Malibu Seen

VERY CLICK-ISH

Even if you’re not a professional photographer, Photo LA at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium is sure to make you snap happy. Shutterbugs and photo buffs gathered for a special opening night party hosted by ’60s rock legend Graham Nash to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

The eclectic crowd made some bold fashion statements, decked out in everything from hand painted trench coats and green Wellies to pink cowboy boots, vintage capes and French berets.

Lens lovers enjoyed a selection of California wines as well as a super spread rolled out by some of Los Angeles finest eateries. Luna Park made the evening’s food fun with goat cheese fondue and mini caramel apples, Border Grill whipped up its famous Mexican fare and Grace dished out New Zealand lamb chops on a bed of lentils. While the fare was fab, the imaginative images were even more delicious. One found creative takes on every imaginable subject-’50s hotdog stands, turn-of-the century nudes, early wild west prints, lush landscapes, Moroccan doors, rubber gloves, sock puppets; even artistically composed rolls of toilet paper.

The expo included works from some of the world’s most celebrated photographers. There was a pensive 1921 portrait signed by Edward Weston. From the fashionable eye of Horst Paul Horst, a 1936 vintage contact print of perfectly manicured feet and from photo master Man Ray, a piece entitled “The End of the Christian Era.” They were all sufficiently striking and all POR, that’s price on request.

There were sensational ’60s society photos from Slim Aarons, including one of eccentric Peggy Guggenheim in her off-beat Venetian Palazzo. Another called “Gossip” captured ladies of the day lounging by a Palm Springs pool with their groovy bikinis and beehive hairdos.

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Around the corner, Michael Eastman was back with his captivating lost-in-time Cuban interiors. Gorgeous in their faded glory, they feature dusty old rocking chairs and water-damaged walls, faded velvet curtains and crumbling antiques. “He found these places on Embassy Row,” his rep Fiona MacConnell explained. “He’s fascinated by places in a state of decay and grandeur lost.”

Wandering through the maze of images, I always seem to come across a new favorite. This year’s standout was British born Lisa Holden. Her psychedelic life-size images come in a kaleidoscope of color-hot pinks, lemon yellows, lime greens and electric blues. Part Woodstock, part Alphonse Mucha, her mixed-media chromogenic prints are downright hypnotic. “They are all self-portraits,” said rep Madeline Weinrebe. “She takes the images and scans them, blows them up, morphs them, paints them and blows them up again.”

The centerpiece was her surrealist take on Manet’s famous “Olympia.” “I’ve never seen anything like it,” marveled Alex Novak of the Vintage Works Gallery. “It has so many layers and complexity.” The image is so intriguing, it almost makes you forget about the bottom line. “I’m really hoping no one buys it,” Novak admitted. “I would really like to have on my wall.”

With dozens of galleries from around the world, the exhibition kept us entertained for hours. Whether you go for beauty, realism or lighthearted fun, Photo LA always leaves a lasting impression.

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