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Michael Grecco and Elizabeth Waterman at Leica Gallery

Michael Grecco and Elizabeth Waterman, Los Angeles, 2023. Photo by Heather Koepp/Rival Magazine,

Los Angeles-based fine art photographers – and spouses – Michael Grecco and Elizabeth Waterman will have side-by-side solo shows at the Leica Gallery Los Angeles in West Hollywood. Grecco’s multimedia exhibition “DAYS OF PUNK” celebrates punk music and culture with photographs he shot of the punk music scenes in Boston and New York City from 1978-1991. Waterman’s “MONEYGAME” features photographs from her five-year foray photographing strippers in five cities across the U.S. from 2016-2020. It will also be the inaugural viewing of several images Waterman shot in Bangkok earlier this year. Curated by Leica Gallery Los Angeles Director Paris Chong, the shows – each spotlighting its own specific subculture – are making their Los Angeles debuts, and open with an artists’ reception on Thursday, September 14, 6-8PM. They run through November 5.

Born in the Bronx and now based in Los Angeles, Grecco started his professional photography career in Boston in the late ‘70s after graduating from Boston University’s College of Communication. He was working as a photojournalist for the Associated Press and staff photographer for the Boston Herald by day. At night, he covered the music scene for publications including Boston Rock magazine, and regularly for WBCN-FM – it was when punk music was exploding in popularity in the U.S., and Boston was an important hub for the punk scene. A self-described “club kid,” Grecco had a rare opportunity to embed himself into the scene as both an official chronicler and genuine participant, and captured for posterity a riotously outspoken time in pop culture history, with all its raw energy and outrageous antics.

The exhibition “DAYS OF PUNK” premiered at the international photography fair Photo London in late 2021 and has been touring galleries and museums in the U.S. and internationally ever since (in partnership with the Lisbon, Portugal based company Terra Esplendida). In addition to the photographs, there will be related soundscapes, produced in collaboration with members of the cult band Mission of Burma.

The negatives from Grecco’s years of punk shoots had sat dormant in file cabinets for decades until his archivist suggested revisiting this previously unseen body of work five years ago. Their efforts lead to Michael’s most recent book, the best-selling Punk, Post Punk, New Wave: Onstage, Backstage, In Your Face, 1978–1991 (Abrams Books, 2020), which introduced these images to the public for the first time. The book also includes Grecco’s personal anecdotes from those years.

The photographs featured in the exhibition – of artists including The Clash, Billy Idol, The Cramps, Wendy O. Williams (Plasmatics), The B-52s, Devo and more – date back to the late ‘70s through the early ‘90s, shot primarily in the Boston area, with some images captured in New York City. Included are performance shots, backstage moments, portraits, and more. They are available in various sizes as limited-edition signed prints that are exclusively printed on Ilford Gold Fibre Gloss paper. Ilford Imaging is the official paper sponsor for DAYS OF PUNK.

Waterman’s portfolio MONEYGAME chronicles the world of strippers and exotic dancers, and was first presented to the public via the now sold-out 2021 book MONEYGAME (XYZ Publishing, Lisbon, Portugal). Remembering back to the very beginning when she was living and working in Brooklyn, Waterman says, “It took months to get access to my first clubs, and find my footing. No one quite understood what I was doing there. But I came in week after week. I helped to collect the dollar bills littering the stage. The dancers began to warm to me. I showed them my work, and they liked how I saw them. Soon they were volunteering to pose on the pole.

From 2016 through 2020, she continued visiting nightclubs in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Las Vegas, and New Orleans, forging a rapport with the strippers, a bond necessary to create the intimacy and trust in the images she captured. Waterman’s work offers a unique glimpse – through a female gaze – into the charged and atmospheric world of stripping, including evocative mise en scene shots, images of the girls performing onstage, resting backstage, taking meal breaks, and applying make-up. Waterman celebrates her subjects’ humanity and commitment to mastering their art in service of larger life goals. Often, these women are using income from stripping and dancing to pay off student loans, raise a family, buy a home, or launch a business.

MONEYGAME exhibitions were presented in London, U.K. (2022), and Boston, MA (2023). Waterman continues to build the MONEYGAME portfolio in locations around the world, including Bangkok, Thailand, and reaching out to trans and plus-size stripper communities. For the images shot in Thailand, Waterman used the unique Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens – its extremely shallow depth of field at open aperture produces images with extraordinary aesthetic effect.

Inspiration for the ongoing project are Mary Ellen Mark’s Falkland Road, and the work of Ellen Von Unwerth and Nan Goldin. She is in the process of developing a companion documentary series for television. MONEYGAME prints are available in various sizes as limited-edition signed prints on Canson Infinity Platine Fiber Rag paper. Canson Infinity is the official paper sponsor for MONEYGAME, and the official printing sponsor is Photo Impact Lab, Los Angeles.

“We are living in changing times, and stripping has changed along with it,” Waterman says. “They are organizing picket lines for workplace safety and unionization. Some groups, including trans strippers, are building supportive communities. They are vying for higher visibility and mainstream acceptance. What does the life of modern stripper look like? That is what I am exploring with MONEYGAME.

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