Los Angeles Has Photographers

In the age of the smartphone it would seem that the world has no more secrets, but actually dispersed through the world are many gems still awaiting our ‘discovery’. Last night my eyes had the fortune to intersect with precisely such gems, and en masse, at the opening reception of a Master Photographer’s exhibit in Los Angeles. Held at The Lodge, in none other than my native ‘East Hollywood’ area, the work of fellow L.A. native George Rodriguez envelops audiences in a stunning blast through the past.

‘Stunning’ might also be understating the effect of the blast. For me personally, as a millennial twenty-something, there is hardly such a thing as the past before the new millennium to begin with, but I also live in a city where an endless wave of real estate developments and its chic new markets strive to place the ole pueblo at the edge of the future, or at least far away from ‘what [it] was‘. These factors together only make the past, in the historic sense, an even stranger figment to conceptualize, if not an outright absurd one.

Yet in George Rodriguez’s Double Vision, the past in historic terms is not only still with us, but roaring with a life-force so vivid that it matters little whether I know how to appreciate it or not; each photograph takes its place as a monumental reality to ‘contend’ with that any observer will have to reckon for themselves.

From the trepidation winding out like a terrible mist in a picture of Marilyn Monroe seated next to her Mexican boyfriend at a night out at the Hollywood Bowl, to the unmistakable charm and intelligence beaming from the mind of Eric Lynn Wright or ‘Eazy-E’ in a portrait of him, and much more, each of George’s photographs carry a magical sense of ‘time’, and just how precious it may actually be to be inside of that time.

The radiance beaming through each photograph is of course due in no small part to the photographer’s whimsical and indefatigable talent, but for the student of photography, it should be noted that the exhibit also benefits from the print quality of each picture.

Remember: as the exhibit features pictures from as early as 1962, absolutely none of the photographs hail from DSLRS, or digital cameras or photoshop; every photograph is from film, the ‘process’ and development of which can make for fine arts themselves.

Marc Valesella, French-American professor of Black and White photography at Santa Monica college, printed each and all of the photographs for Mr. Rodriguez’s exhibit, at grades more than justifying his title as professor. Chatting with Marc for a moment, the professor told me how each picture is a balancing act of punctuating exposure, or the light captured in the photograph, at just the right angles in just the right sections.

The professor’s passion for the work could be heard as much in his tone as it could be seen in the prints. It was a combination of forces. Marc was born in 1955. George, 1937.

Then, as if the exhibit were not enough of a treasure cove for yours truly, Professor Valesella encouraged me to go and talk with George Rodriguez himself for a moment. I replied that Mr. Rodriguez looked busy enough, what with the book signing and all, but the professor insisted, and accompanied me to walk over to where George was seated.

Standing before George and the table decorated with the books of his work, I had no choice but to cease the moment. I gestured towards him for a handshake, which he returned kindly, and on grasping his hand, introduced myself. George curbed his ear towards me to hear me more clearly–there were troves of people chattering through his exhibit–and I quickly registered the warmth of this reception. I then regaled George not only with congratulations on the exhibit, but on what was obviously a wonderful ride through the ages for him.

The Master Photographer thanked me, and then asked me about my own work. The rest was history, yet again in all its indispensable timeliness, as I proceeded to tell George Rodriguez of my writing and photography at JIMBO TIMES. A true discovery indeed.


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