona to the intimate beauty of the inner courtyard of Ghost Ranch in New Mexico to the brilliant sun-baked gateway of the San Geronimo Chapel at the Taos Pueblo.

The Courtyard, NMIn 2003, Stephen and his lovely wife Tina made what amounted to a spiritual pilgrimage to the Ghost Ranch outside of Taos, New Mexico, where Georgia O’Keeffe resided in the summertime. "I noticed this tiny courtyard filled with flowers. And like O’Keeffe I was inspired to capture its beauty. I set up my cameras and waited for three hours until the light was just right." His photograph of Schnebly Hill in Sedona took even longer to shoot. Stephen recalls, "I knew the feeling and light I wanted to capture but the sky was filled with scuttling clouds. It took almost five hours for the light to be just right and I had seconds to shoot. I think the result was worth the wait." As Ansel Adams once said, "Just wait and the photograph will come to you." He was right.

Stephen’s interest in photography precedes his Act IV Salon by almost a decade. "I got my first camera in 1969. It was a Minolta 101, a graduation gift from my mother. And I’Ave been looking at the world differently through a lens ever since. Then in 1994, I entered the National Geographic-sponsored Hudson Ferry Sloop Contest. My photograph of a sailboat with orange early-morning mist dancing around it, took the Grand Prize competing with 3,000 entries." Not bad.

Christo Gate, Central Park, NYCOrange is a color that inspires Stephen. For him it symbolizes dawn, new beginnings and optimism. On a trip to India in 1998, he was struck by the vivid orange-saffron robes worn by Hindu monks. Returning to New York he was thrilled when Cristo installed his saffron-draped gates in Central Park in 2004. Out came the camera and he and Tina were off to an experience that had all the spirituality of a Hindu Temple. The result is a series of photographs that are works of art worthy of any museum.

Stephen’s photographs, like the Impressionist painters of the last century, seek to evoke the reality of plain air. "I wish to capture light as well as the scenery itself." The photograph of the entrance to the San Geronimo Chapel at the Taos Pueblo is a good example. Suffused with the brilliance of the midday sun, the stark reality of the crosses and geometric mass of Spanish-influenced architecture are beautifully realized.

San Gerinomo Chapel, NMAnd Stephen is very definite about the color. "What you see in my print is exactly what I saw when I took the photograph. I never, never change or doctor the colors when I make prints." Here is Stephen’s credo: "I believe a work of art should communicate. When I take a photograph I try to bring the person who is looking at it, into the picture with me. And if you focus on the image long enough you become one with me and my experience. I love to share."


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