Marcus Leatherdale started his career in New York City during the early eighties. Leatherdale first served as Robert Mapplethorpe's office manager for a while and was photographed in the nude by the master, grabbing a rope with his right hand and holding a rabbit in his left. Thereafter he worked as an assistant curator to Sam Wagstaff. He soon became a darling of the then vibrant club scene and the fashionable media: Interview, Details, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Elle Decor presented his work. Later on he was featured in art publications as Artforum, Art News and Art in America.
Leatherdale documented the New York lifestyle, the extraordinary people of Danceteria and Club 57 where he staged his first exhibits in 1980. Leatherdale was an acute observer of New York in the eighties. His models were the unknown but exceptional ones - like Larissa, Claudia Summers or Ruby Zebra - or well known artists - like Madonna, Winston Tong and Divine, Trisha Brown, Lisa Lyon, Andrée Putman, Kathy Acker, Jodie Foster and fellow photographer John Dugdale. For quite a while Leatherdale remained in Mapplethorpe's shadow, but was soon discovered as a creative force in his own right by Christian Michelides, the founder of Molotov Art Gallery in Vienna. Leatherdale flew to Vienna, presented his work there and was acclaimed by public and press. International recognition paved his way to museums and permanent collections such as the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, the London Museum in Ontario and Austria's Albertina.
In 1993, Leatherdale began spending half of each year in India's holy city of Banaras. Based in an ancient house in the centre of the old city, he began photographing the diverse and remarkable people there, from the holy men to celebrities, from royalty to tribals, carefully negotiating his way among some of India’s most elusive figures to make his portraits. From the outset, his intention was to pay homage to the timeless spirit of India through a highly specific portrayal of its individuals. Leatherdale explores how essentially unaffected much of the country has been by the passage of time; this approach is distinctly post-colonial. In 1999, Leatherdale relocated to Chottanagpur (Jharkhand) where he has been focusing on the Adivasis. His second home base is now Serra da Estrela in the mountains of central Portugal.