Almost 91, and still shooting: Legendary photographer Art Shay celebrated in downtown LA

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See this picture of Hugh Hefner from 1967 in his bedroom office?  It’s packed with action–and Playboy bunnies wearing clothes. Surprises and movement abound in the photographs of the legendary photographer Art Shay, who flew in from Chicago last weekend for the opening of this retrospective of his work at the beautiful new home of drkrm Gallery.

Art Shay under the mic at drkrm gallery by Andy Romanoff
Photo of Art Shay and Lisa Napoli at drkrm gallery by Andy Romanoff

What Shay has aimed his camera at over the last 70-odd years adds up to a waltz through 20th century history: from Marlon Brando, Judy Garland and Dolly Parton to (a naked) Simon de Beauvoir, Nikita Kruschev, Ray Kroc, and JFK.  There are 60 photographs in the lovely new gallery space on Chung King Road, and you’ll want to stop and gaze at each of them for a good long while.

At nearly 91, Shay is a living legend, as well as a living reminder of a time when someone with a camera could make a good living as an editorial and commercial photographer.


(By the way, drkrm actually has a real darkroom in the basement. When was the last time you saw one of those?)

There's a real, live darkroom in the basement of drkrm gallery.
The real, live darkroom in the basement of drkrm gallery.

Sleeping “with” an exhausted Elizabeth Taylor on a plane, his beloved late wife’s friendship with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, and his work as a playwright—I talked with Mr. Shay for a good long while. A tiny excerpt of our conversation can be heard below.