Canadian artist Rita Leistner uses photography and film to create portraits of communities in extreme conditions—such as soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, female patients at psychiatric hospitals in wartime, women wrestlers in the United States, and loggers and tree planters in Canada—exploring themes of purpose, struggle, and belonging. Each unique world shapes her conceptual approaches and aesthetic styles, resulting in distinctive, large bodies of work that merge art and documentary and often consist of books or films in addition to photographs for installation and exhibition. She typically invests months or years in a project. From 2016 to 2019 she lived with and documented a community of tree planters in British Columbia, Canada. The resulting art trifecta consists of an award-winning feature documentary film “Forest for the Trees”, a 256-page photography book, and large-scale fine art photographs, “The Tree Planters” and “Enchanted Forests”. Rita’s writing and photographs have been published in thousands of outlets (magazines, books, all manner of digital media) worldwide, exhibited in more than twenty countries and are in major art collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, The Image Centre at Toronto Metropolitan University, and the TD Bank Art Collection. She has written about photography, art, and war for publications such as the Routledge Companion to Visual Culture, The Literary Review of Canada, GEO France and The Walrus. She has published four books of photography including Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq (2005), widely considered one of the most influential anti-war books to come out of the Iraq conflict. From 2010-16 she was Associate Professor of the History of Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the University of Toronto. She has been captured by insurgents, assaulted, and shot at; and has run into gunfire to get a photograph. During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rita continued her explorations of community, struggle and belonging in two photography series about the human desire for connection in the face of strict pandemic rules such as stay-at-home orders and social distancing:  The darkly poetic night journey “Infinite Distance” made with actor/filmmaker/screenwriter Don McKellar; and “Some of the Parts”, an uncannily emotional series of socially distanced portraits of the artist with friends and family in Toronto, Canada. She is represented by the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto and divides her time between Toronto and Montreal. 



Stephen Bulger Gallery

1356 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON, M6J 1Y2 CANADA
T 416.504.0575