He peers into private spaces

Photographer Les Slesnick visits Dunedin to find out what homes say about people.

Published June 25, 2007

DUNEDIN - When photographer Les Slesnick first saw the sprawling home of Mindy and Dr. Michael Solomon, he became concerned.

"It's just too house beautiful," he said.

Not that he didn't like it. It's just that he prefers the quirky, odd and imperfect to the organized, elegant and ideal.

"Every house has something fascinating, you just have to find it," he said. "Everyone has the potential to be funky."

Then he opened the closet door of teenage daughter, Amanda, where white walls were blanketed with graffiti.

"This is one of the greatest forms of personal expression I've seen yet," Slesnick said.

Click. Click. Click.

It wasn't just the graffiti he was after. The fluorescent ceiling light, the red purse. It was all part of the composition.

The internationally renowned photographer was in Dunedin last week making photos for his body of work called Private Spaces. He documents culture -- not by taking pictures of people, but by capturing the intimate details of their lives within the interiors of their homes.

Slesnick estimates that he spends about only 20 percent of his time shooting people.

"You really don't need people in the pictures. You can tell more about them by what they display," he said. "It reveals their truth, their values."

When he does take people portraits, he prefers elderly models.

"They are wonderful to photograph because of how they look, how they see things, and how they feel inside," he said. "They have much to tell through their eyes, their hands and their furrowed brows."

Since 1987, the 64-year-old retired pharmacist with a master's degree in photography has documented the cultures of Mexico, Cuba and Colombia. His work continues in rural Georgia and South Carolina. Now he has taken on artsy Dunedin.

So far, he has come across a floor painted like a yellow cobblestone road, a collection of eggbeaters displayed on a wall and a home with no air conditioning, computers or telephones.

When he arrived inside the home of artists Carol Sackman and Blake White, Slesnick was dazzled by their megawatt color scheme, mosiac murals and the cups and saucers painted on their kitchen cabinets and floors.

He entered a bedroom with a tangerine wall, red bedspread and memorabilia on the walls.

"The only thing is, they knew I was coming and they cleaned up," he said. "I always tell people not to clean up before I come. But they always do."

Fast Facts:

Are you funky?

Les Slesnick's "Private Spaces: The Dunedin Project," will be at the Dunedin Fine Art Center Jan. 11 through Feb. 17. You or your home could be a part of the show. Slesnick returns to Dunedin Aug. 5-12 and is looking for subjects. For more information, contact Catherine Bergmann at the Dunedin Fine Art Center at (727) 298-3322.