Art Patron Magazine | Laguna Beach | Palm Springs
Palm Springs - Laguna Beach

Rob Gage

ROB GAGE
A Home and Life Reflecting
Years of Creating Photographs


written by Liz Goldner
photographed by Tom Lamb

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Photographer Rob Gage has crafted a life in Laguna Beach that is filled with art—from a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright disciple John Lautner, to treasures gathered during his forty-year career of traveling the world to take creative advertising photos, and on now to his current photographic artwork.

The House

Gage is eager to show off that 3,900-square-foot home. Constructed with two eighty-foot steel beams holding up the roof, fine woods, built-in furnishings, endless light, magnificent gardens and an ocean view, it stands at the top of Bluebird Canyon.
However, Gage is most proud of his many personal photographs. “Creating an image that garners a second glance is a process I go through constantly,” he explains. “Without light, I really don’t have much to work with. I love photographing people and backlight them whenever possible. It gives the image so much depth and softens the contrast and colors.” Gage has exhibited many of his pictures at the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts.
Gage’s two favorite bodies of work—displayed on his walls and in books he is publishing—are his Ballet and Feather River  series. The former involved months of pre-planning, including several visits to the studios of the Orange County-based Festival Ballet Company, which performs The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Balanchine favorites at the Performing Arts Center and Barclay Theater. “Owner Salwa Rizkalla, who trained in ballet in her native Egypt, gave me unique access to her ballerinas,” he recalls, adding that he chose dancers as subjects because of their extraordinary focus and ability to communicate with their bodies.
After establishing rapport with the ballerinas, Gage began photographing them in a variety of unusual settings, including alongside a dredging rig, beside field workers at an avocado grove, and in the grove itself. Each expressive work reveals his skilled use of light and dark and his unusual perspective, contrasting rig and field workers with graceful, elegant dancers. Gage’s more formal photos in this series include one of a ballerina leaping across an avocado field, and others of dancers on stage en pointe.

Gage’s ongoing Feather River project contains pictures of children entering 4H competitions at Quincy, California’s Plumas-Sierra County Fair. Included are images of smiling children and teenagers displaying prized goats, pigs, roosters, horses and cows. The series also features photos of cowboys on horseback, on the hoods of trucks and at rest. In these images, Gage employs shimmering sunlight to create a transcendent ambience, reminiscent of 19th century Western paintings. The deftly framed works in color and black and white capture old-fashioned country scenes, while displaying the artist’s compassionate yet formalistic eye.

The Work

 

Gage’s ongoing Feather River project contains pictures of children entering 4H competitions at Quincy, California’s Plumas-Sierra County Fair. Included are images of smiling children and teenagers displaying prized goats, pigs, roosters, horses and cows. The series also features photos of cowboys on horseback, on the hoods of trucks and at rest. In these images, Gage employs shimmering sunlight to create a transcendent ambience, reminiscent of 19th century Western paintings. The deftly framed works in color and black and white capture old-fashioned country scenes, while displaying the artist’s compassionate yet formalistic eye.
Other Gage photos depict New Guinea natives, people and animals performing in the Ringling Bros. Circus,  and scenes of an English cemetery.
Gage’s home, which he describes as a work of art itself, features three levels, large windows looking out at canyons and the ocean, and unusual architectural details such as “floating” bed. The home’s pièce de résistance is a large rectangle, cut out of an outside wall, functioning as a picture frame for the stunning ocean view. Also enjoying the home’s amenities are Gage’s long-time partner Ora Sterling, a ceramicist who exhibits at the Sawdust Festival, and their feisty tabby cat, Don Fuege.
Gage has travelled to sixty-seven countries and territories, including France, Spain, England, Morocco, Japan and the British Virgin Islands. He has worked in this country as well, often photographing cars, in Detroit, Barstow, Las Vegas and Palm Springs, the latter providing magnificent light. Many of the treasures and mementoes that he has picked up during his decades-long career are showcased in his home. They include a grandfather clock from France, a carved bookcase base from England, a custom-made tapestry from Cairo, sculptural pieces and masks from New Guinea, and an elephant bell from Thailand.
 While Rob Gage excels at photography, he is also a natural storyteller, relating tales about his many adventures taking pictures. “I have documented camel herders in southern Morocco, stood on the outside strut of a Bell Jet Ranger hovering 500 feet above the Florida Everglades, photographed a new long-range jet from the open end of a B25 bomber, and stood in the prop wash of an Army Blackhawk helicopter