The Sexy and the Unseen: Highlights from Paris Photo LA 2015

Vintage Polaroids from Guy Bourdin to glass plate negatives of 19th century Californians at this year's art fair

by The World’s Best Ever

History and nudes: two of the many things that photography is known for. From Guy Bourdin’s vintage Polaroids culled from his personal collection, to Ralph Gibson’s black and white compositions, this year’s Paris Photo LA contained a wide array of work that would satiate even the most daring history buff. Here, we take a closer look at some of the standouts from the make-believe world of Paramount Pictures Studios.


Selections from the archive of OG Big Bob Johnson at Harper’s Books

While you’d normally assume that the only thing an LA gang member would be carrying is a weapon, OG Big Bob Johnson—a founding member of the West Side Crip—also carried a camera. On display in the Harper’s Books booth were a selection of pictures captured by Johnson of his crew and surroundings in the 1970s and ’80s, finally allowing the public to see life from a real G’s perspective.


Ralph Gibson: Nudes at Terry Etherton Gallery

Longtime fans must feel cheated by the fact that they spent years without being able to see Ralph Gibson’s spectacular nudes on any piece of photo paper larger than 16” x 20″. For the first time ever, the former photographer’s mate in the US Navy—and longtime Leica photographer—showed his black and white compositions in all the glorious detail of large format. The result was full-bodied and beautiful.


Guy Bourdin

The only problem with deceased photographers is that once you’ve seen all of their published work on the internet, that’s usually it—an endless circle of JPEGs. Every once in a while though, the estate of an artist will throw art enthusiasts a bone and dust off some unseen material. Guy Bourdin’s black and white Polaroids are from such an archive, and now we have that much more work to appreciate.


California Unedited!

It was after an exceptionally filling Thanksgiving meal that curator Anthony Lepore came across the work of the photographer R. J. Arnold. Lepore, who had been visiting his aunt in the California town of Paso Robles, was led to a dusty collection of over 2000 glass-plate negatives in the basement of the El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society. What he found were portraits and commercial work from the late 1800s featuring a broad cross-section of residents from San Luis Obispo, California. From the wealthy white people to the working class immigrants, “California Unedited!” is a rare look back at the lives of 19th century Californians.

Images by The World’s Best Ever