Shortly after Patrick Fraser landed in Southern California for the first time 17 years ago, he headed for an iconic tourist attraction that he’d heard enthralling stories about in his native England:
The photographer, who now lives in Culver City, enjoyed his first American meal at one of the fast-food franchise’s outlets near Los Angeles International Airport. So when Kevin Staniec, the curator of the “Smile: Expressions of Orange County” photography exhibit at the Orange County Great Park Gallery, invited Fraser to capture a definitive part of local life, Fraser opted to go back to his immigrant roots.
“He asked, ‘What would you like to contribute?’, and I wanted to participate in the show,” Fraser recalled. “And so I thought I’d like to shoot something new and fresh and not have old work — say, of the Huntington Beach Pier.”
Had there been an In-N-Out at the end of the pier, that location might have appeared in the show anyway. Fraser spent a weekend photographing 12 In-N-Out locations around Orange County — under American flags, by gas stations, below hills dotted with tile-roofed houses.
“Smile: Expressions of Orange County,” which opened May 1 and will run through Aug. 14, aims to portray the many sides of county life. The exhibit features the work of more than 40 photographers and contains at least one shot from every city and unincorporated area from La Habra to San Clemente.
Staniec, who kept a checklist handy to make sure every area was represented, said he didn’t realize how diverse Orange County was until he saw the pictures all displayed together.
“We really have so many opportunities to engage and connect,” he said. “Whether it’s from the farms to a sports park or to a library to a cultural center, everything is all within 10, 15 minutes. And that was kind of the realization of seeing the photos next to each other.”
In addition to Fraser’s In-N-Out series, the show includes OC Weekly magazine covers by John Gilhooley, a photo timeline by Seth Casteel that shows how the artist honed his craft while photographing the same dog, and a wall mosaic featuring 40 pictures from the Photographic Society of Orange County.
Those 40 images, taken from the society’s book “A Slice of Orange,” first inspired the Great Park Gallery staff to organize the exhibit. For the book, which was created largely as a souvenir for society members, 65 photographers ventured to every city in Orange County on Labor Day week in 2014.
Kurt Bayless, the society’s president, got assigned to Tustin and took photos of the former Marine Corps Air Station, the Legacy Project and the historic section, among other places. In all, he said, his group took more than 400 images, of which the Great Park Gallery selected 40 for the wall.
“We’re happy about it,” Bayless said. “All in all, I think it’s a good representation of Orange County.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Smile: Expressions of Orange County”
Where: Orange County Great Park Gallery, near Sand Canyon Avenue and Marine Way, Irvine
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 14
Information: (949) 724-6247 or ocgp.org