Whether it is Palm trees, California houses, fast-food or Lindsay Lohan, the imagery of American pop culture is a growing source of inspiration for contemporary artists. Each week, Artsper will be presenting you an artist for our “I Love LA saga”. The artists selected are Los Angeles based or themed.
This week, meet Eddie O’Keefe, a young photographer and film director based in Los Angeles. His vision of a 60’s nostalgic California is mesmerizing.
Claire: Based in Los Angeles, how does this city inspire you?
Eddie: I’m inspired by LA’s signage, old cars, cheeseburgers. I’m inspired by the quality of light here. The way the sun drenches everything in a kind of paranoid white heat. I like the sun. I like the water. I like the Beach Boys. I like the Pacific Coast Highway.
Claire : Do you think Los Angeles has a special visual quality?
Eddie: LA is yellow. It looks the way an onion ring tastes.
Claire: The time zone of your pictures is difficult to establish, where does this 60’s vintage nostalgia come from?
Eddie: I’m just drawn to old things, I guess. I hope the photos feel out of time as opposed to retro or something, but I get it. I can’t really control what my eye digs. I see something: I take the shot. There isn’t much design or thought that goes into it.
Claire: Your colors caught my attention immediately, from pastels to slightly acid shades, the work on color and light is striking. Would you say the West Coast has a particular light and tone that fits your work?
Eddie: The quality of the sunlight in LA can be brutal and oppressive and white; colors are electrified by the sun here. This is especially true as the afternoon wares on and the sun begins to set. As the sun dips closer to the horizon, it starts to pass through all the smog and junk in the atmosphere here. As a result, the quality of light gets all warm and orange and syrupy. A lot of my photos are taken during this time. As far as colors are concerned, I suppose that I like strong, primary colors. And I like color alliteration (when the same color appears more than once in the frame). I like yellow and pink and red and certain shades of blue. I think every city has its own color and tone and quality of light. I’m certainly attracted to the west coast’s look and feel, but I’ve taken photos all across America.
Claire: You are a film director, does that affect your approach to your photography work?
Eddie: Definitely. I recently directed my first feature film and during pre-production, the cinematographer, production designer and I would look almost exclusively to photographs for reference. We wanted to capture the still, graphic quality of a photograph with the look of our movie. We looked extensively at photographers like William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Joel Meyerowitz, Joel Sternfeld, etc.
Claire : What or who inspires you at the moment?
Eddie: For whatever reason, most of my favorite photographers these days are women. Artists like Petra Collins, Sandy Kim, Alex Prager and Maya Fuhr. I find their work very inspiring.
Claire: Is there any French personality you like,t hat you are interested in,would like to meet
Eddie: I very much admire the French New Wave directors. Godard, Truffaut, Chris Marker and Alain Resnais were all huge influences on me when I was younger. Michel Gondry as well. Air’s soundtrack to the Virgin Suicides is one of my favorite film scores of all time — I’d love to meet those dudes.
Claire: Admitting Los Angeles is your canvas; would you say the canvas has changed over the years?
Eddie : I don’t think the canvas has changed, necessarily — I’m inspired by the same subjects, colors and textures that I’ve always been inspired by — but I do feel that I’ve gotten to be a stronger photographer over the years.
Claire: Any projects? What are you working on at the moment
Eddie: I’m finishing up post-production on the film I directed last year. It’s called Shangri- La Suite. Hopefully you’ll see it in theaters before the end of 2015. Other than that, I’m always working on new scripts and taking photos as often as I can.
Claire: If you had to shoot anyone’s portrait who would it be?
Eddie: Bob Dylan.
Claire: I have to ask, what is up with that bloody cheerleader? It’s an amazing shot and I think it’s the one that people remember the most. How did you come up with it?
Eddie: That photo was taken on a music video set where everyone was drenched in blood. The cheerleader is my friend, Kristen Kassinger. I took that shot with a point and shoot camera and didn’t think it was going to turn out at all. I was so stoked when I got it back from the lab. There’s something in Kristen’s eyes that makes it all work, I think. Despite the violence, there’s an innocence to her that comes through.