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LA Babe, Moshe Brakha
Mulholland Drive, 1980Photography Moshe Brakha, courtesy of Rizzoli

The women who gave 80s LA its rebellious charm

Photographer Moshe Brakha publishes an ode to the multifaceted women of a city at its most wild and elegant

It was 1969 when Moshe Brakha and his camera first set foot in LA. For the next three decades, the Israeli-born photographer dedicated himself to capturing the city’s brash, hedonistic charm in all of its various forms. From movie stars to bartenders, musicians to groupies, Moshe gave himself to the entire spectrum of inhabitants.

LA Babe: The Real Women of Los Angeles 1975-1988 – published by Rizzoli – sees a collection of the photographer’s previously unpublished works compiled together for the first time. The book is a riotous, multifaceted ode to the nebulous charisma of a city at its most wild and elegant, set against the punk scene of the era and the iconic women that helped prop it up. It places figures such as Patricia Arquette and Lita Ford alongside the rebellious girl on the street, treating them all with equal fascination and verve.

Ahead of the book’s release, we spoke with Moshe about access, nostalgia and why punk never really went away.

What are you exploring in LA Babe?

Moshe Brakha: The book is basically the era – the 70s, the 80s. It’s sex, drugs and rock and roll. That’s basically what it was. You see, I’m talking to English people now, so I’m being more rude! But it’s all sex, drugs, music – I was very young then, so it goes with the territory. I was young, everything around me was young. Everything around me was loose. It’s the California dream, you know? The music drives you. I lived a life, then – those pictures, they’re all driven by music. I was having a good time. 

Why is it that you decided to compile images specifically of the women of that era?

Moshe Brakha: The editor of the book came to see my work and she looked at it and said: ‘Let’s make a book!’ The title of the book actually sort of came up in the mid-70s. I used to do t-shirts and one of the ones that I produced was LA Babe. She came up with the idea of doing the book on the women. So I gave her pictures of women.

The book is actually very clean. I wanted more sex appeal, but they didn’t want it – I wanted to run more true to the era, but I’m not the publisher. They’re about business. I think it would be great, but they know what they know, and I know what I know. That’s why I shot what I shot. Passion will let you go more freely.

Young people seem to particularly yearn for the period you were shooting in. Is it a case of trying to capture what they weren’t around to see?

Moshe Brakha: The young are always going to look and say ‘wow, wow, wow’, because it’s nostalgia. It’s always like that, even for us – when we look at pictures from the 40s and 50s it’s always ‘wow’. You want to live that. I think more than anything, though, that when it comes attached to music, there’s always an interest at looking at pictures like that. If you’re into the music scene, you’ll look.

“There’s always gonna be people with rebellion. Life doesn’t stop in the 70s, or the 80s” – Moshe Brakha

There’s a punkish, rebellious feel that resonates throughout the book. With the current political climate in the US, are we going to see more exposure for anti-establishment sentiment, particularly in music?

Moshe Brakha: It’s always gonna be there. There’s always gonna be music with attitude, there’s always gonna be people with rebellion. Life doesn’t stop in the 70s, or the 80s – there’s always gonna be this life. Amazing music is on its own today. It’s still there, still amazing – it’s more than amazing.

Do you have any favourite memories from shooting icons such as Patricia Arquette and Lita Ford?

Moshe Brakha: For me, those kind of shots don’t really come with big stories. It’s my tool, taking pictures. It’s a record of them. With The Runaways, it was early music – the rock. I already knew them through playing at the clubs. I met them there after the concert and I asked if I could take some photos for them. The whole scene of the band was amazing. They really hyped the band. I could meet the band that night and next day I’d shoot them.

How much easier was it to access musicians and Hollywood figures in those days?

Moshe Brakha: Today is today, yesterday was yesterday. I was looser then also, but as time goes by, you become more accomplished. It doesn’t really make a difference, though, the accessibility. You’re just dealing with more expensive people now. They already have the makeup, the hair – all that bullshit. Back then, it wasn’t like that. But I just shoot.

If you could pick any woman in the world right now to shoot, who would it be?

Moshe Brakha: It doesn’t matter really, I’m not into just one. Everything is great, shooting is great. I love to shoot normal people as well because there are less problems and it’s more accessible. I shoot a lot – I’m addicted. It’s an addiction and there’s nothing else in my life. I’ll still shoot a few times a week, at least.

LA Babe: The Real Women of Los Angeles 1975-1988 by Moshe Brakha will be published by Rizzoli and made available from 11 April 2017