Rita Leistner

Rita Leistner

Canada 1964



Rita Leistner
Rita Leistner
October 25, 2013
Bojan is an author for Widewalls. He is particularly interested in English linguistics and culture. Bojan is also interested in Photography and Digital Art.

There’s a lot more to photography than simply snapping the photo – there is a myriad of details each photographer pays attention to when setting up for a photo, above all trying to denote personality and individual style. Many photographers even risk their own safety to produce some of the most iconic captures of history in the making, and it goes for the Canadian artist Rita Leistner. With a rich, prolific career already behind her, the awarded photojournalist settled down in Toronto, teaching the history of the craft with an extensive knowledge and firsthand experience.

Rita Leistner home press 2014
Rita Leistner – Logging Canada (Winter Logging)

To Lead Many Lives

Receiving her BA from the University of Toronto in 1988, one of the most known and foremost Canadian photojournalists Rita Leistner stated that the reason why she became a photographer in the first place was in order “to lead many lives.” Though the job description might allow for such a wish to be granted, Leistner didn’t feel fulfilled next to numerous awards, trips to Iraq, Cambodia, New York, and many exhibitions and lectures. Having spent a lot of time in war zones, she explains just how lonely the life of a person devoted to it can be, and after photographing subjects like the women wrestlers in America, female patients at Baghdad’s al Rashad Psychiatric Hospital, gravediggers and detainees in Iraq, and crack addicts on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, she finally felt saved in 2005 when she started working on The Edward Curtis Project with Marie Clements.

Leistner photographer subjects from women wrestlers in America to female patients at a psychiatric hospital

Rita Leistner book afghanistan contact media photographs home press 2014
Rita Leistner – American Women Wrestlers, 2002 to 2003

Photographing Native Communities

Increasingly drawn by story-telling, The Edward Curtis Project turned out to be far greater than even she imagined it would be. Although the whole project was sponsored already sponsored, Leistner’s role of taking photos of the native communities settled in New Mexico, Arizona, Vancouver, Haida Gwaii, and the Arctic required her own investment to complete the way that she saw fit. Documenting the people and stories, she also got to investigate the legacy of colonial photography that Edward Curtis left behind. Managing to portray the rich life of the aborigines in the Arctic, Leistner had created a series of several thousand photos, and the oeuvre and the people she met have become a part of her own story.

As part of The Edward Curtis Project, Leistner had created several thousand photos

Rita Leistner home press 2014
Rita Leistner – Shaving for Electric Shock Treatment, Al Rashad Psychiatric Hospital Women’s Ward, 2004

Looking for Marshall McLuhan

The artistic output of Rita Leistner extends to more than just photography; including her photographs, Leistner published a number of books that often portray the war encompassed environments. One such book is Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan and its completion is tied to Leistner’s joining the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan as a member of the experimental social media initiative titled Basetrack. Inspired by the words of Marshall McLuhan stating that “the medium is the message,” Rita Leistner portrays the interaction between photography, technology, and war by taking all of the photos with a Smartphone.

Rita Leistner portrayed the interaction between photography, technology, and war

Rita Leistner book afghanistan contact media photographs
Rita Leistner – Looking for Marshall McLuhan photos

A Photo-Based Artist

Having moved to Toronto in 2010, Leistner accepted the position of teacher of the history of photojournalism and documentary photography at the University of Toronto, moving more towards the title of a photo-based artist rather than the one of a traditional photojournalist. Regardless of her current calling, the extensive oeuvre she created will, without a doubt, guide the future generations of photographers. With her work spanning across more than just photography, she keeps inspiring and exhibiting worldwide.

The artist is represented by the Stephen Bulger Gallery.

Rita Leistner lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Featured image: Rita Leistner. All photos credit the artist.
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2016 Levant Trilogy Fotofestiwal Lodz, PolandSolo
2016 Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan: From Smartphone to Palladium The Paul Paletti Gallery, Louisville, KY, USASolo
2015 Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan: From Smartphone to Palladium PhotovilleSolo
2015 Photography Festival Brooklyn, NY, USASolo
2015 Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan: From Smartphone to Palladium The Dylan Ellis Gallery, CONTACT Photography Festival, Toronto, ON, CanadaSolo
2015 Miklat: The Bomb Shelter Project The Galleries of the Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, IsraelSolo
2014 Portraits-paysages: Liban: 2006 Festival Allers-Retours, Musée Albert Kahn, Paris, FranceSolo
2014 Le Projet Edward Curtis Le Musée du Nouveau Monde, La Rochelle, FranceSolo
2014 À la recherche de Marshall McLuhan en Afghanistan Le Carré Amelot, espace cuturel de la Ville de La Rochelle, FranceSolo
2013 The Edward Curtis Project The National Arts Centre, Ottawa, ON, CanadaSolo
2013 Ecocentrix: Indigenous Arts, Sustainable Acts The Bargehouse, London, EnglandGroup
2013 Portraits by Iconic Canadian Photographers CONTACT Photography Festival, Toronto, ONGroup
2012 Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq The Photographic Arts Federation of Turkey, Ankara, TurkeyGroup
2011 Unembedded The Photographic Arts Federation of Turkey, Sulleymaniya, Kurdistan, IraqGroup
2010 The Edward Curtis Project Feature Exhibition of the Cultural Olympiad of the 2010 WinterSolo
2010 Olympic Games The North Vancouver Museum, Vancouver, BC, CanadaSolo
2009 My Space W2 Community Media Arts, Vancouver, BC, CanadaSolo
2009 Uknown The Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, CA, USAGroup
2008 Les derniers bûcherons Galerie Pierre Léon, L'Alliance française de Toronto, ON, CanadaSolo
2008 Iraq Through the Lens of Vietnam The Brighton Photo Biennial, EnglandGroup
2007 Portraitscapes of War: Lebanon 2006 The Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, ON, CanadaSolo
2007 Know War! The George Eastman House International Museum of Photography, Rochester, NYGroup
2006 The Women of al Rashad Gallery Gachet, World Mad Pride Feature Exhibition, Vancouver, BCSolo
2006 Unembedded The Photographic Gallery, New York, NY, USAGroup
2006 Unembedded Elaine L. Jacob Gallery, Wayne State University, Detroit, MIGroup