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Reel life, unretouched

An exhibition of Art Streiber's photographs captures the human experience behind the Oscar glitz.

January 01, 2006|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

FOR Los Angeles-based photographer Art Streiber, the Academy Awards ceremony is one of the last places in Hollywood where a shutterbug can capture "honest moments" with celebrities.

"It hearkens back to the work of Phil Stern or William Claxton, who had a lot of access to celebrities because they didn't have the big [publicity] machine we do now," he says.

For the last five years, Streiber has been given an "all access" pass to the Oscars, allowing him to shoot everything but the greenroom backstage at the Kodak Theatre. His photographs from the red carpet, rehearsals, backstage, the wings of the stage and the press rooms have appeared in Premiere and In Style magazines.

From Jan. 13 through April 16, 120 of Streiber's color photographs will be displayed at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Grand Lobby Gallery.

"All Access at the Academy Awards: Photographs by Art Streiber" features backstage moments with hosts such as Steve Martin, Chris Rock and Billy Crystal, and shots of music rehearsals, celebrities at the rehearsals and winners backstage.

"What really strikes me about having done this for so long is the actors and actresses are just as in awe of the star power as the average person," says Streiber. "Even when they come out for rehearsal and they look into the theater and see the placards which substitute for wherever one is going to sit, they are in awe."

And winners, he says, "come backstage and they take a moment." One poignant photograph in the exhibition features best actress winner Charlize Theron, head in hand, in disbelief.

Streiber's stint begins the Thursday before the Oscars, which this year will be on March 5, after the pre-event juggernaut that begins with Jan. 31's nominations. "Thursday and Friday are pretty mellow," he says. "There are some run-throughs with stand-ins and a couple of musical rehearsals and a lot of construction." But the action picks up dramatically during Saturday rehearsals, when presenters arrive at the Kodak every 15 minutes starting at 9 a.m. "They show up, they meet the producer, they are walked onstage and shown where they enter and where the teleprompter is. They read the lines.... Once they do that, they are ushered into the sound trailer, where they record the names of the nominees."

During that 15-minute window, Streiber is supposed to get "amazing pictures" of the celebrities -- after first navigating the task of getting permission from their publicists. "It is a rehearsal, so they might have just rolled out of bed, or he or she might be in a bad mood and not want their picture taken."

On Oscar Sunday, though, he has free rein to shoot everybody. But he points out that he can't be everywhere at once. "We are constantly running out to the red carpet to see if there is any great stuff out there and then running back inside," he says.

During the show, when tensions run high, "we do our level best to make great pictures and stay out of the way," says Streiber. But a few years back, the train of Gwyneth Paltrow's dress gave him problems.

"My assistant stepped on the train right before she walked onstage," Streiber recalls. "Paltrow was wonderful. She turned around and apologized to us, saying, 'People have been stepping on that thing all night.' Luckily, her dress didn't tear in half."

*

'All Access at the Academy Awards: Photographs by Art Streiber'

Where: Grand Lobby Gallery, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills

When: Opens Jan. 13. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Ends: April 16

Price: Free

Contact: (310) 247-3600 or www.oscars.org

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