Book Review: Star Struck by Ave Pildas
The Hollywood Walk of Fame was established in 1958 as a memorial to artists who worked in the entertainment industry. The names of famous performers are memorialized on more than 2,500 five-pointed stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks that make up the Walk of Fame.
Pildas was drawn to the area soon after arriving in Los Angeles and started photographing the characters that strolled down these blocks, including a full cast of transient characters who ran the gamut of societal strata, and long-term residents of the area. According to Pildas, Hollywood Boulevard was “on the turn: a bit derelict but full of life.” Pildas captures both the eternal mystique of Hollywood and the ephemeral charm of his unlikely models. These photographs were shelved for forty years until Pildas posted some online in 2013.
When viewing Star Struck by Ave Pildas, I am reminded anew of the metaphor of theater as applied to street photography. Regardless of the bus stop, street corner, or movie theater entrance he chooses, the scene has the atmosphere of a grand theater with a wide range of actors acting or improvising on stage. There are rare times when exceptional events occur in these public places as people interact with one another or Pildas’ camera in ways that are unexpected, enigmatic, funny, or even banal. A strange or wonderful juxtaposition may materialize and then vanish in a split-second. In the moment, such transient experiences are frequently disregarded or quickly forgotten. These brief moments are captured by Pildas in evocative, multi-layered photos that allow each spectator to appreciate Pildas’ great sense of observation.
“In Pildas’s portraits, fame is inverted: the gilded names on the stars lining the Walk of Fame (Judy Garland, Marion Davies) are barely visible, while the anonymous passersby get center stage to flaunt their fabulousness. Halloween revelers, old ladies waiting for the bus, cross-dressers, a girl holding balloons—all get a momentary brush with stardom. “ – Michael Shulman, ‘New Yorker’, January 2023
It is somewhat understated to say his images are merely serendipity, or lucky happenstance. Ave Pildas spent decades honing his skill of interacting with people and making portraits which capture the vibe of a person as well as their unique appearance. The convergence of pedestrians, street signs, advertisements and attitudes take on new meanings and life: like a dancer with a small crowd of onlookers at a street corner on the walk of fame, Hollywood ‘actors-in-waiting’ vamping for the camera, or simply a curious passerby. Each photograph captures the wit, joy, and surrealism of everyday life in a world which is hyper-aware of stardom. The resulting images are a visual language of their own. One could consider the images like looking at ‘film stills’ from a Wes Anderson-esque production. The resulting juxtapositions and visual interplay weaves a rich tapestry of story that reflects as much as it portrays.
Star Struck by Ave Pildas
Essay by David Campany
B&W Duotone Offset
10.5” x 12”
Published by Deadbeat Club Press
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Ave Pildas worked early in his career as a photo stringer for Downbeat Magazine in the Ohio Valley and Pennsylvania in the 1960’s, and has been a successful photographer and educator for the past 40 years.
In 1971 Pildas began working as the Art Director at Capitol Records in Hollywood and designed and photographed album covers for the label’s recording artists. He launched a career as a freelance photographer and designer soon after, specializing in architectural and corporate photography. His photographs have been exhibited in one man shows at the: Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Photographers Gallery, London, Janus Gallery, Los Angeles, Gallerie Diaframma, Milan, Cannon Gallery, Amsterdam, Gallerie 38, Zurich and numerous group shows. They have been featured in: The New York Times Magazine, ‘ZOOM’, ‘PHOTO’, ‘CAMERA’, ‘photographic’ and many publications both in the United States and abroad .
Photographs by Ave Pildas are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Bibliotheca National, Paris; the University of Arizona as well as numerous other public and private collections. He is a Professor Emeritus at Otis College of Design. He is digitally archiving his vintage work, and continues with new projects while mentoring young talent. www.avepildas.com
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