Artistry comes in different forms. Guy Webster’s father, lyricist Paul Francis Webster, had a way with words and an ear for music that earned him three Academy Awards.
Guy’s discerning viewfinder scanned the worlds of music, film and politics to reflect the energy and spirit of his subjects that made him a legend in his field during a 40-year career.
Guy’s calling in life started as a fluke. During the 1960s, he was in the Army as a conscientious objector.
“I was not going to go to Vietnam to kill anybody,” he says.
After the first half of his six month stint of decorating Christmas trees was finished, he thought he might do cartooning or writing for the paper for the remaining time.
“My views were leftist so they didn’t encourage that,” he says. It was then suggested that he could teach a class in photography on how to take pictures and develop prints, starting the next day.
When asked if he knew anything about what he was to teach, he replied, “Sure, I know everything.” Only having had experience painting and sculpting, he learned, in one night, how to set up the chemicals to develop film. “I pulled it off,” he says.
On Guy’s return home, he planned to attend drama school at Yale, but he had discovered photography. “I felt compelled to do it,” he says. During his education at the Art Center School of Design, he made money shooting pictures of animals and children.
While growing up in Beverly Hills, Guy met record producer Lou Adler, who was just getting started in the music business while he was an art student. “We were the same age and he asked if I would be the art director and photographer for his new company,” he says.
Adler’s first record, by the Mamas and the Papas, was number one in the country. From there, and including his time at A & M Records, Guy was one of the innovators of rock ’n roll photography and his portfolio exploded to include album covers and billboards of the Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Doors, Simon & Garfunkel, Chicago, Carole King, Bob Dylan and many more over the years.
Guy’s lens have focused on not just music celebrities, but an array of luminaries and Hollywood stars, such as Igor Stravinski, Truman Capote, Barbra Streisand, Jack Nicholson, Candice Bergen, Michele Pfeiffer, Bill Clinton and more.
Guy can’t remember exactly who was the first celebrity that he photographed. “I shot a lot because I knew everybody,” he says. He was friends with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
He admits that it’s hard to pick a favorite because he has photographed thousands of people. One of his favorite friends was actor James Coburn, and he liked taking photos of him. “A lot of young people today don’t know who he is,” says Guy. “He was iconoclastic — handsome, rugged, a real man’s man.” Another is Jack Nicholson. “I admired Jack, still do,” he says.
Being the photographer that Guy was, and continues to be part time, he got to meet everyone he ever wanted to photograph. However, there were two shoots that got away from him because he wasn’t able to take time off from his regular job, first from A & M Records for a Beatles album cover and second from the Los Angeles Times for an ocean trip with Jacques Cousteau.
Fame and fortune came quickly to Guy. He retired at 30 to live in Spain, where he had spiritual experiences that made him a changed person. “I realized that I had been working for money,” he says. “It’s also important to like the people you work with. You respect them and they respect you.”
Seven years later, with new values, Guy came back to work. In 1976, he moved his studio from Hollywood to Venice. Along with Leonard Koren, a UCLA Architecture School graduate and co-founder of the Los Angels Fine Arts Squad, Guy created WET magazine, one of the premier avant garde publications at that time.
The concept revolved around “gourmet bathing” with articles about water bottling plants, waterbeds, lifeguards, people taking showers and communal baths. It was known for its innovative use of graphic art, and contributors included many promising talents such as Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons.”
Guy has had homes throughout the world. He likes Venice better than any other place he has been. You’ll agree with his reasons — people, weather and access to the beach.
“It was fun to see Venice change yet keep its character,” he says. He remembers the muggers and drug dealers of days gone by. “Now Venice is yuppified with women pushing the baby strollers,” he says.
He spends half the time in his Venice studio where he still shoots, and half the time in Ojai where he has a motorcycle museum, the Moto Museo d’Italia. To view his phenomenal photography of celebrities and motorcycles, www.guywebster.com/.
Proceeds from the Venice Art Walk (which includes Webster’s studio) benefit the Venice Family Clinic, the largest free clinic in the country, which provides free quality healthcare to more than 23,500 people in need annually, serving as a safety net for the healthcare system on the Westside of Los Angeles.
More than ever, it is necessary to treat additional patients and the clinic is always looking for ways to expand services, reach more people in need and stretch resources even further. The proceeds from the Art Walk, now in its 30th year are one way of attaining these goals.
You can support the clinic by participating in the tour of more than 50 artists’ studios and bid on more than 400 original works of art, including paintings, sculpture, graphics, photography, cartoons and furniture provided by Los Angeles area and Venice Art Walk artists. Celebrations of art, architecture, music and fine cuisine are planned throughout the weekend of May 16th and 17th.
Information, www.veniceartwalk.info/, or (310) 392-9255.