Dotan Saguy: Venice Beach, The Last Days of a Bohemian Paradise
Los Angeles photographer, Dotan Saguy, has spent hundreds of hours in a part of Los Angeles that was built to echo its Italian namesake, complete with canals and arched walkways, drawing a unique pageantry all its own. Definitely one of the last bastions of free love and unadulterated freedom of expression, Venice Beach draws an amazing cross section of humanity to it’s sand, surf, and blue skies. But with all neighborhoods on the fringe, there is a fragility and dark cloud looming over the area as potheads make way for tech geeks and long time businesses are pushed out in the name of progress, diluting and homogenizing the distinct character of Venice Beach.
Dotan is about to publish a book with Kehrer Verlag and he has created a Kickstarter to raise funds to make the book a reality. Please consider supporting his efforts.
Dotan Saguy was born in a small kibbutz five miles south of Israel’s Lebanese border. He grew-up in a diverse working class Parisian suburb, lived in Lower Manhattan during 9/11 and moved to Los Angeles in 2003.In 2015 Dotan decided to focus on his lifelong passion for photography after a successful career as a high-tech entrepreneur. Since then he attended the Eddie Adams Workshop, the Missouri Photo Workshop, studied photojournalism at Santa Monica College.
Dotan’s award winning photographs have been published by National Geographic, PDN, Leica Fotografie International, ABC News, etc. Most recently, Dotan is a proud laureate of the Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50 and his first monograph about the endangered culture of Venice Beach, CA will be published in 2018 by Kehrer Verlag.
Dotan is currently working on several ground-breaking long term projects including a photo documentary about the journey of people coming out of homelessness. Dotan lives in West Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
Venice Beach, The Last Days of a Bohemian Paradise
I started my Venice Beach series as a street photography project shortly after deciding to pursue photography as a career. At the time I had already been shooting for over 20 years as a hobbyist and was finally ready to dedicate most of my time to photography. At first I shot street scenes all over Los Angeles and soon realized that I was irresistibly drawn to Venice. Ever since I moved from New York in 2003 I had never connected with Hollywood’s celebrity worship syndrome, the loud Ferraris on Rodeo Drive, the rampant materialism, the hyper-consumerism. Finding Venice was like a breath of fresh air. The Venice boardwalk felt free-spirited, anti-materialistic, inclusive: a value system I could connect with much better. On top of that it was photogenic. It was iconic. It was world famous.
The classic street photography approach of shooting without ever engaging with subjects quickly felt too constraining and led to images that were too much “on the surface” to my taste. It was like trying to hug someone from across the street and I wanted to show Venice from the inside. That’s when I realized that only a photojournalistic documentary approach would allow me to achieve that. So at 45 years old I went back to school to take a photojournalism class at Santa Monica College and then was admitted into the two top photojournalism workshops: the Eddie Adams Workshop and the Missouri Photo Workshop. This triple crash course in photojournalism made a world of difference in my work: I started seeing myself as a storyteller and my images started giving viewers a front seat to life on the Venice boardwalk.
I hung out with my subjects for hours at a time. I truly got to know them, understand their passions, their struggles, and gained their trust. Not only did this lead to much more insightful images but I enjoyed the process a lot more: I was crossing into other worlds I would have never have set foot in before. I’m thinking of magical moments like being the proverbial fly on the wall in a van full of hippies doing what they do. This new documentary paradigm allowed me to see Venice Beach as a place struggling with its identity under attack by gentrification and corporate interests. I felt a sense of responsibility and urgency to document crazy free-spirited Venice moments while they were still happening while also warning viewers of the looming threats casting a shadow over this dying culture. I sincerely hope that the upcoming publication of this body of work as a book in 2018 by German publisher Kehrer Verlag will help bring awareness to the issues at stake before it’s too late. – Dotan Saguy
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