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Moshe Brakha's flashback photography goes pop at the Grammy Museum

May 16, 2009 |  9:00 am

Madonna Jpeg

Madonna is standing before a packed crowd at the Palladium in New York. Stage lights beam overhead. Legions of plastic bracelets dangle from her slender wrists. Her disheveled  locks are pulled away from her face. Clutching onto the microphone stand, she glances to her right. Click. The flashy scene from 1983 stands still forever with the help of a guy and his camera.

At the Grammy Museum at downtown’s L.A. Live, this portrait of Madonna and other music heavyweights make up “Occupation Dreamer: The Photography of Moshe Brakha,” the first photography exhibition at the 30,000-square-foot museum. The collection is like a mix tape of images taken from 1976 to 1986 of mostly up-and-coming rock stars of the time.

“I was just trying to capture dreamers living their dream,” said Brakha, 62. “Some lived on nothing. But that didn’t matter. They loved what they did.”

Cars  The 30 portraits line the curved wall of the museum’s second floor, each with its own title and story — whether a young Anthony Kiedis lying on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, giving the middle finger to the camera, or New Wave group Devo wearing plastic breasts, or a seductive Diana Ross tangled in pearls atop a tiger rug.

“The museum tries to highlight a broad spectrum of music,” said chief museum curator Ken Luftig Viste. “His photographs balance that with different types of artists who play different styles of music. It’s a great dynamic.”

Long before Brakha was directing commercials and photographing the likes of Tom Hanks, Sean Penn and Will Smith for Newsweek, Esquire and Vanity Fair, he was simply a man with a camera.

The Israeli-born, L.A.-based photographer graduated from Art Center College of Design in 1975 and began his career shooting “strictly punk.” He fondly recalls the day he photographed punk band the Screamers, their mouths gagged with chains. 

“The beginning of punk was the beginning of something in my life,” Brakha said. “I was really, really in love. It was loud, aggressive, not beautiful. The way I understood punk, freaky is better. Aggressive is better.” 

Run DMC Jpeg But his subjects would evolve well outside that scene. In one photo, Neil Young, ever the cowboy, raises his guitar against the balmy air as he drives his car on his ranch. In another, hip-hop impresarios Run DMC stand against a red backdrop overcast with shadows for a Rolling Stone photo shoot; later, Brakha said, the group would storm off the set. And in a portrait of the Cars, Ric Ocasek and company look sluggish and crammed in, well, a car.

Ask Brakha to pick a favorite, and he shakes his head. “They’re my girlfriends. I can’t pick a favorite.”

The photographs were rediscovered after Brakha and his sons were moving offices. The initial thought was to showcase the nearly 200 photographs in book form. When their book deal fell through, they sought out gallery spaces to display a select few, and the show premiered at Ogilvy & Mather in New York last year. Separately, the team is also seeking a gallery setting to debut a collection of Brakha’s still-life photographs called "Silent Pictures."

But, for now, the rock stars take center stage. Thanks to a guy and his camera.

-- Yvonne Villarreal

Grammy Museum, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A., through Aug. 9, 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sundays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturdays. $14.95. (213) 765-6803.

Top: Madonna performing at the Palladium in New York in 1983; middle: the Cars in a car in 1982; bottom: Run DMC at a photo shoot in NYC in 1985. Credit: Moshe Brakha / Grammy Museum

Comments () | Archives (5)

Ahhhh...the US sure loves to live in the past

The reason? Well, honest Radio playlists (reflecting what trendy people and alert club DJ's wanted to hear) was categorically murdered by Reagan and his media conglomerates, by around 1987...

It's always interesting -- year after year, decade by decade -- to see the US return to that 80's era to pick things up where we left off!

When we return to independent Radio - with free-form playlists ( ha - remember that term!?) with DJ's who relfect what happens on dance floors and not boardrooms - then we will come to life again... { and no, I do not mean the yuppie barrage of Radiohead, Coldplay and Blink 182 (so sorrry, all you Followers)}.

I mean drum and bass ( 20 years-old now but never EVER played on the radio) progressive house (heard everyewhere around the world but NOT in the US) and dub-step, tech-step, blips and bleeps, electro-clash.

We should picket Radio statios for keepin gthe US in the dark - thse times reallyd o not have to be so boriong but our ridiculous media is not spontaneous at all - Holllywood films -- shot years ago and sitting on a shelf -- can rest assured they will not be out of style because styles are frozen and are not allowed to change!

Do you really want to hear the same 500 songs for the rest of your life??? Why is everyone so afraid of the Future? In the 80's, we sure were not!

It used to be every was striving to re-define Modern Times -- but now everyone seems to live in the boring, constant PRESENT TENSE.

We're frozen in time and it shows - you think this is 2009? You're wrong -
people can get away with wearing outfits from ten years ago and it is not
'out of style' because there is no style.

American pop culture is set for the year 1989 -- regurgitated Hip Hop choreogrpahy ( stolen from 'West Side Story') is still acceptable.
Saying 'awesome' and high-fives goes back to 1989....straight leg jeans - ummm, 1972....fist bumps - circa 2000....

Rave culutre, RAVE radio, techno, jungle -- these styles are against the law in the US.

So, yeah oggle your old phoots from the past -- because that is where the action was and that is all you're allowed to live; the world called: How it WAS.

Jimmy, everyone heard of all the music you listed, but it was just never popular. Even David Bowie couldn't make drum and base popular. Your list should could have been far more inclusive of the generally ignored to include the work of jazz and modern classical composers among many, many other genres. You should not look to the popular tastes of any country to validate (for want of a better word) your taste in music or art...

500 songs on the radio, MP3, all your music fitting int a 4GB iPod, cheap headphones.

The 70s and early 80s: Acid Rock, Progressive Rock, Plain Old Loud Rock, Punk, New Wave, Grateful Dead Rock, Zappa at his finest, Jazz, Bluegrass, real Country Outlaws,Rodney On the Rock, The Poorman, My Dual Turntable, Record stores, KROQ, KNAC, The Sex Pistols, A black male Michael Jackson,... DJs that would play the whole record non stop after midnight.

MTV used to play real music videos. Remember how cool that was? Billy Idol (on your face) on MTV? I want my MTV!!!

Today, really boring stuff, nostalgia tour bands, no record stores, the US self called "music industry" conglomerates run not by the A&R department but by attorneys that sue their customers. MTV into reality shows. Ozzie Osborne not retired yet. Someone tell that Aussie band that if I want to listen to Pink Floyd I got my records and a High End Audio system that sounds much better than they can. Kiss without make up? Huh?

The only thing that got better was Salonen replacing Mehta at the LA Phil.. and now he's gone..

Thank God for my 4000++ LPs, my Linn Turntable, my 24/96 recording system and my 4TB RAID-5 file server.

At least my son's series of garage bands are getting much better. Time to build hiim an Internet Radio Station.

Dude, get over it....!

Amazing Madonna. A dreamer making her dreams become true.


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