Save the Date & Interview: “73 Days in Paris…and More!” The Photography of Bob Friday – Opening Reception: March 4th
This interview began by asking a realtor how he got involved with art. After learning more about Bob Friday, it’s clear a more appropriate question would have been to ask how a passionate artist/ arts advocate got into real estate!
Bob Friday, whose photography show and book release ’73 Days in Paris,’ opens March 4th at Le Pop Up Gallery on Abbot Kinney Blvd. (the recent C.A.V.E. Gallery space), is a Renaissance man if there ever was one. Bulldog Real Estate is only the latest of an impressive progression of ambitious projects spanning multiple realms.
Over the course of his career, Friday has been accomplished in worlds from Environment/Biology to Psychology, from Production to Communications. But the undercurrent that has run alongside of these various endeavors, and is the soul, as Friday says, of his trajectory- has remained that of creative expression.
Photography was Friday’s first love. Over time it evolved into multimedia, music, performance, and teaching. This body of work returns to the medium that initiated it all. Friday had been posting documentation of Paris online over the course of his explorations. This exhibit/book were called into being, in part, by way of his enchanted followers. They wanted an encore! It’s a natural outgrowth of his immersion in the beloved ‘City of Light,’ and his sharing of moments containing ineffable magic.
Cartwheel Art, was fortunate enough to be provided the opportunity to pick Friday’s mind. In addition to telling his story, he articulates the vitality of the artist’s role in society -as a city like Paris recognizes- now more than ever. And he provides a luminous personal example.
It’s exciting to hear about a show by someone who’s had has a thriving career in other areas. Though you’re not primarily an artist by trade, you place a high value on the arts.
1. How did this come to be?
How would you describe the place art has in your life?
As long as I can remember I’ve been a photographer. As a kid I had a little Kodak Instamatic that I dragged around everywhere to the consternation of my parents who weren’t thrilled with the cost of film and processing for my “masterpieces!” And, while my college degree was in Environmental Biology and Developmental Psychology, I think that, if I had been honest with my aspirations, I would have pursued arts — visual and performing. In fact, upon graduation, I moved to Chicago and got my first real camera and within a year had put together a multimedia show that used my artsy photos to visually interpret the music that I was performing live at over 300 college concerts and as the show opener for some pretty big acts. When I did the college gigs I would run a workshop called “Photovision – the Art of Seeing” to help people open their eyes and minds to the possibilities that they could capture in their cameras.
After doing the on-the-road thing for five years I moved back to Pittsburgh and became Executive Producer for Broadcast and Special Projects at a division of Y&R Advertising. Used my photography skills just about every day as I created communications pieces and events for my clients. Kicked that up a few notches when I opened my own creative corporate communications boutique and moved to LA. Even shot the 1992 Olympics for my clients at M&M/Mars! My images have been published in journals and mags all around the world. And I have a special thing for cities: shot, edited, directed a 30-minute multimedia presentation about the city of Pittsburgh, did a big series of city-wide promo images for both Santa Monica and West Hollywood. But this show, “73 Days in Paris . . . & More!” is the one that is nearest to my heart.
Paris is my “second city” — the place that hits all the buttons. I love its architecture, the river, culture, intense emphasis on art and artists, the food, the people, the styles, its history and the fact that, in the face of the many changes and challenges that are affecting Paris and its citizens, they are a defiant, resilient and proud people. My heart is with them. Every step I take in Paris is rewarded with a surprising vista or a tiny moment of amazement. I could spend an entire afternoon just exploring a single city block and be totally entranced and amused!
I believe my show captures much of what lovers of Paris love so much! It’s not all perfect. One of my images is of the makeshift memorial to the lives lost and those forever changed during the terror attacks on Le Bataclan in November of 2015. It’s very real and painful still. But Parisians are staunch defenders of their way of life and they will not let terrorism destroy it. And I love that about them.
2. How long have you been practicing photography?
Have you studied it, or are you self-taught?
You used the right word: practicing. Henri Cartier Bresson said something about your first 10,000 images being your worst. So true. And the learning continues daily. Unless you push yourself to learn and explore more about a given subject every day you get stale, destined to repeat your “best tricks.”
I am self-taught but have learned much from other photographers I’ve been associated with or have emulated and whose works I have drooled over! But one thing I don’t do is copy others’ work or approach. I’m not trying to recreate Ansel Adams images or those of Robert Doisneau. I appreciate them and have learned from them but when I look in my viewfinder, I see what I see in the way that I alone see things. And, in a show like “73 Days in Paris” some might say that these are not images that “challenge” the viewer or “communicate the angst” of a scene like some others do. They’d be right! Don’t get me wrong: there are several images in this show, most notably the “showcase” image called “Apres-midi at le Café de Flore” that have more challenge and story than you’ll see in many shows! But you’ll walk away from this show feeling warm and wonderful about life in a place where people revere their environment, their arts and artists, their food, their very existence. And, given our current circumstances here in the US I think there’s a need to see that those elements contribute greatly to the well-being of a society. It’s why so many of us adore Paris — we get to soak up all that it offers daily to its own people and to us, the fortunate visitors. Art is at the heart of Paris. When I see headlines about cutting funding for the arts here at home I just am at a loss as to how this can be. If, by sharing my images of a city that nurtures its cultural treasures and the producers thereof, I can help convince a few of our own to fight against these measures then I will have accomplished something truly meaningful.
3. Can you tell us a little about Le Pop Up Gallery space, and how you connected with it?
What inspired you to create a solo show now?
Not much to say about Le Pop Up Gallery space. It was the former home of C.A.V.E. Gallery, now on Venice Blvd., and it is a huge, perfect space for a show. Tina, the woman who owns Bazar next door and manages the space, is very interested in continuing the use of the space for exhibits.
The impetus for this show came from the feedback I received while my wife Debbie and I were in Paris for the 73 days last Spring. I posted images daily on a site that I shared with about 100 people around the world. The response was simply overwhelming. When we returned to LA and I posted a final shot and “thanks” to everybody for traveling with us vicariously, to a person they responded with heartfelt thanks for being shown a Paris that most had never seen in such a unique manner. And the request for a book and a show started. Over the summer, as I worked on culling and editing and refining some 8,000 images down to the best 200 and then further reduced to the best 50 I realized that there was some magic in these photos and that I needed to share it. And as the realities of the political scene began to take their toll on our psyches, I felt that a joyous, celebration of life in the City of Light was just what we all could use. And voila! The show was born. The space became available just about the time I decided to undertake the task and the rest has just been a lot of hard prep work: fine-tuning images, printing, reprinting (all but three of the images were personally printed by me) working with Keith Grayhorse of Grayhorse Framing to get the images put together right, overseeing the oversized print process with Roger Wong at Samy’s custom service bureau and just getting all the promotion elements in place from web presence to mailers. It’s all looking quite gorgeous and I can’t wait to open the doors and share!
4. Do you do your own photography for your real estate business? Is there any other overlap between these worlds for you, or that you envision developing?
Yep! I shoot the imagery to promote all of my own listings. Why, when it would be so much easier to hand that off to someone else? Because I want the folks who view my images to know that they can trust what they’re seeing. I detest seeing images shot with a super wide lens that makes a 10’x15′ bedroom look the size of a suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel!! From my old ad agency days I still carry the “truth in advertising” attitude: make it look good but don’t lie ’cause when they get there and see that it ain’t nuthin’ like the pictures, they won’t like you and they won’t trust anything else you say.
And yes, there is an overlap between business and art. Back when I designed, wrote and directed corporate live theatrical industrial shows, I always told my crews and the folks that helped make the music and design the imagery and stage the event that this was the same as the old “patrons of the arts” from the kings and queens of royalty days. “Mozart! Write me a birthday song!” We got paid to practice our crafts and be artists — albeit with a message — and we had a lot of fun doing it!
For me, sharing my photography with people who might be clients allows me to relate on a non-business “real people” level. I am a pro at my business of real estate. I am a pro when it comes to photography. But the art transcends business and allows us to enjoy and share on an emotional level. That’s my goal. Business is great. Art is our soul!
5. You brought up the importance not only of art in your own life, but of the role artists can play in society. What do you feel is the highest potential of the artist in the community?
Artists come in all flavors! Some take what they see and turn it into stylized representations, sometimes quite literal and oft-times interpretive or with experimental techniques to achieve something truly unique — because they can. Just different ways of viewing the world. Others make profound or subtle statements about life’s challenges, incongruities or as a response to attitudes and current events, conflicts and moral issues. We need all colors of the artistic spectrum in a healthy society. We need our artists to pose the questions and point out the issues because they have a way of doing it that can reach us emotionally, not just intellectually. Sometimes an image can convey more and do more to pry open the heart of the viewer than all the words and arguments of FaceBook posts will ever accomplish.
Artists have always spoken to power. And some have paid the ultimate price for doing so. There is something in a good artist that allows him or her to see, analyze, interpret and reflect the world so that viewers of their art can recognize the issues and become engaged because of that interpretation. Photographers, I believe, have a unique opportunity in that process.
Our artistic process is rooted in an ability to take what is there in front of us — but maybe not truly seen by all as we pass by in the rush of our daily lives — and stop time for a bit so that we can focus on what might make the ordinary quite extraordinary. My analogy would be the doors of Paris. Only when you stop and take the time to study the art and craft of these ordinary portals do you realize what beauty lies in the patina of age, the worn softness of the handles and knockers, the richness of the paint. And while photography can be used to manipulate reality, it is the one medium that is, at its root, based on reality. There is a high degree of veracity built into the photographic process which lends credibility to the subjects and the circumstances in their portrayal. It’s what I love about “street” photography — life around us captured to illustrate the human condition.
The greatest potential for artists in their communities is to be the observers, the ones who see things — big and small, blatant and subtle — and then bring those things to our attention in a way that words can’t. And maybe, as result, we can change some small part of our world for the better.
6. You said of your show, “I feel that it actually spotlights that which we love about a place like Paris…[it] reveres its arts and culture and those who create and support them.” Would you like to give any particular examples of this from your time in Paris?
I already mentioned the imagery of Parisian doorways but it is much broader than that alone. It’s almost part of the DNA of Parisians and the French! Art is part of who and what they are as a people. I’ve often said that I can be thoroughly entertained just spending an entire afternoon exploring a single city block in Paris. Why? Because every step reveals something striking, sublime, artistic, ironic, beautiful. From the manner in which goods for sale in a window are artfully displayed to the finicky detail of the creations in a favorite patisserie, art and style is abundant and adored, no, actually expected!! I think about how Paris uses its various magnificent old structures like Ste-Chapelle as living, vibrant and over-the-top gorgeous settings for incredible violin chamber group concerts every night of the year — and they’re booked solid. Our non-performance hall structures sit empty most of the time. Not in Paris. Tiny St. Ephraim-the-Syrian church has about 80 seats and regularly they do piano recitals there that are breathtakingly awesome — and solidly attended.
Go to the open air food markets and the art of food abounds. There are writing stores in Paris! Think about that: stores with notebooks, pens and pencils, writing journals, papers. The process of writing/creating is alive in Paris. And can’t have this discussion without mentioning the hundreds of incredible art museums all throughout Paris. How can one city have so much richness of artistic spirit? Because its people believe in it with their hearts, minds and souls.
“73 Days of Paris…& More,”
March 4th – March 26th
Gallery hours are 11-6 daily
Saturday, March 4th from 5-9pm
Note: 40 page photobook, will debut at the opening.
Le Pop-Up Gallery
1108 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice CA 90291
Bob Friday: (Ph) 310.720.9979 and (email) tgif@BobFridayPix.com