Los Angeles Celebrates Photographer Gary Leonard's 60th Birthday

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Fri, May 6, 2011 at 12:30 PM

click to enlarge See more photos in "Gary Leonard: Selling Out @ 60" - GARY LEONARD

When asked to identify himself at photographer Gary Leonard's 60th-birthday-party photo sale two weeks ago, a tall man with a large camera hanging from his neck refers to himself as "the other Gary Leonard." He is Gary McCarthy, a photographer for The Los Angeles Independent, an occasional stand-in for Leonard at events "when he can't be three places at once."

McCarthy has come to this party with a gift for his doppelgänger, a 40x60 poster, which is unrolled by Leonard and his young daughter, Xiu Ling. Leonard breaks into a shy smile and holds the banner up for all the cameras to see a portrait of him accompanied by his motto, adjusted for the occasion, "Take my picture old man. Happy 60th!"

A few months ago, Leonard and his son David tossed around the idea of hosting this birthday party sale at Leonard's gallery at 9th and Broadway downtown. "I wasn't really serious," Leonard says. His son was.

"Selling out at 60" was good motivation for L.A.'s chronicler to dig through his archives and pull out some of his classic prints.

Included in the sale are neon T-shirts screen-printed with Leonard's portrait of Andy Warhol, images of Encino in the 1950s and a shot of Walt Disney Concert Hall's groundbreaking in 1992.

The gallery is packed soon after the doors open, and it remains that way all evening as people sift through boxes of a black-and-white biography of their city -- its accidents and intents, landmark events and quiet moments -- all seen through the lens of a man who started photographing the city 40 years ago.

Taped to a wall are some of his most popular images: O.J. Simpson with his arm around Nicole Brown in 1980, a white flower tucked behind her ear; Warhol at the Village Theater in Westwood in the fall of 1972; a prepubescent, shirtless boy with a cigarette between his lips at Zero Zero on Cahuenga in the early '80s. "Glendale Harley Davidson 11.8.98" is scrawled in black pen across the bottom of an image of three 20-somethings in Budweiser bikini tops and jean shorts. Those women likely aren't here tonight, and they've probably never seen this gallery, but their image remains on Leonard's Los Angeles timeline.

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