Oddball! – Phil Stern Gallery

Oddball! – Phil Stern Gallery

Phil Stern Oddball! Courtesy © Phil Stern-CPi /


Now showing at the Phil Stern Gallery, in Downtown L.A., is Oddball! an exhibition of candid and humorous photographs by iconic photographer Phil Stern.

Review by Pauline Adamek

Now in his nineties, Phil “Snapdragon” Stern is an award-winning American photographer noted for his memorable portraits of Hollywood stars, as well as his war photography while serving as a U.S. Army Ranger in the “˜Darby”™s Rangers”™ unit in the North African and Italian campaigns during World War II.

Settling in Los Angeles after the Second World War, Stern was staff photographer for LOOK magazine. He was present on numerous film productions as stills photographer, and in that capacity took photographs of a huge cross-section of the film community.

Stern gained acclaim as a celebrity photographer and his images of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Frank Sinatra have become widely recognized icons.

Phil Stern Oddball! Courtesy © Phil Stern-CPi /

This current exhibition, Oddball! is a collection of seemingly random behind-the-scenes and on location snaps, capturing celebrities such as John Wayne and Frank Sinatra in candid moments as well as the various crew members and others who work behind the camera.

Phil Stern Oddball - collage

Over the course of his long career, Stern ended up haunting close to one hundred film sets, including Citizen Kane, A Star is Born and West Side Story, on assignment for various film studios and magazines. In the process the photographer gained the trust of many A-List Hollywood stars.

Stern also became widely known for his jazz portraits, photographing 40 album covers for the Jazz record label Verve and quietly installing himself at studio sessions with legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

Phil Stern Oddball! Courtesy © Phil Stern-CPi /

According to Vanity Fair magazine:

Frank Sinatra, in fact, instigated several Stern photo sessions. He enlisted his friend to take pictures at President Kennedy”™s inaugural party in 1961 and, on occasion, persuaded Stern to create a faux photo or two. In one, Stern remembers, he shot “Sinatra literally in the position of Christ nailed to the cross. He choreographed it himself. This was a personal gag created for Mervyn Leroy, a director he had contempt for. He sent it along with a note that said, “O.K., you now have me where you want me. Frank.”

The Phil Stern Gallery is small but the exhibition is strong, so it is well worth a visit.  If you are lucky, you will score a parking spot on the street.

All images copyright of Phil Stern unless otherwise noted. 
Courtesy © Phil Stern-CPi / link

These photos of the exhibition taken by Pauline Adamek and used with permission.

The Phil Stern Gallery

601 S. Los Angeles Street,

LA, CA, 90014

Exhibition runs:

Until July 16th, 2011.

Tue-Sat: 11am-7pm or by appointment.
(213) 488 – 0138

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Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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