Magnum photographer Harry Gruyaret has been travelling the world taking colour photographs for over 40 years, often using a 35mm camera and Kodachrome film. For much of his early career serious photographers were still expected to work in black and white. Nevertheless the Belgian born Gruyaert and a handful of pioneers including William Eggleston persisted in exploring how colour film could best be used to reflect a coloured world.
Starting in LA before driving inland to Vegas, Gruyaert photographed these two all-American cities, so symbolic of consumerist leisure, the year that President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated. All the landmark sites you might expect are documented with journalistic diligence – from casinos and malls to love chapels and outdoor pools. Yet Gruyaert’s portrayal of the entertainment capital of the world is so very far from any archetypal picture of carefree bling.
Many of the photographs were taken during the cold light of day when neither resort or reveller could hide behind the concealing glare of glowing neon. Brightly coloured metallic building facades look lurid and excessive, while hulking non-illuminated signs are revealed as awkward and unnecessary. In the LA images too, stereotypes are subverted. Young crowds relax on the beach, but the skies are dark and ominous, the foreground dominated by a mess of branded litter.