Wednesday, January 25, 2006

PhotoLA

I was thrilled to attend the opening reception for PhotoLA. First I sampled food from local restaurants. It was freezing, the wind chilling us to our fingers, as we tried to balance small plates and the draft, so I didn't even try to drink, which might have warmed me, but then I couldn't cover the show!

I ran into photographer Brad Elterman, known for his '70's Beverly Hills lifestyle and rock/celebrity photos. I told him the cookie from La Provence tasted like perfume and he looked strangely at me. A mouth-watering amazingly tasting cookie called "Lavender," which describes both its color, fragrant ingredient and taste. I also liked owner Farshid Hakim's fave, some kind of cake and mousse, which I usually hate. Tres tasty!

Grace's butternut squash and coconut soup, with a swirl of herbed olive oil, was my favorite offering of the night. Pane e Vino had yummy stuffed cherry tomatoes with goat cheese. At the other end, I saw an older woman carrying around her bounty: a box of Krispy Kreme donuts that were sitting on a table.

I was wide-eyed and teary standing in front of one of my favorite photos of Garbo by Steichen. I saw Man Ray (my fave shot of the whole show), Dorthea Lange, a lovely Imogen Cunningham, Irving Penn, Weegee (his Getty exhibit closed this weekend), Cartier-Bresson, Brassai, Phillipe Halsman, Eisenstaedt, Walker Evans, Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, Avedon, Larry Clark, and more listed from $3500 to $125,000, based upon rarity of prints and fame of the photographers.

I've often stated in interviews that although I have multiple art degrees, I never studied photography nor looked at photo books beyond movie stills. I became a top rock photographer with not one rock photo as my inspiration. But I've grown up on enough magazines and read enough obits and art/photo reviews to readily recognize names I've listed above.

How many young buyers today know those names? That's why PhotoLA conducted collecting seminars. Bright idea. But not many contemporary photographers or subjects and other than a few shots of Dylan, the Stones and one of Lennon, Marley, and a few others, I couldn't stop wondering where were icons of our era for the serious collector? The rock era, from its birth in the '50's, its British and Hippie explosions that led to my photo era, punk in the late '70's, that evolved into hardcore and rap/hip hop in the '80's. Performers who have stood the test of time and who are being re-discovered and revered, even by the conservative Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

What does it say that I just signed a contract with Rizzoli for my first of several photo books and I've yet to be featured in a "major" gallery? I've turned down one or two women gallery shows for over a decade because of cost of prints/framing, plus the time and money invested in taking the shot in the first place and holding onto the slides and negs all these years. Selling a print for a couple or few hundred dollars represents a huge investment of time, money, work, pain, sacrifice and isolation on the part of the photographer. The difficult part is attracting the clientele with the appreciation and money to purchase these classic photos. If you can't attract the right audience, you are stuck with storing unsold framed photos. Why mount shows if the gallery doesn't reach out to the market who will respond?

Is it that difficult to cultivate that market in the city exploding with what should be the ideal audience?

I examined the eager young faces in the Friday morning crowd. Many traverse the galleries throughout LA, looking for cutting-edge art that expresses who they are. Nothing says that more than photos of their heroes, their icons. Musicians. Where's the photos that resonate with the 20, 30 and 40 something lawyers, doctors, software pros, consultants, entertainment industry professionals, with large homes, offices, money and the drive to own a piece of authentic raw rock 'n roll?

It's obvious serious entertainment photography collectors' needs are not being met at PhotoLA nor its established photo galleries. To find quality prints of music icons in LA, the "entertainment capital of the world," means going online. But it was fascinating to see the photos, and choices regarding size, mattes, frames and subject matter. I was told by an artist repped by someone very involved in the LA art scene that ArtLA showcases more contemporary photography. If I go, I'll report back.

I can't rave enough about the Santa Fe Center for Photography's "The Business of Being An Artist." Informative, lively, serious, breezy, inspiring and more. If you or anyone you know has the burning passion and dedication to be a fine art photographer, that person should become very familiar with the center and its personnel. Warm, friendly, funny, smart and uniquely creative and generous with their knowledge.

I was also wowed by their handouts, with insightful notes and numerous web links. I've gone to more seminars than I can remember and never received any handouts of this caliber. Next year they will have to triple the room size because it was standing room only! They will also present a seminar at PhotoSF, http://www.sfcp.org/ and hopefully back next year.

If only I made more prints 30 years ago! People offer me as much money for my little 5 x 7s or 8 x 10s as they do recently printed 11 x 14s or even 16 x 20s. Why does an older photo printed by me, when I didn't know what I was doing, make the print worth more than professionally printed new photos? I love my new prints, especially because I don't have to stand in the darkroom and the results are breath taking. But I supervise the prints – I've changed labs repeatedly and still looking for the best to print my more difficult negs/slides. Which is more valuable: older prints from my hands or stunning new prints, as good, if not better, than what I could print, then or now?

The moral learned: my photos should be worth a lot of money when I'm dead (ok, so that's not news). It's awful how low the prices are for living artists and how high when they are dead. Our crazy society values artists, musicians and film-makers after they are dead.

The subject of digital printing also was avoided, and that's worthy of serious discussion. I'm conflicted about which prints to offer the public and at what pricing. I worked with the man who helped develop Iris printing with Mac Holbert and Graham Nash. Jack Duganne coined the term "Giclee" and I learned from him, so I'm no babe in the woods compared to many traditional art photographers. I'm sure many photographers, dealers and collectors deal with that issue, so let's open that for serious discussion! No use pretending it doesn't exist nor sniffing your nose at it. It's 2006 and way overdue. It comes down to dialogue and education.

It was a treat to see all this fine photography beautifully presented and overhear snippets of conversation with gallery owners and clients. I loved eavesdropping on Joel Soroka with a woman casting aspersions at the photo that took my breath away: Steichen's classic Greta Garbo portrait. The print was created when Steichen was involved in a museum or board or something and didn't engage in printing. He supervised the printing by another man, didn't sign the print, but it was passed down through the printer's family. It had "provenance" that was sufficient for the dealer. Me too. I'm amazed how few photographers sign their work, whether a print or online. I thanked Mr. Soroka for the opportunity to see one of the most revered photos in the lexicon of Hollywood history.

I also was amused and consoled the late, great Robert Mapplethorpe, known for his Patti Smith portrait on the cover of her acclaimed debut, "Horses," also never did his own printing. Makes sense, some photographers are too busy living and shooting.

Speaking of digital, here are a few systems for galleries to investigate: Mediamersion Systems ArtStation ™ Gallery Solutions, www.mediamersion.com and Theo Digital Systems from www.theodigitalgallery.com. A gallery can't survive and thrive without efficient use of technology, for inventory and displaying art. How about something affordable for artists too?

Final thought: the program guide is a vast resource of information, not only about galleries, but online magazines, photography shows, and more. It's impossible to walk out empty-handed from this event. And remember to support your local photography organizations. The opening reception benefited the LACMA Photographic Arts Council. I tried to return to the show after the Santa Fe seminar featuring LACMA's Photographic curator, whom I briefly ran into outside the seminar. But I was denied entrance unless I checked my purse. I planned on buying books from powerHouse and to pick up literature from the council, but how could I hold it and take notes without my purse? What is going on when a woman can't bring a purse into an event with brochures, business cards, and I always write notes?

Overall, KUDOS to the Stephen Cohen Gallery and Art Fairs, Inc for this endeavor. Will I return? Will I try to see ArtLA? If I can bring my purse with my notebook, pens, toothbrush, wallet, etc past the door.

info: www.artfairsinc.com.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rizzoli, Glen E. Friedman, Shepard Fairey, Mr. Music Head, Brad Elterman, PhotoLA: one day/eve in my life

Rizzoli called and my first book, "Before Hardcore" is being fast-tracked, Glen E. Friedman is editing/choosing my photos and I'm also writing accompanying text, telling stories of how I came to meet someone and shoot them, memories of the shows, parties, spontaneous fun. Just so happens many of the people I shot became famous later. Others infamous for being part of the scene and rarely seen. After the call, drove to Shepard Fairey's office/gallery to pick up photos from a show, where he saw my black and white photo collage, "Punk A – Z, 1976-1980."

Every year Shep designs a limited edition t-shirt in collaboration with another artist. He chose me. Am I flattered? Ohmygod. That will be out in late summer. I spoke with one of his designers, who also purchased two of my favorite photos.

You have NO idea what it's like to see an 8 x 10 of a beloved or newly discovered 35 mm slide or neg. Better yet, 11 x 14 and if you really want your breath taken away, you should see my 16 x 20s of the Screamers, Stones, Ramones (live and individual off-stage) and I can image what the others will look like! Brings tears to my eyes. They are just stunning photos of an era that has been mythologized and here's the real deal. My photos, who knew? My friends and fans, but not me.

Monday night Shepard's publishing partner, Roger Gastman, spent 4 hours choosing photos for an upcoming book about the LA scene. We talked about design, hardware, a variety of issues. He reiterated Shep's intention of using some of my photos for graphics because I initially contacted Shep about that. I now realize I've got to go through some of my most beloved photos and choose some icons whose facial expressions exemplify them for him to choose. I've got my work cut out for me! By the way, Shepard Fairey is the BEST DJ in any town if you want a great mix of classic punk songs, some well-known, some rare but strong and vital. I wish I had more time to go to art openings just to dance to his music as I did at Track 16 for the recent LA Weekly Cover art show, which of course Shep's art was prominently displayed.

Next stop, Mr. Music Head which I discovered because Henry Rollins turned Sam (the owner) onto Neal Zlozower. Now he's a photographer I always admired the MOST of anyone on the west coast. Of course Bob Gruen in NY and Pennie Smith in England. I saw Neal's show on my way to the Dresden Dolls/Janet Klein Music Box show last December 29, 2005. The Dresden Dolls were amazing from my photographer's front row view. Very special.

Today I brought my portfolio and showed a few from my show. Sam compiled a list from my favorite photos to be part of his permanent collection to show and represent. I asked him why he chose certain ones. His eye matches mine and that is such a treat! We discussed the Janis Joplin photos he is selling. His back room is quite a treasure trove and I'm sure he's got more stashed away. Sam's got quite a music history and knows his stuff. What a treat because he's now one of my gallery dealers in LA. We haven't firmed prices, but he'll make room in his back room and online. While I was there someone came in and is ready to buy some of my work. Nice!

I walked to Guitar Center and put my hand into Joey Ramone and Exene's hands, and a few others, on their walk of fame. What's cool is X is right above the Ramones. What fucking sucks is Dee Dee Ramone's hand is missing. CJ?? C fucking J?? Anyone who knows my history knows I picked up a camera because I loved Dee Dee Ramone's cheekbones. But his lyrics were brilliant (which I knew before I met him) and he is considered THE bass player to set the standard for those who followed. And he's not represented? No statue in the cemetary, no street named after him, and no hand in the bronze entry to the Guitar Center? Is there no justice? I am outraged on his and all his fans' behalf. They were filming for MTV, so I signed a release and someone took a digital shot of me. But I didn't stay long enough to be filmed. I have a life.

Into the shower in time for the reception for the PhotoLA show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. They had terrific food, but it was freezing. I've never been so cold while eating such delicious food. I went off my raw foods diet to freeze? But the show was very informative. I've never been with a group of serious photo collectors and dealers.

I've gone the Civic many times before and after shooting punk for a variety of trade shows, buying gemstones and beads or other art shows. But when I walked into the women's restroom in the lobby and saw the blue and white tile on the floor, I hallucinated back to when I walked in there and it was smoky and full of women fixing their makeup and whatnot, just as I did tonight. But we were rock 'n' rollin'. The Clash? Iggy? Devo? Was I stoned that night on acid or speed and always, the music, the scene -- my friends, the whole atmosphere, taking pix. What a flashback!

While driving from Western and Wiltern to West Hollywood, every few moments a ghost appeared and woke me from my reverie of book and photo thoughts or just dealing with the traffic. Apparitions from the donut shop across the street from the Starwood. I remember X's John Doe being on stage and pointing to it as an intro for "Sugarlight." About being high on speed and hanging at the donut shop with the cops. Right on, John, that's what punk was about.

I wasn't one to hang out with performers and friends after a show, sweaty, excited, all ablaze cos of the night and while stoned. But I totally understood that song. I either was with a man or dropped film off at various labs and off to bed in "the city of electric lights." Or I spun around and stayed up for days in the darkroom and/or shows. I digress, but I can NEVER drive into Hollywood or West Hollywood, let alone both in one day, without my life flashing in front of me. I have so many sense memories, the kind that when I looked up and saw the Chateau Marmont, I remember sleeping in a bungalow with Barry Baker, one of the Clash's roadies. But I was too shy to ever ask the group for a pose. And I slept with three of their road crew. I never asked for it and I never asked anything from them.

I remember the nude swimming party Tomata du Plenty from the Screamers, others and myself created that caused us to be thrown out. Ha, ha, I was thrown out of the Chateau for swimming while nude and punk. Damn, I can't get away from not only those memories, but I can see it: the constant movie of my life as an early punk. So that's why I'm doing books.

And gallery shows. I'll be part of a group show, opening February 18, 2006, Gallery Revisited, Silverlake. I met the owner, artist Leora Lutz, last summer, in Chinatown to check out the scene and one of her artists, Josh Petker, whom I found on myspace when I had time to explore. Now I'll be in a show with him! I have my first solo show from Sept to Oct. Ohmygod. My first solo show. Leora and I are born on the same day!!! Natalie Wood and Emma Peel aka Diana Rigg, and I've met others, but can't remember, July 20. Our birthday is the first day man walked on the moon, perfect for us moon children!

PhotoLA: ran into photographer Brad Elterman, known for his '70's Beverly Hills lifestyle and rock photos. And a very special blast from the past, artist/interior designer to the stars, the humble and talented Brad Dunning, who was thrilled to hear of my progress and book contract. He's been encouraging me to get books out there and soon.

The downside of the show was: my photos should be worth a lot of money when I'm dead. It's awful how low the prices are for living artists and how high when they are dead. Our crazy society who values artists, musicians and film-makers after they are dead.

I was wide-eyed and teary standing in front of one of my favorite photos of Garbo by Steichen. I saw Man Ray (my fave shot of the whole show), Irving Penn, Weegee (going to his show at the Getty soon), Cartier-Bresson, a lovely Imogen Cunningham, an Ansel Adams and Edward Weston (both landscapes) and others I can't spell, all selling for a lot of money. But not many contemporary photographers and other than a few shots of Dylan, the Stones and one of Lennon, Marley, a few others, I couldn't stop wondering where were the serious collectors of the icons of our era?

I always tell people selling rock photos is tough finding the very specialized market of those who appreciate these photos and also having money. It costs a lot to make prints, let alone the time and money invested in taking the shot in the first place and holding onto the slides and negs all these years. It's obvious the serious entertainment photography collectors are not going to PhotoLA. But it was fascinating to see the photos, and choices regarding size, mattes, frames and subject matter.

I started the day with less money than my rent next week, let alone any other utilities. Next week I'll pay up and focus on the book and gallery shows. Gotta raise enough money here and there to pay for those.

I'm not worried. The universe responds when you do the work. I'm meeting terrific people, talented and bright who love my work and share, encourage and collaborate. What a trip! As my mother, friends and fans would say: about time! A helluva a lot of work, being archivist, dealing with photo labs, website, web sales, emails, contracts, administrative tasks, endless filing, digitizing, resizing, organizing, labeling, describing my photos, learning new software all the time. I pray I make enough money to keep it going.

I thank you all for sending our gratitude and good wishes.

Oh yeah, I'll be a nun. As Barbra Streisand asked in "Funny Girl": "does a convent take a Jewish girl?" I'll be nun-like but not Catholic and not very Jewish either. I won't be seeing my old movies at UCLA (that hurts my soul. It's the hardest sacrifice and one I never forget!), art openings, rock shows, parties, TV, reading and answering much email. Oh yeah, I've given up men for awhile. Life is too full. But I can't wait to get back in that game, when the time is right!

PS I am really sorry I am not providing links to those mentioned. I should be in bed, full day tomorrow and this is quite an adventure for a 55 year gal! You try it at 25! Age is attitude. I don't look nor act my age. My mother says I shouldn't admit it. Anyone with good math should be able to figure it out, so why lie? Ha ha. But sorry about the links.