Life on the boule­vard

Los Angeles Times - - ARTS & BOOKS - — Carolina Mi­randa

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.”

Pho­to­graphs by Den­nis Feld­man Cir­cle of Fire

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