David Strick: A photography career that explores the often surreal environment of movie sets (PHOTOS).

What Hollywood Movie Sets Look Like When the Camera Stops Rolling

What Hollywood Movie Sets Look Like When the Camera Stops Rolling

Behold
The Photo Blog
Dec. 16 2014 12:30 PM

What Hollywood Movie Sets Look Like When the Camera Stops Rolling

Special effects technician preps a scene, Blade, 1998.
Special effects technician preps a scene, Blade, 1998.

David Strick

David Strick’s great-aunt, Gale Sondergaard, won the very first Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, but it took a while for him to feel comfortable on Hollywood film sets.

“There were plenty of competent adults working the sets, and I would have felt like Bart Simpson trying to work alongside King Kong,” Strick said about shooting on set early in his career. “What I did manage to absorb was a sense that the work the grown-ups were doing was a high-stakes, deadly serious one, and to some extent a comically inexplicable version of let’s dress up and pretend. I don’t think that sense of confused awe ever left me.”

Strick eventually became an editorial and commercial photographer with clients ranging from the Gap to Vanity Fair, but the published version of a 1975 assignment for the New York Times about the physical decline of Hollywood disappointed him, and convinced him to start developing his own stories.

David Hasselhoff, The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, 2004.
David Hasselhoff, The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, 2004.

David Strick

Date Movie, 2005.
Date Movie, 2005.

David Strick

Makeup area Love Hollywood Style, 2003.
Makeup area Love Hollywood Style, 2003.

David Strick

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As his career progressed, Strick began gaining access to movie and television sets, eventually producing regular behind-the-scenes columns about Hollywood for Premiere Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the Hollywood Reporter.

“Making photos on a set is like spending your day jaywalking back and forth across a busy street and trying not to be run over while doing your best not to be noticed,” he said. “The best way to describe the parameters is that you have all the freedom in the world not to be a nuisance. Some actors love outside attention, some love it right up until they hate it, some just hate it.”

Debbie Lee Carrington, Bitch Slap, 2008.
Debbie Lee Carrington, Bitch Slap, 2008.

David Strick

Dancers warming up, "Dance With Me" 1998.
Dancers warming up, Dance With Me, 1998.

David Strick

Horse on couch, Hot to Trot, 1988.
Horse on couch, Hot to Trot, 1988.

David Strick

Because of the amount of media Americans consume, Strick thinks of film and television as basically an alternate reality in which we sometimes live. His images of the alternate reality of those worlds appear at times to be a type of “street photography” with a focus on an enclosed environment that Strick says is rarely uncovered.

“A friend recently told me that I’d sort of inverted the typical values of street photography, which he defined as showing insanity standing out amid normalcy, whereas in my pictures the background is insane and normalcy breaks out. Hollywood is a mythology machine, so mythology of some sort is pretty much baked into it from the outset no matter how deep you look, like the old quote that underneath the fake tinsel of Hollywood lies the real tinsel. But if we know something has many layers but take it at little more than face value, we’re settling for less than we know is there.”

Strick’s work is on view through the end of the year at the Los Angeles International Airport, as part of the show “Welcome to L.A./Please Come Again” organized by Milo + McLean. 

Tomcats wedding erection scene, 2001.
Tomcats wedding erection scene, 2001.

David Strick

Deep Impact elephant wrangler, 1998.
Deep Impact elephant wrangler, 1998.

David Strick

Jon Favreau, Zathura, 2004
Jon Favreau, Zathura, 2004

David Strick

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.