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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Former TV anchorman turns camera on Frogtown artists

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Bill Lagattuta is best known for his years working as a Los Angeles TV news anchorman and an award-winning national network correspondent. But these days, Lagattuta is pursing another long-term passion – painting and sculpture – in a studio in Elysian Valley a.k.a. Frogtown.  He is part of a growing community of artists who  have set up studios, and in some cases homes, in the former factories and warehouses near the Los Angeles River.  After opening his studio during last year’s Frogtown Artwalk, Lagattuta decided to undertake a project to photograph his fellow artists in their studios and publish them on a website called Made in Frogtown.   Lagattuta plans to photograph at least 20 artist  in time for this year’s artwalk, which is scheduled for September 24, but plans to continue shooting environmental portraits for the remainder of the year.  In addition to portraits, Lagattuta’s images include painters and sculptors at work and close up shots of the tools, belongings and knick knacks that fill the studios. What’s Lagattuta’s studio like? This is how he describes it:

I currently work in a large metal building adjacent to the Los Angeles River. It is a former marble cutting factory, which was purchased and renovated in 2010 by an electrical contractor. He uses 2/3rds of the building for his business, and I work in the remaining space. Our building is sandwiched between a long distance bus company and an embroidery factory.

When it came to photographing his own studio, Lagattuta left that job to his wife, director and photographer Judy Starkman.  Click on the link below for a brief Q &A with Lagattuta about Made in Frogtown

What lead you to this project? Was it simply to promote the art walk?
As an artist and photographer, I wanted to do something creative and helpful to promote september’s artwalk. As a participating studio last year, I realized how important this event can be in exposing great work to the public. The more interest in our little part of the east side we can generate, the better.

How many artists total do you plan to photograph?
I plan to photograph at least 20 artists prior to the artwalk, publishing two each week. However, I will certainly continue creating these environmental portraits on a regular basis throughout the year.

Was it hard to get artists to have their studios photographed? Did they set any conditions?

I have had no difficulty in getting artists to open their studios to me. I think they understand that i am one of them, that i know how things work, and so they are comfortable. I explain to them that the idea behind the photo shoot is to give the viewer the experience of simply dropping in to an artist’s workspace, spending an hour or two, getting to see a bit of the artist’s personality and work style, and how they have arranged their environments. I have always enjoyed seeing how artists set up their studios–the kinds of personal mementos and inspirational items they choose to surround themselves with. There are no conditions on the shoot. Everyone is very cooperative.

When did you start? What kind of camera do you use? How long did the shoots last?
I began at the beginning of the summer, and usually shoot my portraits several times a week. I try not to spend more than an hour or two with each subject. Remember, this is simply a glimpse into their lives. I shoot with a canon 7d and series of different lenses. I try to use natural light exclusively, since there is usually plenty of natural light in most studios.

What kind of response have you gotten from other artists in Elysian Valley?
The artists I have profiled so far have enjoyed the finished product. The best part is that by spreading the word through the area, I have discovered other artists I did not know or know about.

How did you end up in Elysian Valley?
I have lived in Los Angeles for more than 25 years. My wife, photographer Judy Starkman www.Judystarkman.Com, and I have a friend who lives and works in a loft on Blake Avenue. That is how we came to know Elysian Valley. I had a small studio in our home, but needed more space, and so began looking in Frogtown. I currently work in a large metal building adjacent to the Los Angeles river. It is a former marble cutting factory, which was purchased and renovated in 2010 by an electrical contractor. He uses 2/3rds of the building for his business, and i work in the remaining space. Our building is sandwiched between a long distance bus company and an embroidery factory.



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4 comments

  1. I LOVE Bill Lagattuta’s blog. Even after 8 years in the neighborhood (and 5 Frogtown Artwalks), I still learn new things about the artists in Elysian Valley from the blog! Bill has a wonderful story-telling ability and the images and text combine to create fascinating portraits.

  2. How wonderful that Bill is continuing to do unique and creative projects. I worked with him when he was just out of college in Phoenix, AZ for KOOL-TV (CBS at that time) and he was a funny as he was bright. The Frogtown artists are very lucky to have him photograph their work. The fact that he can do wonderful projects like this AND concurrently work as a broadcast journalist will help him live to be a very old and fulfilled old man!

  3. Maybe someone can do something about those loud train horns. City Councilmembers Garcetti & Reyes refuse to. They care more about animals then people.

    http://www.uprr.com/reus/roadxing/industry/process/horn_quiet.shtml

  4. Elysian Valley is part of the Train history of this region. It was a great industrial pocket within Los Angeles, providing jobs for some in my extended family. Many companies produced items shipped out on the freight trains that ran those tracks. Having spent many weekends with my maternal grandmother in Cypress Park as a child, I have fond memories of the beautiful sounds of the train horns as they came and went on the tracks below. I especially remember the hourly horn blown by the locomotives in the late afternoon in Taylor Yard.

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