When Gil Garcetti was voted out as Los Angeles District Attorney in 2000 after two terms, he turned his dedication in life to another love besides the law – photography. In the years since, he has become a respected figure in the L.A. and broader photo community. He is especially known for what has become his signature project: his photo documentary record of the construction of the city’s now iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry.
When he began, Garcetti did not have three books and exhibits in mind, nor quite the physical challenge. But he responded to another challenge, that of an iron worker one day while Garcetti was shooting the building in progress. The challenge was not to allow what all knew would be a great building to be identified solely with its architect, but to permanently recall the men, and a woman – the iron workers – who walked and assembled the beams of its skeletal body. Garcetti took on the challenge, and he has never forgotten his charge. While some of his
Disney Hall images capture the extraordinary architectural whole, many more carve geometric abstractions out of the building’s oblique and curving planes set against the sky. Others – the first third of the latest book – document the skills and daring of the iron workers.
Yesterday, the latest exhibit of Garcetti’s Disney Hall work opened at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in downtown Los Angeles, just a block from the hall. Since Gil Garcetti has just agreed to join the board of advisers of the soon to be transformed Julia Dean Photo Workshops into the nonprofit Los Angeles Center of Photography (about which, more at a later date), and Julia Dean being a special inhabitant of the sad red earth, we had
the opportunity to be present at the opening.
A few things stood out, besides the photographs. One was Garcetti’s humility and lack of self-centeredness. When he spoke after his introduction, it was all about neither his photography nor the famous architect, but about the iron workers. Two of them, captured in Garcetti’s images, were present, at his invitation. They spoke, too, and it was obvious the regard in which they all held each other in their continuing relationship.
Another stand out observation was of the photographer’s son. Gil Garcetti is, of course, the father of Los Angeles’s new mayor, Eric Garcetti, who was present, along with the rest of the extended family. If there were handlers, they were not obviously visible. Nor did the mayor draw any attention to himself, though everyone knew he was there. For the afternoon, he was a man’s son, proud of his father, deferring the center of attention to him, and like any tech habituated 42-year old, capturing the occasion on his smart phone by by doing a 360 degree video pan.