I am never without a camera. No, I don't mean that nice camera on the iPhone. I mean a real camera, the Canon Power Shot S95, with its superb lens, small digital face, ease of use. All of the best photos here on my Huffington blogs over the past four years have been taken with it. Which will explain why I was at the Kopeikin Gallery (2766 South La Cienega Blvd, at the northeast corner of Washington, (310) 559-0800) on Sunday for the opening of a very special photography show. It features the photographs and collages of a legendary, famous photographer named Firooz Zahedi, whose work I have long admired and tried without success to emulate.
Firooz Zahedi and his wife, Beth Rudin DeWoody (Photo by Jay Weston)
All photographs of the art are published with the expressed permission of the copyright holder, Firooz Zaheda, and by the courtesy of the Kopeikin Gallery.
Anyone can snap a picture... or two. That's easy. What is much harder is to create an image, a visual memento, which will remain with you after you stop viewing it. And Firooz does that with ease, creating stunning portraits and fascinating collages (which are abstract images melded together into a cohesive whole). For years his work has been featured in Vogue, Vanity Fair, Town and Country, Time and the like. When I began to ask him some questions about his life, Firooz laughed and pointed me to a paragraph he had written in the program and suggested that I include that in its total in this article:
I grew up in Iran in the 1950s. Technicolor Hollywood movies gave me the chance to escape into a world of beautiful, happy people who drive big cars, sang songs and fell in love and then went on to live happily ever after. I wanted to be part of that world. I was good at drawing and painting. I thought I would grow up to be like Gene Kelly in An American In Paris, painting, singing, dancing and falling in love.
One day I did land up in Hollywood and managed to establish myself as a portrait photographer. I never could sing or dance like Gene Kelly but there was love and marriage followed by a divorce. Through it all I remained the kid who had been enamored with the old Technicolor movies and later on an obsession with the black-and-white "Film Noir" genre, which showed a darker side of Hollywood. I felt it my duty to pay homage to all these movies in my work as they had provided much needed escapism for me in my life.
Along the way I moved on to photographing nudes, flowers and interiors as well as making collages and then explored abstract imagery to see if I could treat inanimate objects with the same passion as my other subjects. I do what I can to entertain the eye and hopefully also the mind. There is more to do and I am ready for the next adventure.
What Firooz didn't include in that comment, according to Wikipedia, is that he began photographing for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine until, in May 1976, he met and became friends with Elizabeth Taylor, and they soon traveled together to Iran and the Vienna, where his portraits of her became a cover story on Interview... and then became her personal photographer in Hollywood. In 1988 he began shooting for Vanity Fair, and some of the celebrities he has photographed are: Leonardo DiCaprio, Bette Midler, Meryl Streep and Oprah. He created and shot movie posters for such films as Pulp Fiction and Get Shorty. He did several album covers for Barbra Streisand. And I know that he married the lovely Beth Rudin DeWoody, a noted art collector, last year.
At the Kopeikin Gallery, there is a remarkable assemblage of portraits, posters and collages -- and I noted that they all are for sale at reasonable prices for such works of art. I coveted several whose images I have included here. And what I got from my visit was a lesson in visual sensibility. He does not merely shoot a subject, he investigates time and space at the same time.
The exhibition at the Kopeikin will run unti June 7, so I suggest that you take a sojourn down La Cienega and visit it. It is a revelation for all of us who snap photos randomly.
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