Photo: (Left) Downtown Studio / 7th & Rampart, 1978. (Right) Calabassas, 1978.
“I’m a very passionate guy. I’ve always been passionate about photography. I started in 1970 and I’m still doing it,” Moshe Brakha reveals. “Day in and day out: you have to be committed and crazy in love with it.
That love and passion appears on every page of L.A. Babe: The Real Women of Los Angeles 1975-1988 (Rizzoli New York), his phenomenal first book that showcases the sexy, stylish beauty of the era. Brakha’s crisp black and whites and luxurious color photographs transport you back to an era that was equal parts sensual and glamorous—and all the way loose.
Born in Israel, Brakha enlisted as a sailor in the Navy and arrived on the shores of Los Angeles in 1969 at the height of the countercultural movement. From Easy Rider to Midnight Cowboy, the spirit of radical freedom filled the Southern California air. Sex, drugs, and rock & roll were everywhere. At night, Brakha took his camera and hit the nightclubs and bars just as the punk scene took hold, finding himself in the company of beautiful women who became the perfect subject for his photographs.
As a commercial artist, Brakha had begun working in the music industry, shooting more than 100 album covers for artists including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alice Coltrane, Cat Stevens, Richie Havens, the Ramones, Patrice Rushen, and Neil Young, to name just a few. His ability to create perfectly composed portraits that fell somewhere between fact and fiction translated perfectly into his highly directed yet natural photographs of women.
Shooting with a Hasselblad, Brakha captured the sensuous edge of a stellar array of real women who emanated star power. Paging through L.A. Babe, you’re wondering if you might recognize someone because Brakha’s gift is to make everyone look like a professional model, actor, performer, or celebrity. Sprinkled in the mix are photographs of the legendary punk band the Runaways, candid shots of LaToya and Janet Jackson at home and in the pool, LA icon Angelyne, and Patricia Arquette—but it’s the unknown, unnamed divas and vixens who stand out.
“I wanted [the photographs] to look like album covers,” the artist reveals. “It was the same thing.” Brakha understands the power of allure, of the ability to capture your attention and leave you spellbound. His images are arresting, holding your gaze while you take it all in: the raw, glorious power of the feminine. Brakha seamlessly combines the genres of portrait, fashion, pin-up, and documentary photography to create a body of work wholly his own, one that is as charming as the man himself.
“It’s a little bit emotional,” Brakha says of having his first book published five decades into his career. A romantic at heart, Brakha embraces the moment and lets it take hold, drawing us into a world that lets us know—this is just the tip of the iceberg.
On Sunday, April 9, from 4:00-6:00 pm, Moshe Brakha launch L.A. Babe with a book signing at Arcana, 8675 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA.
All Photos: © Moshe Brakha, courtesy of Rizzoli New York.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.