At the advice of several friends, retired photographer turned real estate broker Bob Deutsch did some housecleaning recently. He swept his old prints and negatives out of his closet and arranged for a collection of them to rest somewhere with more fresh air, on the walls of Dennis Dean Galleries in Wilton Manors.
Deutsch's exhibit, "Stars Through My Lens," feels like a stroll down memory lane with your most fabulous, well-connected, quirkiest friend. The show, Deutsch's first, spans his photography career from the early '60s to the early '80s -- from his amateur teen stage, when his fascination with celebrities began, to his educated and more precise photographic maturity. Deutsch, whose work has been published in Newsweek, Time, Life, and other publications, has captured a range of celebrities from Tony Danza to Liza Minnelli, but a playful admiration floats through his work as a unifying narrative. New Times caught up with Deutsch to chat about his photos and his career -- a selection of his work is posted after the jump. Need a preview? Three words: Young. Betty. White.
How did you begin photographing celebrities?
When I was like 15 years old, I started going to television shows in New York City, and I used to be an autograph collector. And then I thought, I don't really want a signature on a card; it didn't mean anything to me. So I went and bought myself a cheap little camera, and I started taking pictures. And at that time, it was really easy to get close to these people, because it wasn't crazy times like they are now. Some of [the photos in the exhibit] are from when I was a kid -- the ones from the '60s like Carol Burnett or Joan Crawford or Judy Garland.
Are you and the longtime USA Today photographer Robert Deutsch the same person? Set the record straight.
He and I worked at the same time. He was Robert Deutch, I was Bob Deutch. I never got any of his checks; hopefully, he never got any of my checks, but we're not the same person. I think he still works because I still see the credit. We met once, we chuckled about that, but it's a different person -- no relation.
Is there a difference between your work and that of a paparazzo?
Nowadays, I watch TMZ, and I see all these crazy people, and it's just a whole different world, and I can never imagine myself being one of these people who chase movie stars today. First of all, in the digital age of photography that we're in now, it's so different than when I was taking film pictures and going home in my darkroom and developing pictures and printing them up.
What do you look for when you're photographing celebrities -- what makes you release the shutter at a specific moment?
You try to get them to give you the eye contact because that's always important if they're looking at you and to make them at ease and make them feel real comfortable. And if you look at these photographs, most of them, everybody is just really happy and peaceful -- and enjoying the moment.
Looking at your work in this new setting, do you regret leaving photography?
By the time I left it, I didn't regret it because the cameras got really heavy, my back got really bad, I was spending many, many hours in the dark room, which I got to not enjoy. Like anything else, you just burn out of a job. So it just was time for a change for me. I left it in 1982 to become a real estate broker in New York. I answered an ad to be trained as a realtor, and I fell into it.
What's it like seeing your work on display, not having photographed professionally for nearly 30 years?
Going back it time. I could actually remember taking every single one of these pictures. I'm enjoying showing them. And I've got hundreds more slides and negatives, and if the show's successful and there's reason for me to do another show, I'll do it. It's interesting for me in a different way than it was taking them.
Exhibit Opens Today at:
Dennis Dean Galleries
2440-B Wilton Drive