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Portrait of the Artist : And the Artist's Portraits

January 17, 1991|CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chuck Hashbarger grew up in Ventura and worked for several years as a commercial photographer in Los Angeles. But it was only after he shot the bakers and cabbies of Asia and Africa, he says, that he began to recognize the full photographic possibilities of his hometown.

The results of that recognition will go on display Saturday, when Hashbarger hangs an exhibit of "Men Who Make Ventura." The exhibit, made up of 17 black-and-white photographs that are not for sale, will hang through Feb. 3 in the Harborview Room of the Harbortown Marina Resort.

"I don't know quite where I developed this attraction to the faces of cities," said Hashbarger, 31, who was a corporate photographer in Los Angeles before heading off on an around-the-world photo trip three years ago.

"I think part of it came from my travels, because I had spent so much time trying to get the real characters in these countries," he said. "So shortly after I got back, I just one day hit the idea of doing a photo project on Ventura, with a wide variety of professions and ages. . . . I had it in my head for about a year, and I finally said, 'That's it--I'm going to do it.' "

The Ventura-makers he photographed are nobody's usual suspects.

Instead of running down a list of his city's most prominent citizens, Hashbarger made a lot of phone calls, rented a vacant Main Street storefront for three days and set out to capturing uncelebrated citizens on film: A trio of fishermen. A carpenter and his son. A trash collector. Some were friends and some were strangers whose activities attracted the photographer.

Hashbarger took the photographs over a three-day stretch last September, shooting everyone in front of the same backdrop, but encouraging props. "I really wanted to isolate, No. 1, the person, and No. 2, the profession," Hashbarger said.

A doughnut-maker turned him down, as did a symphony musician. Hashbarger retaliated with improvisation. He pulled a mail carrier in off the street and recruited neighborhood character Al Moody as he strolled down Main Street in his top hat. The fishermen, laden with equipment, took about an hour to shoot.

The mail carrier, reluctant to pause on taxpayers' time, fled after no more than five minutes.

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