A first appraisal of the photographs illustrated in this handsome volume would lead one to believe that Larry Dale Gordon has led a rather charmed life. Images of sensuous women, exotic islands, breathtaking architectural monuments, expensive cars and views taken in many of the great cities and spas of the world populate the pages.
Gordon would be the first to agree that he has been very lucky indeed. Chance meetings and fortunate moments came his way, seemingly from the earliest days, when he ran into an old high school friend who was studying photography at Art Center School in Los Angeles. Gordon joined him and embarked on what has become a life-long career following his two passions Ė a love of travel and photography. He studied for a few years, but wanderlust and an opportunity to go to Europe ended his classroom study. Once in Europe, Larry Dale Gordon and a friend stayed for nearly three years pursuing a photographic odyssey that seems the stuff of dreams, particularly when one is young, handsome, footloose and adventurous, not to mention able to live without a lot of creature comforts. Supporting themselves with occasional advertising accounts, provided by a friend at home, the pair traveled to all the major cities in Europe and on to Cairo, before returning to Rome to photograph the Olympic games. With a promising young photographer friend named Ron Traeger, the two began to build their reputations and their repertoire.
Over the past decades, as Larry Dale Gordon has pursued an extremely successful commercial career, he not only has traveled extensively, he has lived in both garden spots of the world as well as vibrant cities: from Fiji, Big Sur, and Montecito to London, Rome, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Gordonís zest for experimentation and exploration, along with a commitment to his craft, has been a mainstay of his life.
Gordonís primary photographic work has centered on publications. In returning from Europe, he landed a staff job at Playboy magazine, then in its meteoric rise. He photographed everything from fashion to still life, travel, products, illustration, and of course, beautiful women, all the while feeding his unlimited travel appetite. Those three years provided the rest of his education, and from that time, choice assignments from magazines such as Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, and Holiday came his way extending occasionally to commissions that allowed him to create photographs for entire issues. The difficult, highly competitive world of advertising came next. With accounts like Marlboro, Coca Cola, BMW and Chevrolet, he enjoyed many successful years, maintaining studios in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as having agency representation in London and Paris.
But throughout his successful and seemingly charmed career, Larry Dale Gordon has also initiated his own projects. The nude as subject fascinated him from the moment he began photography, for he genuinely likes and appreciates women. He spent several months in Morocco and other parts of Africa, making a documentary film that he hoped to sell to National Geographic. Ultimately the film never aired, but living on the edge of the Sahara for months was an experience he never forgot.
Most recently Gordon traveled throughout Chile for nearly six months, experimenting with black and white images, having made color images for most of his life. But perhaps the most telling aspect of the photographerís career is that he systematically made stock images on his own time, as he traveled over the years, organizing and captioning his transparencies for that occasional, unexpected sale. When he joined The Image Bank, now subsumed by Getty Images, he made several thousand pictures available and has continued to provide images to this day. Larry Dale Gordon has been lucky, but he also has been present and been prepared. Simply put, Gordonís motto is: “Be there. If you donít go, you get nothing. Sleep in and you get absolutely nothing. Make the effort and you will be rewarded in more ways than the photograph.”
These images, chosen largely by the photographer for this retrospective represent the fine art photographs that always have been part of Gordonís photographic quest. The images range over his career, beginning with early black and white photographs in Rome, to the latest made in Chile, and they embrace every genre Ė landscape, architecture, portraiture, nudes, and still life, with an occasional yet iconic advertising image, such as the Marlboro man, or an irresistible celebrity portrait. This body of work clearly demonstrates Larry Dale Gordonís versatility and skill, honed over decades and continents. Equally important, though perhaps not as apparent, is the remarkable discipline, organization, preparation and passion that have been a hallmark of his many photographic pursuits from those earliest beginnings.
Curator of Photography
Santa Barbara Museum of Art