Wednesday, January 25, 2006


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, 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, and Theo Digital Systems from 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.



Anonymous Joel said...

I wish I could afford them. Maybe someday.

2:55 PM  

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