A photographer's job is to document life — both the big moments and the small. Tim Mantoani has taken it a step further: He's photographing photographers with their photographs! His series, "Behind Photographs," is currently on exhibit at the ongoing Month of Photography Los Angeles event.
Elliott Erwitt is known for his subtle sense of humor. "The picture I am holding," says Erwitt's inscription, "was snapped in 1974 just across the street from my apartment in New York's Central Park. It has been 38 years since that event and sadly I have lost track of the participants."
Ethan Russell, known for his iconic rock 'n' roll photography, holds his image of Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. "I was traveling with the Stones and ... I saw this sign and called Keith over and took two frames ... The customs official noticed us and barked, 'Stop right away or we'll confiscate the film.' I stopped. I knew what I had and didn't want to lose it."
Jim Marshall holds an image of Johnny Cash, taken at San Quentin Prison during a 1969 sound check. According to Marshall, the gesture was made in jest, but it has become one of the most memorable images of Johnny Cash.
LeRoy Grannis, 91, is known for his surf photography of the 1960s, including this 1966 image, "Dewey Weber, 22nd Street Hermosa Beach."
Lauren Greenfield is an acclaimed documentarian of youth culture. "I photographed Beverly Hills High School Senior Ditch Day in Malibu in 1994," she writes. "Mijanov, in the foreground, was voted 'Best Physique' at Beverly High. 14 years later, Mijanov and I are still friends, though we were strangers before this picture."
Jeff Widener took the famous Tiananmen Square image of a man confronting a row of tanks during the 1989 Beijing riots.
Without Herman Leonard, jazz history would be missing many great images. He took this image of Dexter Gordon in 1948. "What a great career! To do what you love and to be entertained at the same time!"
Greg Gorman's portfolio explores a fascinatin with celebrity. Andy Warhol had just signed with a New York modeling agency and asked Gorman if L.A. Sunglasses would be interested in [using] him as a model. "They loved the idea," writes Gorman, "and I photographed him."
Douglas Kirkland has worked for Life magazine, on American movie sets and abroad, producing some of the most iconic images of the 20th century. "This is from my evening with Marilyn [Monroe]," he writes.
Gerd Ludwig has worked in over 70 countries, lectures around the world, and shoots advertising when not working for National Geographic. His inscription reads: "These children... were all born with missing forearms. Scientists suspect their congenital deformities to be caused by a bewildering mix of pollutants. From: Soviet pollution – a lethal legacy. Moscow, Russia, 1993."
David Hume Kennerly won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1972 for his images of the Vietnam War. He holds his 1991 image of (from left) George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon in Simi Valley, Calif. "This was the first time five presidents had ever been together," writes Kennerly.
At 98, Julius Shulman is one of the most influential architectural photographers, known for his meticulous care and painstaking composition. "I am called by my good friend Benedikt Taschen: 'One shot Shulman.' This 'scene' was also a one shot endeavor!"
Michael Zagaris is a rock 'n' roll photographer, but was also the team photographer for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1970s. In a championship game with the Chicago Bears, Zagaris describes, "Joe Montana came to the sidelines to meet with head coach Bill Walsh. ... I laid down on my stomach ... and froze this moment in time. To this day it is Bill Walsh's favorite image... and one of mine as well."
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Although the photos are recognizable, the people hiding behind the lens usually aren't. Mantoani wanted to pay homage to the creators of some of the most iconic, timeless images. It was a mammoth endeavor, not only because of his subjects — all photographic giants — but also because of his equipment choice. There are only six of these 235-pound, five-foot-tall, 20-by-24 Polaroid cameras in the world, and Mantoani used one of them to take his portraits. It's an homage, then, to the photographers, to their photographs, and also to a dwindling photographic medium.
Check out the Month of Photography Los Angeles Web site to learn more about the event, which runs until the end of April. The month-long celebration of photography is definitely worth exploring.