Moshe Brakha, Legendary Photographer, Collaborates with Son on Project of Interviewing One Subject a Week for a Year
photo by Levi Tenenbaum
Black Flag, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Keanu Reeves and Devo have all been shot by famed photographer Moshe Brakha. Charismatically colorful from the start, his photographs burst with movement and personality. He shot the cover for Boz Scaggs' Silk Degrees album in '76, shot Run DMC for Rolling Stone, and threw himself into the advertising arena, shooting campaigns for brands like Sky Vodka and Adidas as well as directing the "Martini Man" commercial series for Martini and Rossi. "New Economy," the first gallery exhibition of Moshe's collaboration with his son Eddie, consists of portraits of young creatives taken by the father/son duo after interviewing each subject.
Moshe and Eddie, aka brakhax2, interviewed and photographed one subject per week for a year. The resulting exhibition, displaying only a fraction of the series, reads like a glossy yearbook of the Young and the Talented. The Culver City opening at Gallery 3209 on Saturday was attended by 400 people who consumed 200 bottles of champagne.
Eddie said at the opening, "Me and my brother grew up on my father's set. I never wanted to be a photographer -- a storyteller, yes, a director, but not photographer. Anything but! An artist would be fantastic. I didn't want to have to worry about filling his shoes. Collaborating with him is interesting. He's very emotional. He searches for the music of an image. I'm more logical, rational, with an academic background. So I attack from that perspective, and we find a balance. Both minds are refined. He's now proud to proclaim that he's an academic photographer, and I'm proud of writing something that just sounds good - something that's musical."
photo by Moshe Brakha Left to right: brakhax2 logo, Moshe, and Eddie
Moshe explains the exhibition: "This is a series, not a collection. One idea for 52 weeks! Prior to this story, we worked for three years on another story. Our collaboration began with the still life -- we looked at tools, artifacts, representing humans and emotions. We were stuck in the lab for three years. For this series, we wanted to integrate people into this context. We wanted to investigate the filter of the young artist, to ask 'how do you think?' We tried to figure out what makes people tick and to fill each photograph with that information."
"New Economy" is an atypical exhibition for Gallery 3209, which regularly works with emerging artists, giving them their first opportunity to show work in Culver City. Often pairing live musical performance with visual art exhibitions, Gallery 3209 combines the independent ethos of many artist-run spaces on the East side with the immaculate presentation and critical curation of much more established institutions.
Denni Zelikowsky, the young painter who owns and curates Gallery 3209, became interested in exhibiting the series after participating in the project. Moshe and Eddie approached her during an opening at her space in October, and the artists' process took her by surprise. When asked what she thought of the interview before the photo shoot, she said, "I almost walked out. It was intense. But I enjoyed watching them work together, and I knew I wanted to be a part of their first foray into the world of fine art."
True to Brahka's legendary form, the photos are spectacularly saturated -- lit and designed like dream sequences from some future live-action production of Through the Looking Glass. Moshe and Eddie attempted to fill each frame with references to the subject's occupation -- cans of Red Bull at an editor's feet after so many all-nighters; the hands-on curator wearing a painted hand print across her face like the Phantom.
The art direction is quite literal but the inversion of the marketing research process by a commercial photographer is noteworthy -- rather than being directed by the desires compiled in some consumer database, each image is dictated by the desires of its subject... Then again, the images are so slick that any one could be mistaken for advertisements for the products or people within them.
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