Archival Pigment Print
Signed and numbered by the artist
Edition of 100
About this image:
I love images that remind me of old Hollywood. Growing up around Los Angeles, these images have real connections to locations that still exist. I have aways enjoyed using film locations that have a history, and making pictures that harken back to the days of Clark Gable, Carey Grant, Preston Sturges, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn and Billy Wilder. Occasionally, a contemporary actor will remind me, either through mannerisms or a chosen role, of that old Hollywood spirit. The subject of “Who’s Behind The Camera” is one of those actors. I was asked to photograph him for Vanity Fair, and his spirit and work ethic, as well as his physical appearance, reminded me of actors like Montgomery Clift or William Holden. I decided to find a location that was ripe with Hollywood history, and cast him as a spirited cameraman circa 1939.
The Paramour is a mansion that sits high above Sunset Boulevard in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, and is rich with film history. It was designed by architect Robert Farquhar in 1923, and was the home of silent film star Antonio Moreno and his wife, oil heiress Daisy Canfield Danziger, who died in 1933 when she drove off the side of the steep, winding Mulholland Drive. The home was also a convent for Franciscan nuns from the 50’s through the 70’s.
I first discovered the Paramour when my friend Jon Brion was living there and producing a record for Fiona Apple on the premises. The mansion has been home to many recording sessions, including Elton John, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Lucinda Williams, John Mayer, and many others. It is secluded and perfect for recording, having no nearby neighbors. What always has drawn me to the property is it’s purity- it doesn’t seem to have been updated at all, and retains all the original ironwork, plaster, tile, and woodwork from its heyday.
On the day of this shoot, there was a fairly typical hazy mist over Los Angeles, and it was obscuring the view just enough to make the lawn and iron railing seem like they were hovering over downtown. The actor I was photographing was loving the vintage 16mm camera and wood tripod we had brought for the shoot, and was stalking around the property with it. The image here was taken as he was listening to someone off to the side, and he had no idea I was shooting. For a moment his face was obscured, and the camera became his head. He had just a little lean in his posture that made the pose unique, and then the moment was gone.
When I found the picture later, buried in the edit, I was struck not only by the pose, but by the timelessness of the image. I enjoy the time machine quality my job can have sometimes, and this was a moment that really felt untouched by the constraints of reality. Funny, when I was 17, I had a 1964 Volkswagen Bug. It had the original radio in it, and sometimes an old song would come on the radio, like a Beatles song from that year, and I would pretend I was in a time machine that had travelled back to 1964. I would look out the window (if I was driving on a deserted, rural road) and see how long I could keep the fiction alive in my head: scanning the horizon for anything non period-correct.
I wanted to make a smaller print of this image and make it really affordable, because I think this is the kind of unassuming image that one could come hang in a hallway, or a guest bathroom, or in the corner of a reading nook. And the viewer can wonder, “Who’s behind the camera?"
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