Both sides of the lens

Times Staff Writer

Think of Brendan Fraser and you probably think of the affable ape boy in “George of the Jungle.” Or the guy who accidentally awakened an ancient, dead Egyptian in “The Mummy.” Or the man whose romantic plans are repeatedly foiled in “Bedazzled.”

When you think of Brendan Fraser, you think actor, not photographer, but this weekend the tall, dark and humorous celeb will kick off a monthlong exhibit of his photography in a one-man show at Gallery 24 downtown. “Behind the Scenes” features pictures he took while on location in a variety of far-flung locales, here and abroad.

According to Fraser, his love of photography began “somewhere between instant gratification and always finding myself in interesting places,” he said.


The instant gratification refers to the old Polaroid he picked up at a Studio City camera shop about five years ago -- “the accordion variety that some people still have in their closets.” The interesting places refers to the exotic locales he’s visited while working -- North Africa for “The Mummy,” Vietnam for “The Quiet American” and London for a live theater performance in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

“I like the feel of a camera in the hand,” said the 34-year-old Angeleno, whose exhibit will also feature pictures he shot on the set of the comedy “Monkeybone,” his soon-to-be-released “Looney Tunes” movie and backstage at “Saturday Night Live.”

“The result is that in the last five years or so I have compiled stacks of contact sheets with negatives. Many of them came straight from the lab; I’d look at them once with a loop and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to print that up one day?’ ”

That day came a few months ago when, prompted by his friend and photographic mentor Norma C. Smith, he went to an exhibit at Gallery 24. Smith, who is the gallery’s curator, had just assembled a show of photos that had been altered with bleach and oil paints. She thought Fraser would find them interesting.

She was right. Fraser did find the pictures compelling. But he was also intrigued with the space in which they were displayed -- the entryway to the 24th Street Theater, a small, community-based theater that, in addition to staging plays, offers teacher training, theater classes and free after-school workshops for kids.

“I know what it’s like for artists and theater owners to try and meet their overhead and to stay open for the best of reasons and produce work that’s interesting and get people in the door,” said Fraser, who got his start in theater at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts.


Fraser asked Smith if he could have his own show, with all proceeds benefiting the theater. Smith agreed. “He’s got a wonderful insight and sensitivity as well as an amazing compositional aptitude,” said Smith, a UCLA Extension photo instructor who knows Fraser because she set up a dark room in Fraser’s home. “He’s an amazing photographer.”

Most of the photos in the show are black and white -- landscape shots and portraits. While some of the pictures include the actors with whom Fraser was working -- like one shot of Michael Caine climbing out of a bunker in Vietnam, or Jimmy Fallon strumming his guitar backstage at “Saturday Night Live” -- most do not.

Fraser’s favorite image, he said, is from “Monkeybone,” the movie in which he played a comic-strip artist who comes out of a coma as his cartoon alter ego -- a trouble-making monkey. The photo is a giant inflatable baboon hanging from a crane.

All of the pictures are signed by Fraser. They were printed by Smith on 11-by-14-inch paper, some in sepia tones, others with hand tints or various washes. All are one of a kind. They range in price from $500 to $700. Twenty-five photos will be on display and for sale at the gallery.

Though Fraser got his photographic start with the point, shoot and print simplicity of the Polaroid, he has moved on.

“That was kind of my entree into it,” said Fraser, who’s partial to a Leica these days. “Now I’ll shoot with anything I can get my hands on.”



‘Behind the Scenes’

Where: Gallery 24, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A.

When: Opens Friday, 6:30-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, noon-5 p.m.; Fridays, noon-5 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m.; Saturdays, 6:30-8 p.m.; Sundays, 1:30-3 p.m. Ends Nov. 8.

Info: (213) 745-6516