Earlier this month, "Anton Yelchin: Photographs" opened at Other, a furniture showroom and gallery in Hollywood co-owned by entrepreneur Kelly Cole, with a collection of 40 untitled images shot on film over a period of six years. The show serves both as an introduction to the work of a talented photographer and a memorial for a multifaceted artist whose life was tragically cut short.
Last summer, Yelchin died at the age of 27 when his car rolled backward in his driveway and struck him. Best known as an actor, Yelchin had already racked up a substantial list of television and film credits and was famed for playing Pavel Chekov in the 2009 Star Trek reboot and its sequels, Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond, the latter of which was released posthumously.
But Yelchin also was working to establish himself as a photographer; according to his friends, this was something that he wanted to be seen as independent from his acting career. "He had been curating a portfolio; the intention was that it would go out to magazines and he was starting to talk to an agent in New York for photography," says Cole, who co-curated the show. "The intention was that the work would stand alone. … That was a big thing for him, to have his work be respected as photography and not because he did it. That was at the core of who he was as a creative person."
Yelchin had invested in Other and had the goal of doing his first major solo show at the space. After their son's death, Yelchin's parents brought together a small group of people to curate and produce the show. "We took that portfolio that he had edited, and added and subtracted from it to put the show together," says Cole.
The curators were faced with the task of presenting what's now Yelchin's legacy. "It's very intense for all of us, going through the work and putting it together with him not here," says Cole. He describes the job of bringing Yelchin's passion to light as "a real honor."
The collection is heavy on portraits taken with a range of cameras, including disposables and a Leica, and featuring in-camera effects. Yelchin had a knack for capturing personalities, making ordinary people appear as though they were characters in a movie. "From what I knew of Anton, he had a genuine curiosity for many avenues of life," says photographer Dan Monick, who had collaborated on projects with Yelchin and co-curated the exhibition. "He stepped out there in a lot of arenas, and I think the show is only partially representational of that because we were trying to do a more general overview of what he did."
He also had an interest in capturing the beauty of ordinary surroundings. In one photo, Yelchin himself appears in the scene, standing in front of a Catholic church you might only recognize if you've spent a lot of time driving around Reseda. Monick notes Yelchin's love of the San Fernando Valley, recalling a photo shoot they once did along Sherman Way.
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Both Cole and Monick talk about Yelchin's interest in keeping his life as an established actor and his life as an up-and-coming photographer separate. They mention how he tried to downplay the celebrity aspect of his life and he did it pretty well. "He was so disarming," says Cole. "He would meet people and they wouldn't know who he was or maybe they didn't recognize him." In one instance, Cole recalls, a model had worked with Yelchin for a year before realizing that he was a well-known actor.
"He was so uncommon in that way. Genuine is the word," says Cole. "He genuinely wanted to have communion with people and understand people and execute creative ideas."
It was a heartbreaking task that brought together the curators, and the resulting show is filled with a lot of love, not just for an artist but for their friend. "We're all bringing our different relationships with Anton together through this work which we are now left with and honoring him, honoring his family," says Monick. "It was really a super special, beautiful experience and, obviously, an incredibly sad one. To see people react, to see his friends walk through and laugh at photos, it triggered stories. Every photo had a great anecdote with it. It was really a special experience."
"Anton Yelchin: Photographs," Other, 1050 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; through Dec. 31. otherspacela.com.