For Cincinnati native Casey LeClair, being a photographer was never the ultimate goal. But since returning to his hometown after a 20-year law career in California, it has quickly become his life’s passion.
After his first solo show in 2021, LeClair is back with another beautiful, thought-provoking exhibit, this time at local German restaurant Kantine Biergarten Eatery. Titled “The Dungeon of King Louis IX,” the exhibit went public May 20 and runs through August 31.
Back in March, LeClair traveled to St. Louis with some friends and, after a slew of recommendations, visited the City Museum, where he was quickly overwhelmed by the disorienting energy of his surroundings. With camera in hand, he began to capture this energy, and the title of the exhibit was born.
“When I was roaming through the museum, I kept hitting walls, I couldn’t meet my friends, I just didn’t know where I was half the time, so it felt like I was confined in there and it was this place I was never going to be able to escape from,” LeClair says.
All of the photos in this collection are in black and white, LeClair’s favorite mode to work in. The majority of his photographs depict a single person in an environment that overwhelms or makes them feel like a stranger in some way, a feeling that was easily engendered by the City Museum.
In addition to “The Dungeon of King Louis IX”, LeClair also has an exhibit at the Esquire Theatre, titled “MONOS” that will run through September 2024.
“I really kind of zoom in on the black and white world and actually see– even though I’m looking at a real colorful thing in my viewfinder—I see the black and white composition,” says LeClair.
LeClair has found great success in the world of photography, most notably as a finalist in Monochromatic 2022—The Hundred Best Photographers in the World. His work was also chosen for “the daily dozen” of National Geographic, a section of the magazine that features 12 photos from artists around the world. It was this event that inspired him to join his first gallery.
He first showed his work to the public in the Viewpoint Photographic Arts Center in Sacramento before making the move back home. While dealing with the shock of such a positive reception due to his being untrained and self taught, he soon found himself doing his first show in place of a famous photographer who had to cancel.
“They said, ‘can you do a show? We need one three months from now.’ Usually you get about a year to prepare for a show,” says LeClair. “And so I put up a show, and it was well received. And I just kept on photographing.”
In addition to his time in California, LeClair also moved to Sweden for a short time in 2018. There, he got the inspiration for his exhibit, “Moving Parts,” which follows traveling family circuses through 10 different towns in both Sweden and California. After beginning the project in Sweden, he continued it after moving back to California when he saw a tent being put up in the middle of a small town called Calusa. After discovering that the performers were a real three generation Chilean family circus, he decided to follow them through several cities.
“I followed them through about seven cities and I finally had a show put together and it was a solo show of about 50 to 90 photographs in the gallery,” LeClair says. “And once that was done, I decided to move back to Cincinnati.”
That was in 2019. Since then, LeClair has focused all of his attention on photography. He gave up his law license, and now spends his days capturing the bizarre, beautiful world around him.