Catherine Opie confessed she was never a fan of the posters at LAX showing the mayor welcoming air travelers to Los Angeles.
“I always thought they could have been done better,” the photographer said. Starting Thursday, there will be a new series of airport posters that Opie created featuring Mayor Eric Garcetti shot against famous L.A. backdrops.
The new photographs will show Garcetti kayaking on the L.A. River and posing alongside such cultural landmarks as the Watts Towers and Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” sculpture at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Another will show the mayor at the Hollywood Farmers Market.
Speaking in a car on her way to teach a class at UCLA, Opie said Wednesday she conceived the series after helping to organize a fundraiser for Garcetti’s mayoral campaign. “I wanted to do something that had a community component. I pitched it to the mayor and his team and they liked it,” she said.
The posters at LAX are created by the L.A. Tourism & Convention Board, though Garcetti’s office had led the effort, according to a spokeswoman for the mayor. Ideas for backdrops were solicited online and the most popular request was the L.A. River.
Opie recalled she stood in the middle of the river, wearing an old pair of tennis shoes, and instructed the mayor to paddle back and forth as he sat in a kayak. In choosing Watts Towers, she said she “wanted to to celebrate what a great city this is for art. I don’t think enough people go out to Watts Towers.”
The photographer is already working with Garcetti on more images in the LAX series. She recently photographed the mayor at the California Science Center, with the space shuttle Endeavor in the background. There is also a plan to photograph Garcetti at the Nov. 30 football game between UCLA and USC.
Garcetti said in a statement that he “wanted to showcase everything L.A. has to offer, and Cathy is the perfect person to capture that. Her love of our city comes through her photographs and I’m excited to have her images welcome visitors to L.A. and Angelenos back home.”
Opie has exhibited her photographs at museums around the world. In 2010, she exhibited her images of high school football teams at a solo show at LACMA.