Exhibitions and Installations, J. Paul Getty Museum, Photographs, Film, and Video

Looking at Los Angeles through the Lens

Los Angeles / Garry Winogrand

Los Angeles, Garry Winogrand, 1964. Gelatin silver print, 9 x 13 7/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 99.XM.35.1. © 1984 The Estate of Garry Winogrand

Much of what the world sees of L.A. is in movies or on TV. But a new exhibition opening today at the Getty Center offers an enticing glimpse of the city’s past through the lenses of photographers—some well known, some nearly unknown. The carefully selected group of images makes you look twice.

In Focus: Los Angeles, 1945–1980, the last of the four exhibitions to open at the Getty as part of Pacific Standard Time, features photographs from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection made by artists whose time in Los Angeles inspired them to create memorable images. The exhibition is a mix of work by artists whose careers are defined by their association with L.A., who lived in the city for a few influential years, or who visited only briefly.

Many of the works invite you to complete the story. The photo above, taken by Garry Winogrand in 1964, is open to numerous interpretations: Did the driver get into a fight? Did he have a nose job? He looks like he may even be considering punching the photographer as Winogrand snaps him and his companion driving on an L.A. evening. I can’t help myself—I so want to know this guy’s story.

Though a quintessential New Yorker, Winogrand made some of his most memorable photographs in Los Angeles, where he chose to settle in the final years of his life. He has two memorable images in this exhibition. 

Clockwork Malibu / Anthony Friedkin

Clockwork Malibu, Anthony Friedkin, 1978. Gelatin silver print, 1 15/16 x 18 5/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002.44.3. © Anthony Friedkin

Anthony Friedkin, who combines his passions for surfing and Southland beaches in his photographs, contributes this image of surfer Rick Dano on the highway near Malibu in the late 1970s. The image captures a moment in time that speaks to me.  I think about the end of the ‘70s and the beginning of the ‘80s, of being on the brink of something unknown; the California coastline dropping off in the background. What do you see?

Diane Arbus’s dreamily lit photograph of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland is another unforgettable image in the exhibition. Although technically not located in the city or the county of Los Angeles, Disneyland—and Arbus’s photograph—captured the notion of entertainment and fantasy that has come to be so intrinsically associated with L.A.

There are many more intriguing views of L.A. in the show, from William Garnett’s aerial views of newly built suburbs to William Wegman’s and Jo Ann Callis’s more experimental visions. (You can download a checklist of the exhibition here.) All show a different aspect of Los Angeles during the postwar era, one that invites you into the picture.

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