Ralph-Michael Giordano recreates classic Hollywood photos with Colorado actors

Colorado's independent film scene is booming, says filmmaker and photographer Ralph-Michael Giordano, whose exhibition A Colorado Tribute to Classic Hollywood will be featured at Tenn Street Coffee and Books on First Friday, as part of the Tennyson Street Artwalk. Giordano has spent the last six months rebooting classic photographs of Hollywood stars. The new images feature fourteen Colorado actors posing as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor and beyond. In advance of the August 1 opening, Westword spoke with Giordano about his photographs and his homegrown homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

See also: Catherine Opie talks selfies, AIDS and her shift from representation to abstraction

Westword: Unpack the title: A Colorado Tribute to Classic Hollywood.

Ralph-Michael Giordano: A Colorado Tribute to Classic Hollywood is an idea I came up with early last year. I wanted to work with a lot of Colorado actors who were appearing in all of these indie film. It's really kind of amazing, because Colorado is experiencing an indie-film renaissance right now. Every weekend, somebody's making a film, whether it's a short film or a feature. There are so many filmmakers constantly creating art, which is really great.

I thought, in a way, this resurgence of filmmaking creativity reminded me of a Hollywood thing happening -- our own version of it. I've always wanted to do a photo shoot -- a kind of a Vanity Fair type of thing -- where you take people and you put them in these positions where they're portraying famous people. I decided, why not do a similar pictorial event, work with these Colorado actors and dress them up as Hollywood icons? How did you find your actors?

I started looking at Facebook for actors that fit the bill. Some were people I've worked with on short films. I'm also a filmmaker. Others, I just met through Facebook. I called them up and said: "Hey, I've seen your work and I'd like you to be part of this project. What do you think?"

How did they respond?

Marijuana Deals Near You

It's interesting. Nobody said no. Everybody was in because they liked the idea. We kept it a secret. We didn't tell anybody what we were up to. We just said we were working on this photography project. I kept putting teasers up on Facebook as I was working with the actors. It took about six months to complete the project, to get all fourteen actors.

Read on for more photos and thoughts from Ralph-Michael Giordano.

Who are some of the actors you're referencing?

We have Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Brigitte Bardot, Steve McQueen, James Dean, Natalie Wood, Gloria Swanson, Veronica Lake, Errol Flynn, Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton. It's an amazing mix. We chose actors that range from the 1920s all the way into the '70s to give it a cross-reference of the total Hollywood scene.

What was the process like?

It was a lot of fun, and it was also very difficult trying to match all those different eras. I think we did a pretty good job capturing what we wanted to. They didn't have to be exact look-alikes. It was just to present the idea. Sometimes, we took a photo that was a famous publicity shot that these actors had done, and we tried to recreate it. Then we would move on from there and say: Here's the role. What if we did this? What if we did a series where you turn your head this way? It was a representation of what those photos were. Some of them are pretty darn close.

Talk about the relationship you see between the Colorado independent film scene and Hollywood?

There is this relationship between going to L.A. and here in Colorado. A lot of my actors that I worked with had either already left to go to L.A. or are on the verge of going. At least five of my actors out of the fourteen have already done that or are going to, basically giving it a chance. That's the next step -- to find some sort of success in your hometown and then move on. It will be interesting to see what happens. It will be kind of nice to see somebody from the tribute actually make it in a sitcom or a short film in Hollywood.

Read on for more photos and thoughts from Ralph-Michael Giordano.

What is our scene borrowing? What is unique here? As far as mimicking things, it's funny. I think it was Francis Ford Coppola who said: "If you're going to steal, steal from the best." Basically, I don't think I steal as much as I'm inspired by the things other people are doing. What inspired you?

The original idea came from a Life magazine spread that was done with Marilyn Monroe back in the early '60s before she died. They did something similar where she portrayed famous Hollywood icons of the past. I guess that was always in my mind. I always thought that was a fascinating piece. I found those pictures on the Internet, and I shared them on Facebook to say: This is where I got this idea.

This has been going on for a very long time. People have been admiring the past of Hollywood. We are honoring the fact that we are a growing artistic community. We might not be Hollywood yet, but we're getting there. There was a time when Colorado was really a major hub for filmmaking. Hollywood came here a lot to shoot Westerns and what not. We were a big-time back-lot for the studios. We had the Alexander Film Company here in Colorado Springs, which was a major film center for many, many years.

Giordano's free exhibition opens at 6 p.m. Friday, August 1 at Tenn Street Coffee and Books, 4418 Tennyson Street. There will be live music from The Hoagies. Find me on Twitter: @kyle_a_harris

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.