Brad Elterman’s life story is vaguely reminiscent of Almost Famous: as a sixteen-year-old boy, he borrows a camera and goes to the spots where the fashionable people are hanging out. He is always at the right place at the right time and gets closer to the action than anyone else. Soon he is documenting the Hollywood nightlife of the late 1970s and early 80s, the musicians, the concerts and the parties. He captures Bob Dylan, Blondie, Kiss and Queen for magazines such as Creem, Rolling Stone and New Musical Express.
Under the title WOMEN, the GALERIE FÜR MODERNE FOTOGRAFIE presents a selection of Elterman’s works from this period together with more recent photographs.
Women were always one of the photographer’s preferred subjects. (The others were men and the parties where everyone came together and which not infrequently took place at his own home in San Fernando Valley.) This included in particular the protagonists of the West Coast scene, the teenage-rockers Joan Jett and Cherrie Currie from the band The Runaways and Currie’s twin sister Marie, who went by the name Vicki Razor Blade and would later perform as Venus & the Razorblades. In his early twenties at the time, the photographer captured all these figures before the advent of PR agents, Photoshop and rehab programs. His approach was a bit like a Paparazzo – a profession that formed the basis of Elterman’s second career as a founder of multiple celebrity photography agencies.
After decades ofinactivity, Elterman picked up the camera again a few years ago where he had left off: photographing men and women, musicians, actors and models.
Along with the women for whom the exhibition is titled, Los Angeles plays the second leading role in WOMEN. The city where the temperature is always right for lingering by the pool topless and being young, wild and hot. Elterman cites Helmut Newton and Ron Galella as his influences. And indeed their legacy is reflected in his images in roughly equal proportions: Big Nudes encounter an earlier, in other words, polite Paparazzo. Elterman photographs women on the boulevards of L.A., women in hotel rooms, women with pop stars or as pop stars.
A Dream Photo is the title he has given today to a color photograph taken in 1977. Three young girls arm-in-arm, all three bleach-blondes, in tight-fitting shirts and with the same piercing blue eyes. It might even be called Brad’s Angels. “I think of this photo in my dreams,” says Elterman, “it reminds me of my youth.”
Text: Anne Waak