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Forest Hills lensman’s photo in exhibition

When Forest Hills resident Leo Theinert escapes to City Hall Park for his one−hour lunch break, he finds the subjects — “the derelicts, the protesters” — who inspire much of his award−winning photography.

Among the people in the park he has captured with his camera — the clowns, the musicians, the religious — one subject became the man featured in his photograph “Waiting for Dr. Caligari,” recently chosen to be displayed in an international online exhibit that will show off the works of 65 artists who hail from Denmark to Florida.

The piece, now showing in the 10th annual Painting, Drawing, Photography & Print Juried Online International Art Exhibition, hosted by Upstream People Gallery, was selected from 400 submissions by a photography professor from Omaha, Neb. The exhibit opened Nov. 1 and will run through November 2009.

Theinert, 61, said the photo, in which a man in large checkered pants and a top hat holds a dollar bill, is a “melding of German expressionist film noir and French existential philosophy.”

Theinert said he cannibalized the titles of the 1919 German expressionist film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot” to come up with “Waiting for Dr. Caligari.”

“You have a seedy looking man wearing rather strange clothes,” Theinert said of his photo. “There’s the Caligari motif because the film is seen through the eyes of a madman, of someone in a mental institution. Everything’s distorted — the angles, the lines. The man looks like Dr. Caligari with his crazy patterns and stripes.”

Even if viewers are not up on their obscure expressionist and existential references, Theinert said he believes they can “enjoy the photograph as a creation.”

“They don’t need to know the deep, dark philosophical implications,” he said. “They can enjoy the photograph as a photograph. I give my photographs a title that kind of piques their senses.”

Theinert, who lived in Kew Gardens before moving to Forest Hills about five years ago, is a librarian at the Borough of Manhattan Community College who began his affair with photography while he was a literature graduate student in the early 1970s.

“I owned a motorcycle that I sold to buy my first Nikon camera,” he said. “I worked as a photojournalist in the Midwest and have kept up my photography interest for the past 40 years.”

Theinert, who got into photography to “express my inner absurdity,” has photographed the likes of Jane Fonda and the Grateful Dead and has had works shown around the country, most recently in Chelsea and DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Theinert, who takes most of his photographs during his lunch hour, said he is a “street photographer.”

“I’m an existential observer of the everyday life,” he said. “I learn the craft simply by walking the streets.”

To view Theinert’s photographs, visit

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