Interview Series: Brad Elterman

Remember when you could really feel the heart of rock & roll beating, walking down the Sunset Strip? I don’t. Most people who read this mag weren’t born in time to have lived and loved in 1970’s – I’m pretty sure all of them wish they did…

Joan Jett at The Whiskey, 1977.

I could spend hours listening to legendary photographer Brad Elterman talk about his early twenties in a very sexy, free-spirited California that will always only exist in my dreams. Take a glimpse at some of his most epic work, then and now:

Duran at the Riot House, 1981.

Q&A

LF: What makes you decide you want to photograph someone? What makes you tick, what makes you click?

BE: I dunno. It is usually the look and chemistry. It is not about beauty, it’s more about how we relate. A sense of coolness always helps.

Steve Jones in Brad’s pool off the Sunset Strip, 1978.

LF: What do you miss the most about Los Angeles in the 1970’s?

BE: My youth. I was always the youngest kid in the room and today I appear to be the oldest. It was a very free period of time. No one even knew what a condom was back then.

Stiv from the Dead Boys exposes himself at Aron’s Records, 1978.

LF: What made you decide to pick up a camera after a break that lasted what… two decades? How did you feel during that time?

BE: My break was closer to 30 years. I woke up one day around 1985 and said to myself  that I did not want to do this anymore. I had an amazing ten year run. My best mentor, Richard Creamer ditched his cameras a couple years before me. The Runaways and The Ramones broke up and the publicist was looking for retainers from the record companies and that meant that they would now be in control. None of the publicists knew any of the foreign magazines that I worked for in Europe and Japan.

If you were not taking photos for Rolling Stone, LA Times, AP or UPI, they did not care. Heavy Metal was hot and I hated that noise, so I went into photo retirement. I was very busy running photo agencies during that break and really did not feel that I was missing that much. During my break Popular Culture was about Charlie’s Angles, Burt Reynold and Loni Anderson, Dallas, Dynasty, John Denver, Journey and Pamela Anderson. So no, I did not miss much.

Leif Garrett & Nicolette Sheridan, 1980.

LF: What’s your favorite thing about Los Angeles today?

BE: It takes great effort on my part to leave L.A. these days. Not that I do not enjoy traveling any longer, because I do. There is so much going on here in L.A. these days and it really is the most comfortable city. Suddenly we have culture and creative types all over the city. The light is magnificent and everyone from all over the world pulls into L.A. for a visit. So we just sit back and wait for interesting friends to arrive. I wouldn’t live anyplace else at this period of my life.

Pool party with Chelsea Schuchman, 2012.

Andre Saraiva shooting Chelsea, 2012.

LF: Do you still hate publicists just as much or have you learned to live with / avoid them?

BE: No, everything has changed and I have many friends who are publicists. You need to work with them and today and a good publicist is totally switched on to the importance of bloggers and Social Media. All of the cool magazine that I worked with are finished. The Internet took care of them. So today with my 200K followers on Tumblr and my other media outlets, I am a photographer, editor and publisher all in one. I think that my history and traffic is interesting to the talent and their teams. It’s a whole new exciting world out there today and I really dig it.

Lauren Rocket, 2012.

LF: Through founding various photo agencies and more recently through blogging, you’ve always wanted to support the next generation of photographers. Who are you interested in right now?

BE: I adore many of the next generation of photographers out there. They are young and so creative. I love Sandy Kim. She is amazing and her photographs are so raw. She just finished designing my next book, entitled Dog Dance. She was a natural selection.

Sandy Kim wearing Brad on her shirt, 2012.

Sandy Kim, 2012.

LF: What is the new book gonna be about, what period does it cover?

BE: It’s all 70’s photos with cool stories about Joan Jett, Kim Fowley and other cool friends. Damiani in Italy is doing the book. They do all of these cool art books.

David Bowie paparazzo shot, 1975.

LF: What makes a photo classic?

BE: It captures and moment and hopefully it will tell a story.

LF: Which is your most viral image ever?

BE: The photo I took of John Travolta kissing Olivia Newton John at the Grease premiere in 1978. Over 118K notes on Tumblr. There is a color version of them sitting at the table that went nuts too.

No caption needed <3

LF: You used to be famous for your pool parties – what makes a good pool party?

BE: Semi clad girls dancing around the pool to the 70’s disco song ” Turn The Beat Around”.

A Mega Mansion party in Beverly Hills, 1977

LF: What’s your soft spot when it comes to women?

BE: A cool vibe along with a lovely smile.

Joan Jett at the Tropicana, 1978.

LF: What type of music are you listening to right now?

BE: Electronica!

LF: Do you believe in love?

BE: Yes, but it is not easy to find in L.A.

Backstage at the Roxy with Dylan, 1976.

LF: Why do you think that is?

BE: Because I am over the big 50 and I do not want to date women my age! L.A. attracts a bit of a materialistic crowd and that is not my scene. It has always been that way and always will be.

LF: How fast do you live?

BE: As fast as I can. I will have plenty of time to rest in the grave. 


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