Los Angeles is a dynamic metropolis; an urban cityscape with a sunny disposition, located just fifteen miles from the coastline. In recent years, Downtown has undergone extensive gentrification, growth and change – both physical and mental. New buildings, businesses, towering residences that offer skyscraper views in all directions have popped up in all directions – a daring combination of old history with a fresh, modern take. There is also a flourishing community of innovative artists from various backgrounds who share their visions and creativity with the rest of us through their different mediums of expression, whether that be through the paintbrush, the written word, or the photograph, for instance.
Artist Nancy Harasz is one such example of this unique segment of the population. Her fine art photography echoes the shift in the public’s perception of Los Angeles, and her incredible photographs manage to capture this lively town from a variety of angles and perspectives, sharing snapshots of the inspiring existence that continues to prosper in Downtown and the surrounding areas.
She recently exhibited 24 images from her Los Angeles, Hollywood and Santa Monica at the prestigious Photo LA, presented by KGB Gallery located in Downtown LA’s Chinatown district. The show was curated by KGB gallery director Steve Solari, and featured a stunning series of various buildings and monuments in Los Angeles, as well as the Hollywood sign and the Los Angeles river. Nancy also curated a six-month show at Union Bank Plaza in downtown Los Angeles (a different image from her series was featured every month); USC’s new Soto Building also has several images from her collection on display, and she also delivered artwork for 600 guestrooms as part of the Hollywood Loews Hotel $25 million remodel. I had the opportunity to sit down with the artist herself and find out a bit more about her work, how she got her start, and what inspires her the most.
Where are you from? Where do you currently live?
I’m from Connecticut, I currently live in Glendale, and I’ve been in LA for 20 years.
How long have you been a photographer? What attracted you to this particular medium? Tell us about your career path, education, etc.
I credit my lifelong discipline and career as a graphic designer for providing the foundation for my photographic work today. After graduating from Pratt Institute with a BFA in graphic design and advertising, I moved to Los Angeles and embarked on a career in graphic design. Throughout my career as a graphic designer and then through my company, Harasz Design, I have had the privilege of designing for many high profile clients in a variety of sectors, from Atlantic Richfield and Toyota to The Cheesecake Factory and Activision/Blizzard.
I had not picked up a camera in 10 years, but about three years ago, I had a sudden urge to start photographing Los Angeles and I haven’t stopped since. My focus is Los Angeles, including Santa Monica, Hollywood and growing. One of the objectives of photographing Los Angeles is to highlight the shift from the old perception of Los Angeles — which many think of as only Hollywood and the beaches — to the new reality of its renaissance that inspires my work. This is a great opportunity to showcase some of the lesser-known but historically rich and visually compelling aspects of the city: the bridges that span the Los Angeles River into Downtown, the city skyline seen from unconventional artistic vantage points.
I believe it’s time to show off our city through a lens that reflects the attitudes and artistic expression of this moment in time, as mirrored in my work though contemporary stylistic approaches and perspectives of the city. Images from many of my series — such as LA Urban Sky, LA River, LA High, LA Old and New, LA Reflections to name a few — invite the viewer to experience a new way of conceptualizing Los Angeles at this rare and wonderful time in history.
Any interesting stories you’d like to share with us?
I have done many things that I wouldn’t normally do just to get a shot that I want. For instance, I’m afraid of heights, but I stood on the edge of the rooftop of the Omni Hotel downtown and I’ve hung out the door of a two-seat helicopter to photograph the LA skyline. I’ve endured icy cold ocean water in my boots and soggy pants for hours while shooting the Santa Monica Pier at dawn in the wintertime. I’ve crawled under trains and run through dark tunnels to shoot the LA River. I’ve slid down dirt hills tearing my pants on jagged rocks, crawled through thorny underbrush, and dodged police to get up close to the Hollywood Sign. It seems, as long as a shot is involved, I’m able to temporarily overcome just about any fear.
To view Nancy’s work or inquire about purchase, visit www.realize-fineart.com or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images courtesy of Nancy Harasz