Malibu Seen

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Exhibitor Shannon Richardson gets framed at photo l.a. Photo by Devon Meyers/TMT

SNAP HAPPY

From beautiful scenics to erotic nudes and celebrity snaps, this year’s photo l.a. was a treasure trove of eye-popping, thought-provoking and surprising images. The Barker Hangar was bopping as photo buffs gathered for the annual photography showcase clearly enjoying the event’s spacious new digs.

“We started in 1992 with about 18 exhibitors at Butterfield’s on Sunset Boulevard,” recalls photo l.a.’s Stephen Cohen. “We expanded form one room to two rooms and then moved to the Santa Monica Civic where we were bursting at the seams. We outgrew the space in terms of number of people attending and the number of exhibitors. This year we are bigger and better than ever.”

Around every corner there was an intriguing sight to behold. Composition and color turns simple old flywheel at Bethlehem Steel into a work of art. There were objects as mundane as a paper clip or seemingly ordinary as an aging Texaco station on Route 66 that were brought to life by the artist’s eye. Edward Weston saw a nautilus shell as a striking sensual form while Irving Penn took a couple of unfiltered Chesterfields and created a composition rich in tone and texture.

There were plenty famous faces hanging on the walls like an underwater pose of Muhammad Ali. Another classic was a 1966 photo of a young George Harrison taking a cigarette break in London’s Chiswick Park. His back is turned to an iron gate, which separates him from a throng of frantic female fans. There was Edie Sedgwick in her perfectly mod black mini, heavy black eyeliner and black hose. Posing with pop artist Andy Warhol on top of a New York City manhole they looked like the epitome of Swinging ’60s chic.

But it was Alison Jackson’s unexpected celebrity photos that really made you stop and stare. Who could pass by a playful princess Diana flipping the bird? Or a puzzled George Bush baffled by a Rubik’s Cube. Sir Elton John was on his knees for a colonic cleaning and a naked Prince William was seen sporting the crown jewels. But these images were not what they seemed. “They’re look-a-likes,” explained exhibitor Shannon Richardson. “We see these celebrities in the press all the time and they’re so familiar. Jackson gives us the paparazzi shots you’d never see.”

In between exhibits, the artistic crowd snacked on citrus marinated pulled pork and plantains from Border Grill, tuna tartare from Chaya and lobster ravioli from Il Moro. Also milling in the crowd was famed architectural photographer Julius Shulman. With his acclaimed Case Study houses, the celebrated shutterbug brought California’s sleek mid-century modern style to the rest of the world.

Incredibly, at the ripe old age of 97 he’s still taking on assignments. How does he do it? “My secret is simple,” he said with a smile. “I have no problems.” With this year’s record crowds and successful showings, neither, it seems, does photo l.a.