Life on the boulevard
For four years in the late 1960s and early ’70s, photographer Dennis Feldman hit Hollywood Boulevard in tattered jeans and cowboy boots, a Rolleif lex camera around his neck.
There he captured people playing some very wild, very real roles. On this street — whose very name evokes the glamour of Hollywood, even if its reality is far more mundane or gritty — Feldman found a wild intersection of tourist guides, drifters, wannabe rockers and mustachioed dandies, along with the hopeful and the despondent. Everyone, he says, wore a kind of costume.
“You could see that people had taken these archetypal identities out of the movies and were trying to live them,” he says. “There’s a guy who is costumed as the cliché of a silent film director. There’s a guy who wants to be a rock star, and he has the costume, down to the guitar case prop.”
With his camera, Feldman captured a moment in the lives of these characters. Now his poignant images — some in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York — have now been gathered into a book: “Hollywood Boulevard, 1969-1972.”
“I’m interested in the psychological aspects of people,” Feldman says. “What’s in their minds, their identity.”
Yet the artist got into photography because of the movie business. As a student at Harvard University, he took up the camera after a fellow student told him that photography was necessary for anyone interested in becoming a director.
“And I fell in love with it,” he recalls. “I saw the work of Robert Frank and Walker Evans and Frederick Sommer and I became very obsessed.”
Though he would eventually enter the film business (as a screenwriter and director), for much of the 1970s he took pictures: in Hollywood, in tumble-down L.A. hotels, and on a cross-country trip in an old Ford pickup for 11 months.
But Hollywood Boulevard provided him with a parade of drama and f lash.
“You can’t get into the studios,” Feldman says. “The dream factories have guards. The agents all have receptionists. But you can walk that street and dream.”
A SAMPLING of photographs from the new book “Dennis Feldman: Hollywood Boulevard 1979-1982.”