Friday artist; Leatherman |

Friday artist; Leatherman

Oscar Leatherman
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

What is your career? Photographer. For the past couple of years, I’ve exhibited my photography in Chico, Yuba City, Marysville, Auburn (Art Walk) and now Nevada City.

Describe in a sentence or two your art. My Cafe Mekka exhibit includes concert photography and art and nature photography. The concert photography is great for catching the performers. The art is straight ahead, with a few bends but no computer tricks. All the Sea/Dreamscapes are multiple exposures done in the camera on a single negative.

How long have you been working in this discipline? On and off since 1976.

Why do you do it? I’ve always liked taking pictures and love creating, so I consider it an OK way to go broke! I used to compare photography to poetry – they both attempt to capture or express a moment. A beautiful shot or poem of a butterfly is not the butterfly, but an attempt to convey that butterfly in that moment. Just as a poetic expression of love or social commentary on a certain day does not necessarily define who the poet is or feels on another day.

What do you hope to accomplish? I hope to entertain, calm and excite others through my work. It would be nice to somehow make a good living from my art and photography.

Do you create your art with an exact message you want the viewer to receive? I’d like my work to say “Stop the war and the cycle of retaliation,” but the body of work I have on display does not really carry much of a message, other than these are some of the works of Oscar Leatherman and “Take Me Home.” Beauty and entertainment and calm and excitement and all that jazz is really in the eye of the beholder.

Where do you want to be with your art? On the cover of Rolling Stone (ha-ha!). My art should be seen everywhere – on subway walls and the finest galleries in New York and Paris. In the meantime, I’d be happy with more venues like Cafe Mekka.

What kind of special training did you take? One black-and-white class in 1980. Learned from doing and learning and doing. I admire the work of Ansel Adams and the exciting, live-action photo coverage of Annie Leibowitz, Jimmy Olsen and Linda McCartney. But I copy no one. I try to stand in my own shoes and do my own thing.

What’s your favorite part of your endeavors? Finding and taking the shots, the creative process, seeing for the first time a print that works and sparks me – and meeting people at these exhibits.

What’s your least favorite part of your endeavors? Getting this compliment: “I love your work – you must have a nice camera.” To me, a camera is just a box with a hole in it! It’s how you work it and play with it that makes all the difference.

How much time do you spend on your work? Zero to 60 hours a day. If I’m in a creative mode, then I’m immersed in it: shooting, looking for shots, creating ideas in my head and experimenting, working as much as I can. Then there’s the business end: paying for everything, the film, custom prints, expenses for these exhibits (travel expenses, framing, etc.), business cards …

Do you consider it hard work and could anyone do it? I sweat inside and out at times when I’m creating or have limited time or film to freeze something, like a live performance. Yes, basically anyone can take wonderful pictures. I suggest experimenting, take lots of pictures, learn from your mistakes, experiment and play – and try to see beyond the obvious when you are shooting everyday stuff.

Any other comments you’d like to include? I like to entertain and enjoy communicating a good message. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy promoting the music of the late Frank Zappa on Community Radio KRBS 107.1 F.M. in Oroville every Friday at 10 p.m. Then from midnight until I’m tired, it’s “The FREEXPRESS Mood Music,” because I’m a moody guy, featuring everything from Doris Day to Jimi Hendrix.


Through Sunday, Oscar Leatherman’s exhibit, “No Members Only,” will be up at Cafe Mekka, 237 Commercial St. in Nevada City. Sunday’s closing reception there is from 6 to 9 p.m. Call 478-1517 with any questions.


“The Artists” appears each Friday. To suggest a person to be profiled, call The Union newsroom at 273-9561.

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