Los Angeles photography legends Bill Eppridge and Phil Stern were honored by L.A. City Council member Tom Le Bonge at the gala opening of photo l.a. 2013 on January 17. The well earned recognition of these legendary portrait and news photographers distinguished a notable trend at the exhibition. Most exhibitors are featuring high quality, distinctive portraits of historic importance. And some exhibitors, such as Fahey Klein and the International Cinematographers Guild, devoted their entire exhibition space to these works.
A set of rare, previously unpublished portraits of artist Andy Warhol by photographer Karen Bystedt at the exhibit of Artists’ Corner Gallery showed how important portraits are emerging as an important category in the art world. While many Warhol classics are based on silk screened images of photo portraits, the artist himself was rarely photographed in portrait sittings by a professional photographer. This series by Bystedt shows Warhol experimenting with different poses -- and less comfortable in front of the camera than behind it. Now available as archival pigment prints, these photos are being presented in limited editions of 25.
What distinguishes a museum quality, collectible portrait from a routine headshot used by Hollywood agents and movie studios? Brooke Gabrielson of Willem Photographic in Monterrey cites unique poses and timeless qualities as the key criteria he uses to make a final selection. This gallery’s own exhibit at photo l.a. emphasizes unconventional fashion photographs, mainly of models that achieved global fame. When L.A. City Council member Tom Le Bonge introduced Bill Eppridge for his award, he emphasized how these photographs have become a part of our history.
One of the best examples on view at the show is a time series of former First Lady Pat Nixon at the Jancar Gallery. These monochrome photos have been colorized and grouped as a set to tell a story, an intimate biography of a woman who was in the public spotlight for three decades as the wife of a Senator, Vice President and President and played these roles like a professional. The individual photos are nothing special, just routine news photographs that agency photographers take hundreds of times every day. The presentation as a narrative is completely different.
Exhibitor Stefan Kirkeberg of Smith Anderson North commented on this trend: “Portraiture has recently been of stronger interest. We also work with the Pier 24 Museum in San Francisco -- it’s nice to bring in something new.”
The trendsetting interest in distinctive photo portraits is being reflected in price levels rarely seen before. Each of the celebrity and fashion model portraits by Phil Stern at Fahey Klein is for sale for $2,000. A complete set of ten Andy Warhol portraits by photographer Karen Bystedt costs $25,000. An unusually rare and unforgettable vintage photograph of songstress Josephine Bake clad in pearls by George Hoyningen-Hueme from 1929 is listed for $15,000. Works by fashion photographer Philippe Halsman are also commanding top dollar. These higher price levels have also enabled a different genre of photography to earn a spot at the show. Stills from movie projects used by advertising agencies to promote films with media relations campaigns and performer photographs used for autographed mementos to fans are moving up from collectible shows to top art shows like photo l.a.
The photo l.a. exhibition at the Santa Monica Civic Center is open from today until Monday, January 21. Advance tickets for Photo l.a. at a 20% discount are also available online at this link or for $25 at the door. Tours take place at 9:30 a.m. each day and the show exhibits open for general viewing starting at 11 a.m.