Sara Perovic, My Father’s Legs

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2020 by J&L Books (here). Softcover (5×7 inches), 104 pages, with 64 color and black and white photographs. In an edition of 1000 copies. Edit and design by Jason Fulford. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: My Father’s Legs is a small photobook by the Croatian photographer and architect Sara Perovic, who now lives and works in Berlin. As the title and the cover decorated with an image of a man’s legs suggest, the project focuses on men’s legs, reflecting on the relationship between the artist and the men in her life, in a light and playful way. When Perovic met her future husband, she immediately thought about what her mother once noted “I fell in love with your father because of his beautiful legs.” She describes the work as a “mix of concept and emotion, stretching the boundaries between conceptual art and art-as-therapy.”

The idea of the project was born during a book making workshop, which made Perovic think about her relationship with her father. She had a happy childhood, a solid family, and she says that her father was the man she idolized most of her life. Perovic didn’t find any problematic aspects in her relationship with her father, and she thought she could still reflect on his role in her life. Perhaps the memory that affected her most as a child was his passion for tennis, which kept his attention away from her. He was obsessed with tennis, and so would work all day and later spend long hours as a tennis coach. Both her father and her grandfather were tennis coaches, and the sport was always a part of their family life. Perovic and her sister often had to join their father at the tennis courts, as that was the only way to spend more time with him. The artist admits that as a child she hated tennis.

Years later, Perovic began gathering materials on tennis that she found at home. She came across a tennis manual written by her grandfather in 1984 (also the year she was born); her father appears there as one of the models, illustrating the positions of a tennis player. She decided to photograph her husband, directing him to take positions that would be similar to those of her father. The book creates visual parallels, between the father and the artist’s partner, offering a fond and cheerful study of men’s legs. 

As a photobook, My Father’s Legs is easy to carry around and flip through. It opens with a quote from Perovic’s mother, which is printed on pink paper in both Croatian and English and in the same font as in the manual penned by her grandfather. The first few spreads are cut out images of the artist’s father, also placed on pink paper, capturing him full size with a racket. Another set of these images appears at the very end of the book. These first archival photographs of the father are followed by the images of Perovic’s partner’s legs. The visual flow divides between archival and contemporary images, intertwining the past and the present, and two men, the father and the husband. Another pink section in the middle of the book contains more photographs of the artist’s father, this time cropped to show only legs, documenting him on the court, often posing with other people.

As Perovic photographed her husband, she directed him to take positions that would be somewhat similar to those of her father. All of the images are framed to focus exclusively on his legs. Her husband almost always wears white socks and various shorts as he slightly bends his knees and positions his legs in a serve stance. We see him inside the apartment, in rather banal and even messy surroundings, with a backdrop of floral and blue curtains, a yellow wall, and green fabric. A spread of him on a boat with sunlight and blue water, softened by blur, feels like a welcome change. As we follow the parade of men’s legs, there is a feeling of obsession, and a healthy sense of humor in the continuous repetition of images. 

In Perovic’s photographs of her husband, we never see his full body or face – his legs remain the main focus. As such, the series shifts the gendered power dynamic; this time a woman objectifies a male body through her playful but pointed directions. Perhaps it is also a reflection on her relationship with the father, as she overturns the earlier dynamic. 

The photograph on the back cover shows legs against the floral background, while the book ends with a heartfelt confession, “And now my daughter’s father has beautiful legs.” My Father’s Legs is an exciting and playful photobook that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is a lighthearted, clever, and humorous study of men’s legs, that also reflects on the relationship between the artist and the two most important men in her life. It’s a terrific example of taking a simple, single subject idea and making the most of it. 

Collector’s POV: Sara Perovic does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. Collectors interested in following up should likely connect directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).

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