Photographer George Rodriguez has led a double life behind the lens. Cited as one of the “great visual documentarians of Los Angeles and of the cultural complexities of Mexican-American life,” George’s photographs span student protests and high profile celebrity shots. Every subject matter is as necessary as the other in George’s work, a photographic stance celebrated in the first ever career retrospective of his work, Double Vision: The Photography of George Rodriguez, designed by Brian Roettinger and published by Los Angeles-based Hat & Beard Press.
Spanning five decades, the doorstop tome of a photography book splits “across two vastly different lives,” with images selected by George and scholar, writer and curator Josh Kun. Portraying “his glamorous work for film studios and record labels, processing film for Hollywood photographers and shooting countless photographs of the era’s biggest stars,” the publication then jumps in subject matter to “vivid, bracing images documenting the social movements and protests that were exploding on the streets of Los Angeles and throughout the country,” says Hat & Beard. This notably includes the 1968 student protests in Chicago and the East Los Angeles Walkouts, which both celebrate a 50th anniversary in 2018.
“George’s photographs offer a rare opportunity to see the multiple layers of life in Los Angeles through the lens of a single person,” explains Josh Kun on working on the publication. “The book is also a chance to firmly write George, and by extension other photographers of colour, into the mainstream histories of Los Angeles’ visual record.”
The moments within Double Vision “traverse the 1950s through the 1990s” seamlessly thanks to Brian Roettinger’s considered design angle and Josh and George’s curation of images. Iconic instances across decades are documented from boxing gyms to recording studios or publications such as the farmworker newspaper El Malcriado or teen magazine Tiger Beat. In turn, Hat & Beard’s book offers an insight across “a rare half-century visual exploration of Los Angeles (with extensive forays to the California Central Valley) through the diverse photographic eye of a native son,” says the publisher.
The weight of Double Vision: The Photography of George Rodriguez makes you think of the vast archive it must have been whittled down from. Until now, the publisher points out, only his images of Chicana/o protest and politics have been published in books, gallery, or museum exhibitions. This book instead takes in all aspects of George’s work, from personal to professional, as a retrospective which deservedly sprawls his varied portfolio.
“I’d never known what the word ‘eclectic’ really meant, but now I know it’s been used to describe me,” comments George Rodriguez on his photography career. “I’ve been very lucky, but luck only happens when you take the picture. It takes a lot of work to get to that point.”
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