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Simply Elegant

October 09, 1994|DEBRA GENDEL

"The bigger the personality, the simpler the photo."

Photographer Albert Watson practices his aesthetic philosophy on big stars--and small, odd objects. In "Cyclops" (Bullfinch Press), a new collection of more than 200 images, an aged abandoned package is metamorphosed into a precious artifact, while on the facing page, a tuxedoed Alfred Hitchcock grasps the ribbon-bedecked neck of a dead goose.

"He was the first famous person I ever photographed," says the Scottish-born Watson of the shot--from a Christmas issue of Harper's Bazaar. Hitchcock was charming and funny, Watson recalls, even suggesting ideas for the photo, which would accompany the director's recipe for holiday goose. "I thought if all famous people are this fun, great."

Over the next 20 years, Watson (whose blindness in one eye prompted the title) had a chance to find out, racking up a client list that includes Mick Jagger, Jack Nicholson and Britain's Royal Family. Yet some of Watson's least recognizable photos are the most compelling. Like the portraits of Louisiana Death Row convicts serving time in a maximum-security prison or a goofy shot of a dog--creepily out of focus, standing on a beach like a frozen alien.

"It's a snapshot," Watson says with a laugh. And about as close as he gets to home snaps. "My family complains I take too long."

A one-man show of photographs by Albert Watson runs through Oct. 15 at Fahey/Klein Gallery, 148 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles.

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