Just in time for Greater Palm Springs Pride, downtown Palm Springs’ Ted Casablanca Gallery is presenting a show of never-before-displayed photographs by Michael Childers—taken in 1974 at a drag ball in a Los Angeles, and at a White Party in Palm Springs in 2002.
Childers is best known for his photographs capturing the personalities of celebrities, including Greta Garbo, Dustin Hoffman, Andy Warhol, Natalie Wood, Paul Newman, Dennis Hopper, Joan Crawford and Grace Jones, to name just a few. His work has been featured in numerous galleries and museums throughout the world. However, this upcoming show reveals a different side of Childers’ personality.
Mentioning two of his favorite photographers, Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus, Childers said he thinks this Flaming Creatures series resonates with their work. Childers described working with famous people as more like a dream, while in the Flaming Creatures photographs, “the flavor of people—they’re not acting,” Childers said.
“These photographs are edgy and different. They’re of people who are gay, straight, lesbian, uni-gender; it’s the fun, outrageous things I like about it,” Childers said.
The 1974 drag ball photos were initially taken for a four-page spread in the Italian Vogue magazine, L’Uomo Vogue. However, the pictures have never been presented in a gallery or museum until now; the same goes for the photos from the 2002 White Party. It’s unlikely that this display at Ted Casablanca will be the photos’ last, however: The Palm Springs Art Museum’s The Galen in Palm Desert plans on including some of these pictures within the next couple of years in a show titled Gay Life in America.
Childers compared the two time periods. “1974 was sweet and charming,” he said, noting the poses and expressions in the photographs. “I love the originality of costumes in both periods, but the ’70s (costumes) were more unique.”
Many of the 1974 subjects were Hollywood people, including costume designers, models, makeup artists, photographers and art directors—in other words, people with a lot of fabulous theatrical flair. “Some were very stylish, and had great makeup, and they would parade out!” Childers said
At the 2002 White Party in the park, Childers had spotters bring people over to the background he’d set up. Some smiled and laughed, even though he asked them not to; perhaps the whole scene was too much fun. Still, Childers seized many natural poses within the context of the event. Childers describes the scene as being about “street art, and how people from the street express themselves. Where there’s more individuality and uniqueness, I feel like I’m a voyeur. As all photographers are, I’m a voyeur with a long lens.”
Childers said he’s been a friend of Ted Casablanca for 20 years, and Childers is thrilled about the show.
“Ted has enthusiasm as a Palm Springs booster,” Childers said. “He has a bold and refreshing choice of artists. It’s a terrific gallery.”
Casablanca—aka Bruce Bibby—said he’s had a desire to show Childers’ work for years.
“I’ve wanted to show his Warhol pieces for a while,” he says. “I actually have one. The drag ball pieces are also a favorite of mine. It was a Halloween drag ball, and he did what he usually doesn’t do: He let people have free rein—rebel photographer meets rebel guests with their moment to shine.
“It was Michael’s idea to show it for Gay Pride with the 2002 White Party (photos). I loved the idea!”
The Flaming Creatures exhibit will open with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, at Ted Casablanca Gallery, located at 388 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. For more information, call 760-883-1625, or visit tedcasablanca.com.