Saturday, August 6, 2011

No Fish Out of Water- Suzanne Tracht

There are two places celebrity chef Suzanne Tracht feels at home. Her restaurant and the water.   Suzanne has been on the restaurant scene in Los Angeles for nearly twenty years, the last ten on Beverly Blvd., where seven nights a week she cranks out delicious meals for her hungry admirers.  Her restaurant is Jar,  which stands for “just another restaurant.”    Its anything but. 

The life of a chef is a grueling one,  and Suzanne escapes to the pool for many of the reasons we all do. Exercise, sunshine and decompression. I showed up at her restaurant early this morning to take her second portrait. It was overcast and we were both tired, but more importantly, we had to wait for the arrival of our real star—the whole sea bass which was on route to the restaurant from downtown Los Angeles.

While we waited, Suzanne, the consummate hostess, offered coffee and grilled meats. The smells were divine. And sure enough,  as we waited the sun appeared and the fish showed up.

As if on cue, some of her regulars drove by and waved while I took her picture holding the fish.   Suzanne smiled just as naturally as when I took her portrait at the pool. 

Suzanne is no diva chef. In a culture that seems to admire bad behavior, it was a pleasure to meet a real pro who is comfortable being professional  without the antics.  A sign of a true pro.

Suzanne Tracht 

Check out Suzanne's wonderful restaurant:  Jar

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

KTLA Morning News!

Thanks to Jessie Nagel at HYPE PR, I got to wake up at the crack of dawn and do live TV!  Actually, after a year and half of working hard to document my swimmers,  it was nice getting The Secret out and sharing the images.  The morning team was great and loved the project. Thank you KTLA for supporting The Secret Life of Swimmers!

(You can view the interview here)

The Banners Are Up!

Very exciting! The banners are up in downtown Culver City! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Secret Swim

I made this film for the official Secret Life of Swimmers website.  Be sure to check out the site!

I have to thank Greg Daniels, a fantastic cinematographer, who help me shoot the film.  Here we are rigging up the underwater camera. He's a great guy and good sport for giving up his Sunday to come out and get waterlogged. 

This is the Go Pro HD underwater camera that I used for some of the underwater POV shots. It's super cool and straps to your head!

Coming Friday!

Here's a sneak behind the scenes peek at the banners which are going up on Friday in down town Culver City.  That's the lovely Linda Schwartz in the image I am proofing.  

If you happen to be eating at Tender Greens in downtown Culver City  look up and you will see the swimmers looking down at you. Here's a map.  Of where you can find them. 

This is the schematic that my husband created for the installation (he also made the map). 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Exciting News. Secret Life To Become Public Art Installation!

For the last year, while I have been working on photographing this series, I’ve been in conversation with the Culver City Art Cultural Affairs to turn The Secret Life of Swimmers into a Public Art Installation. After many meetings, I am thrilled to report that the Culver City Council voted unanimously in support of turning The Secret Life of Swimmers into a series of banners that will hang in downtown Culver City this summer through September.
After September, the banners will move to Sepulveda Blvd where they will remain for the next two years.
In addition to the banners, there will also be a website and virtual gallery dedicated to the project. There,  you can read about the swimmers and see a film I made.
The banners will go up in the next ten days, and I will post  the information here when they do.
The Secret Life of Swimmers
In the meantime,  here is a sneak peak of the film for you!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Liz Weiner

Liz Weiner is best-friends with Linda Schwartz. They have a lot in common. They're both teachers and they both love swimming. In fact, they’ve been swimming together for nearly 20 years, typically early  Saturday mornings. Liz used to coach swimmers at the YMCA and she’s quite proficient in the water. Out of the water, she works hard as an elementary school teacher, and is dedicated to her students who struggle with various forms of developmental learning issues.

As far as the photo shoot went, I hadn’t been in a modern day classroom in a long time. I thought I would be greeted by a traditional green blackboard and some old school chairs. Instead, to my surprise, this school in South Los Angeles was ultra modern and updated.  Truth be told, we had to move quite a bit of furniture, and even the American flag, to make the picture look as traditional as it does.   

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Linda Schwartz

Hair. Shave it, wax it, dry it, dye it, it’s always an issue. Not just for swimmers. But, probably especially for swimmers looking to keep the hair (on top of their head) in good shape, it’s even more of an issue. Well, it is for me anyway. Chlorine wreaks havoc on my hair. Drying, cracking, fading color, and then of course the endless products I buy to combat all of the above barely help my dehydrated, sagging curls.

What happened to the enduring sun kissed blonde/ greenish hair of my youth? How I miss thee.

Judy, Katie and a Bottle of "Sun In." 1988

This is from 1988. I was in Hawaii with my friend Katie. This is what a bottle of “Sun In” and a little chlorine can do to your hair.  Can you say straw?  

The first time I met Linda Schwartz was in the locker room at The Plunge, she was outgoing and I was incoming.  She’s a petite woman who was drying her soaking wet hair, which was pressed flat against her scalp. 

Linda Schwartz sans fabu Hair 

 She was talking to another woman, who as it turned out, was planning her 80th birthday party.  They two were talking about it being a costume party and I believe someone was planning on going as a stripper or maybe it was someone hired a stripper? Either way, the conversation caught my attention. 

The three of us started talking. This soon to be 80 year old who looked to be about 55 impressed me.  Screw the dry hair; swimming will reverse the aging process everywhere else.

By the time we had finished our conversation, Linda, had finished drying her hair (she was fast) and in the process metamorphosed her entire appearance. She transformed her lanky, moist hair into the most amazing, luscious puff of grey shoulder length elegance I had seen in a long time.  I was shocked at how her hair transformed her appearance.  I knew then she had to be photographed.

Linda Schwartz and her secret hair 

I got to know her over the course of a few weeks. I learned that she was a retired school teacher and swims with her best friend of 20 years, Liz Weiner, and they swim very early in the morning. I guess getting up early all those years stays with you. Personally, I think she’s probably tougher than I am because it’s COLD at 7am, but there’s Linda, unrecognizable in her swim regalia swimming for an hour.   She’s in amazing shape and besides the swimming she’s an avid hiker and walker.

Linda is so striking in person, I told her, and I thought she should take up modeling. She laughed and told me it was a life long dream.

I just may have to cast her in a project.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Trois Nageuses Françaises Part Deux (finally)

When I first saw these lovely ladies at the pool, I was intrigued by the fact that they were French, and because they always swam together.  It was never just one or two of them, but always the trio. I was curious about their lives and who they were. 

(Carine, Géraldine and Armelle)
They never arrive at  the pool with a ton of equipment, just the essentials:  nice bikinis and the ability to swim breaststroke. They pretty much adhere to the European approach to swimming, but without the zigging and zagging. (In most European pools, the concept of circle swimming is woefully non-exisistent.)  No, they fit right in. Except they are far more slinky than most of the women at the pool, which, I suppose, is directly related to being French.  (All those baguettes, bottles of wine and chunks of cheese make the pounds just fly right off--if you're French.)

After a few weeks of seeing them come and go, I decided I had to approach them. When I finally had an opportunity tell them about my project they agreed to be part of it. Armelle, Géraldine and Carine all met here in the US through the French ex-pat community. They are all busy moms, raising many kids. I think between them there are 9 kids, and of course, the various stray family members who come to stay with them. Setting up the second shoot wasn’t not easy. Between the holidays, travel, families and schedules it took  a few months.
(beautiful children not taking directing but having fun)

We met at Armelle’s back yard one Sunday. I think the ladies were concerned that the kids would not sit still, but there’s only one great way to photograph kids--let them be kids.  They ran around, jumped, posed, and were delightful, beautiful children. When they were finally tired from all the excitement, we got down to business of taking the pictures and I had the opportunity to capture some really nice moments with the kids as well as my lovely French friends. 

(a quite moment with a little beauty)

(a natural model)

(Carine & daughters)  
(Armelle & daughter) 

(Géraldine & daughter)  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Daniel Dobbs Part 2

I finally had the chance to shoot Fire Inspector, Daniel Dobbs’ second portrait.  I had been anticipating how much fun that would be, because in the course of getting to know Daniel it was evident that he would give me 100 percent no matter what, plus, there was going to be fire! So some planning and permission asking had to happen. We had to also plan around Daniel’s athletic and work endeavors, which included two marathons, one in Japan and the other the LA marathon. This took some time. 
My guardian angel with all things City related, Christine Byers, who works as the Public Art & Historic Preservation Coordinator in Culver City, paved the way for me to get permission, thus we were allowed to shoot at the Culver City fire training facility. So, I took Christine with me to scout the location. At first, the compound looked like a giant, empty concrete yard, except for the crushed car turned upside down, the burned three-story building, several fire trucks and various firefighting contraptions, plus rows of hoses neatly stacked against a wall. We knew right away this was a serious place for serious business. I wiped out my iphone right away and started snapping. 
 (Scout pics of the compound)

This is one of the buildings, which is set ablaze to train future fireman. When I stuck my head in the door, the smell of smoke was all consuming. Simply put, they torch the building and then send in the guys. Daunting? Yes.  The interior is charred because of the many fire drills, I noticed this had created an amazing, graphic, carbonized effect on the walls.  I knew it would make a truly  interesting texture and pattern

( Portrait inside the building with Daniel)

We all know that twelve-year old boys want to be firemen, but it takes a certain kind of personality to want to make this dream come true. Daniel summed it up succinctly, (reminded me why I, too, love these guys). “You have to put yourself second.” It’s as simple, and as complicated as that.  And, I suppose, living in the backdrop of LA, where self-absorption is often a passport to fame, it made me appreciate even more what these men and women do for a living.
So, onto the other eye candy: The Fire Engines. 
(Daniel on the compound)

No doubt things of absolute beauty. I love how amazingly functional and graphic they are. The clean lines of all the valves and gauges appeal to my personal aesthetic—let it be said, I like Fire Engine Chic.
(Jim Van Cleave)

Up close the Engine is a work of art. And, lucky for me, the very wonderful and informative Jim Van Cleave, the on duty Engineer whose job it is to know manage every single one of those cool looking valves, was standing right in front of us. Both Christine and I pounced. We started peppering him with so many questions he wasn’t sure we were serious. I think he was surprised that we were genuinely interested in how things worked. He walked us around the entire engine, sharing all the minute details of how everything works.  I liked throwing out different scenarios like, “What happens if you get to a location and there’s no water?” Or, “ How to get pool water out of the pool to help with a fire?”  And so on. Of course, he had the answers to everything. It’s all very well thought out and actually quite mathematical.  Finally, we had to let him go when a call came in  and we returned to our scouting business. 
It’s been a real treat getting to know Daniel and some of his colleagues at the Culver City Fire Station. I know he’s going to get a lot of grief from the boys over his swimming pose, but that takes guts. And any time they want to “man up”, I’ll take their picture too! Culver City Fire Fighters Calendar anyone?
(Official finished portrait of Daniel Dobbs)