From Oakland to Ann Arbor
While Leonard is known for the intimacy of her documentary style, she has also photographed a variety of locations. Leonard had opportunities to travel and photographed where she lived and worked. For 8 years in her early career, Leonard lived in West Oakland, California. There, Leonard produced photographs now in permanent display at the Oakland Museum. She also was one of two official photographers for the U.S. team at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.
Eventually, her work was included in major publications, including the famous LIFE magazine, and many major museum collections. These accomplishments played a role in her hiring at the University of Michigan.
Despite not having an advanced degree, Leonard took risks to put her art out in the world. One crucial moment of recognition came to Leonard when her work was featured in Janson’s History of Art textbook, which was previously published without the work of a single woman artist.
In the past five years, Leonard corresponded with museums around the country, making arrangements for the acquisition of her photographs from her file drawers full of work. Now, her work is on display at the Museum of Modern art in NYC, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Constellations, the National Center of Photography and more.
As an art professor who came to teach before the advent of digital photography, Leonard enjoyed taking students into the darkroom and even taught them how to make pinhole cameras.
“The students were very gifted. It was gratifying to see the students make wonderful photographs themselves,” Leonard said. “Some students tell me today that they loved my classes, and I’m just grateful to have had such terrific students.”
Leonard, who often prioritizes ideas over technical expertise, sought interdisciplinary opportunities at the University of Michigan. In addition to her tenure at the Stamps School of Art & Design, Leonard was also involved in the programs of Women’s Studies, American Culture, and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan.
“I found ways to engage with other parts of campus, and be fed intellectually with concerns I had from the world and politics,” Leonard said.
Her experience and impact on campus led her to be named the Diane M. Kirkpatrick and Griselda Pollack Distinguished University Professor of Art and Women’s Studies.