Imagination at work

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, September 6, 2016


MURFREESBORO – Powerful photographs begin within the heart and mind of the person activating the camera’s shutter.

Claire Revelle, who was in attendance at Harding’s photo exhibit held last Thursday at Chowan University, posed with her portrait in which she wore her grandmother's wedding dress.

Claire Revelle, who was in attendance at Harding’s photo exhibit held last Thursday at Chowan University, posed with her portrait in which she wore her grandmother’s wedding dress.

Leeta Harding is a perfect example of manifesting images that others see as purely as a simple image. Her photographs are poignant insights into the souls of her subjects.

Harding, an internationally famous photographer who once called Murfreesboro as home, held a reception entitled “Leeta Harding- The Past and Present Merge: Young Women of Hertford County, North Carolina 2013-2016” at Green Hall on the Chowan University campus on Sept. 1.

To get the subjects for her portraits, Harding sent out a casting call at Chowan University for young ladies to participate in a portrait exhibition, however, nobody showed up. After leaving the unsuccessful casting call and driving across campus, Harding spotted a young lady walking who was perfect for her project. She stopped and told the young lady she was a photographer and asked her to pose for her. The young lady said yes and then Harding’s project was begun.

Harding chose local rural and small town settings for her photographs including old houses, fields, streets and buildings. She found a box of dresses and old shoes in the Smith house where she was shooting. She dressed her model in this attire for the photography shoot. Harding said, “she felt like she was giving the house one last dance.”

Harding said before she brings a model onto the scene for the photograph, she does stills to get her light exactly as she wants it. While she is getting her equipment ready, she has hair and make-up technicians are preparing her models.

Harding iterated that this project was not just taking photos for her, it was a form of cinema.

“It was like ancient Egyptians writing on the wall,” she noted.

Harding has made her mark on the wall of Hertford County history by representing these women at these historic venues at this particular time in history. Harding has made infinitesimal contributions to the history of the local area.

“Once the models are dressed and ready to be photographed, I tell them a story to set the mood,” she said.

In one shot, she told the model to imagine that she had just met a boy and was taking him home to meet her parents. Harding has a remarkable ability to capture insightful expressions. Her models have been fantastic subjects. They were able to deliver the exact feelings the photographer was looking for.

Leeta Harding poses with her first photograph "Aria" that she took for this photographic project.

Leeta Harding poses with her first photograph “Aria” that she took for this photographic project.

Harding said the vintage clothing served as architecture just as much as the structures in the photos. In classic portraiture, the architecture (clothing and setting) must enhance rather than distract from the model. Therefore, they must be chosen carefully. Every shot should capture that rare moment of human face expression when a person shows their inner feelings. Harding is a master of classic portraiture.

She decided to have this show now because she will soon be leaving the local area and wanted to show her Hertford County women’s portraits together as a cohesive group to make a statement about the strength and beauty of women here locally.

In return, those viewing her art form are fortunate to have her here and witness her artistic brilliance.

Harding was raised on Vancouver Island in Canada. She graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography, after which she spent 15 years in New York City photographing women themed portrait exhibitions for Harper’s Bazaar and other New York magazines. She has displayed her work across the United States and in Europe.

Harding moved to Murfreesboro about six years ago to renovate a historic home – the David A. Barnes House.

Harding said she and her husband had paid a visit to Seaboard, NC to visit friends and saw the exquisite pottery of Doug Eubank and became very enamored with this area. They relocated here to restore the David A. Barnes House in Murfreesboro.

The David A. Barnes house is a mid 19th century remarkable dwelling designed by master builder Jacob W. Holt in 1875. Holt designed in the Italianate style, which is indicative of 16th century Italian Renaissance architecture.

“I had always been a fan of southern architecture that displayed this style and decided to relocate to Murfreesboro restore the Barnes House,” she said.

As a lover of historical older homes, she chose the Smith farm house in Milwaukee to use as one of the settings for her portraits of Hertford County women. Harding said she was inspired to photograph women after viewing old pictures of mother in the fifties and sixties with her red lipstick and high heel shoes.