A Love Letter to Los Angeles from Photographer Brad Elterman and Gucci
“I’m gonna tell you about love. Let’s forget your life. Forget your problems,” purrs Madonna in the opening lines of her song “Future Lovers.” She ends with a daring invite: “Would you like to try?” That same love-tastic energy is the fueling force behind Gucci’s new Valentine’s Day-themed zine Love, Love & Love in collaboration with the legendary Los Angeles-based photographer Brad Elterman. The photographer has been a staple in the rock n’ roll scene since he was a teenager, documenting seminal bands from the era like The Runaways, Queen, and Blondie, and spending time with the likes of Joan Jett and David Bowie. Gucci’s Creative Director Alessandro Michele has been a long-time fan of the zine format, a DIY-ish more punk version of what we know as magazines, which is why he commissioned Elterman to explore love in Los Angeles using Gucci’s Saint Valentine’s collection. The zine, much like his work from the ’70s and ’80s, serves a love letter to the City of Angels—and hopeful romantics. “As far as L.A. It will always be here,” Elterman told Interview, “the light, my garden, and the dreams.” Limited copies of the zine will be available at Gucci Wooster in New York City starting February 11. Below, the photographer answers a few questions about love, love, and love.
INTERVIEW: Tell us about the zine. What attracted you to collaborate with them on the topic of love?
BRAD ELTERMAN: Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very positive person. I adore the entire package of life and love. Gucci and I share the same whimsical style, so it was a perfect fit.
INTERVIEW: How did you pick the locations for the photos in the zine? Do they have any particular sentimental value to you?
ELTERMAN: All of the locations were sentimental to me. I always agonize over where I am going to make photos. The Whisky A Go-Go was the most sentimental to me. I practically grew up there shooting all of these cool bands and hanging out with eccentric friends during the 1970s. It was a bit emotional going back there four decades later. I ran into the owner’s granddaughter there on the shoot and we had some wonderful moments reminiscing. The Roosevelt Hotel was also emotional for me because my mom was a waitress at the Cinegrill there after she graduated from UCLA and before she met my dad.
INTERVIEW: You’ve been around L.A. and Hollywood for your entire career. What have you learned about love?
ELTERMAN: Los Angeles is like a different world. You sort of have to watch your step and your heart, but at the end of the day, I believe in taking a chance and even getting hurt once in a while.
INTERVIEW: Do you believe in the power of love?
ELTERMAN: Yes, of course. The feeling is very strong and I have wonderful memories of being in love.
INTERVIEW: Why is that important to you?
ELTERMAN: It is part of the grand picture of life. Loving your soulmate, family, friends, and yourself.
INTERVIEW: What did you want to convey about love and L.A. with your zine with Gucci?
ELTERMAN: I wanted to show a feeling of togetherness in the fanzine. I wanted it to feel real. My favorite story was the shoot at Pink’s where I was working with a real couple so the feeling of love was very strong. The guy is Italian, I think from Roma, so that made it even more glorious.
INTERVIEW: What is your favorite love song from the ’80s?
ELTERMAN: “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs.
INTERVIEW: What is your favorite love song right now?
ELTERMAN: Miley Cyrus’s “Plastic Hearts.”
INTERVIEW: What made you fall in love with Los Angeles?
ELTERMAN: The light and the society. Everyone from all over the world passes through this town. A year or so ago I ran into Paolo Sorrentino twice in one week here in L.A. Amazing!
INTERVIEW: What is the most romantic place in LA?
ELTERMAN: My garden.
INTERVIEW: What does love look like, in your opinion, in the age of social media?
ELTERMAN: Sincerity. No selfies.
INTERVIEW: You took a pause on photography for nearly three decades—why did you pause and what made you pick up the camera again?
ELTERMAN: I paused because favorite bands of mine like The Runaways broke up and I did not care for heavy metal. All of a sudden everything became controlled and I could not make the candid photos that I was accustomed to taking anymore. The PR machine had arrived.
INTERVIEW: You hung out and covered the coolest people in the late 1970s and early ’80s—Joan Jett and The Runaways, David Bowie, Queen, Blondie, ABBA, Kenny Rogers. What was that like for you?
ELTERMAN: I was really shy when I got started. That is probably why I clicked so well with Joan Jett. I had to force myself to go out and meet bands, managers, and editors. All this was happening to teenage me and on an international level. I had never met Europeans or Japanese before and I found it all so exotic and intoxicating. Not only did I shoot all these cool European bands, but I flew to London and Europe when I was still a teen. I lugged around a bag full of color transparencies of all the hot bands hanging out in Los Angeles. The editors could not get enough of these candid photos. This was the birth of photo syndication and my education in life.