I might be the luckiest photographer in the city of Los Angeles. Maybe L.A. County. For the fourth year, I have been invited to photograph L.A. Weekly’s People Issue, the annual encyclopedia of the denizens who make L.A. such an intriguing place to live and such a compelling story to cover. In January of 2006, L.A. Weekly’s art director mentioned in passing that he wanted me to shoot a new issue about the people of Los Angeles. Kind of like the Best of L.A. issue, only instead of restaurants and bars, it would be about people. I thought, Wow, maybe I’ll shoot 10 to 15 portraits. What a GREAT project! That number quickly turned into an unimaginable 54 portraits in 2006. Since then, I’ve shot more than 250 assignments for the People Issues.
The 60 portraits I did this year were shot in five weeks in March and April. I witnessed things I couldn’t make it up. Among the nearly 7,500 images were a dancing goose, blood-spattered ex-presidents with guns, rocks standing on end seemingly defying gravity. On one photo shoot, I witnessed Harry Houdini sign his autograph. On another, a former mayor sang to my assistant.
What I love about an issue like this is that it doesn’t get tossed into the recycle bin after it’s been read. It gets placed on bookshelves for future reference. Who knows who will look back through these pages in a week, month, year or decade?
The most obvious connection I have with these subjects is that we love what we do, which is always a great ice-breaker when you’re running back and forth across town doing five shoots a day and have about an hour to find the spot to shoot, set up lights, shoot that setup with a couple alternate scenes, and rush off to the next one. This fortunate photographer is thankful to L.A. Weekly and its writers for bringing these enthralling subjects to our attention; my assistants on this project, Ashley West Leonard, Gaby Castaneda and Cherokee O’Dea; and, of course, the subjects themselves, who put as much energy and thought into these photo shoots as any photographer could hope for. Big-time thanks to my wife, Shelley, who kept me well-nourished and relatively mentally balanced.