Sara Perovic’s Intimate (and Possibly Freudian) Study of Her Partner’s Legs

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My Father’s Legs by Sara Perovic
My Father’s Legs by Sara PerovicCourtesy of the artist

In a new photography series, Sara Perovic hones in on her partner’s legs, drawing comparisons to those of her tennis coach father

In Turkish, a beautiful leg is compared to a sütun – meaning a column: vertically grandiose and elegantly round. The Berlin-based Croatian artist Sara Perovic, who is formally trained in architecture, was unfamiliar to this allegory when she started her photography series, My Father’s Legs. She did not photograph her boyfriend’s column-like legs – similar to those of her tennis coach father’s – through an architectural lens. “I’m rather interested in the backgrounds where I position my partner and tell him to put on an imaginary forehand or backhand,” she tells AnOther.

Perovic’s inspiration for this series was a collection of old photographs of her dad playing tennis. She found these images – which depict him candidly responding to a coming ball or serving backhand – inside a box that she inherited from her grandfather, “to much of a surprise because my dad himself thought those pictures were lost.” The artist knew that her mother had fallen in love with her dad because of his beautiful legs. And while Perovic didn’t fall in love with her partner for the same reason, she does remember her dad’s first response after meeting her boyfriend: “He could be my son.” She also admits seeing more from her dad in her partner since starting the project. “This might relate to that Freudian idea of searching for your parent in your lover.”

While their baby daughter was sleeping, Perovic quietly shot the series’ first image in their bedroom in front of white curtains in 2017. Since then, the artist has captured her partner’s legs on a boat around Croatian sea, a balcony in Bangkok, and in her studio with stripes of blue tape on the floor. Endowed with athletic legs similar to those of her father, he appears donning underwear or short shorts, “whatever he happened to be wearing when we shot.” His one leg stands in front of the other, his knees arched and socked or bare feet tightly pressed against the floor. The gesture is both athletic and gentle, reminiscent of the contrapposto of Greco-Roman sculptures. Shot below the waist, the pictures project eroticism through the faceless model’s hair-covered legs and exposed, muscular thighs. His energy recalls that of models in athleisure commercials. An eager model, he once abruptly stopped and took off his shoes to pose while catching a boat in Croatia or instantly delivered a serve in front of a colourful corner after Perovic came home inspired by an Irving Penn exhibition.

Keeping the flash mode on conveys brightness and detailed shots of the muscles and hair. The photography canon does not lack images of female body parts subjected to the male gaze, and the lens, but being on the other side of the dynamic, “I felt the testosterone,” the artist laughs. “I’ve felt empowered directing a pair of legs emanating masculinity.” After capturing fleeting moments in her previous series, she began staging juxtapositions for each shot, a path Perovic considers as both an emotional and practical experiment. The boyfriend’s handsome limbs have somewhat been chronicling the couple’s relationship, but separating love and work along the way does not propose a challenge for the couple. “We do our parts but once he enters and leaves the posture, we move on with our daily lives.” Perovic does not consider herself a fetishist, but she admits now seeing legs around her differently. “I notice when a man has beautiful legs but, unlike some men would do, I don’t catcall.”