In 2012, award-winning photographer and art lover Charley Akers took on the ambitious goal of photographing the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts artists, striving to showcase each artist’s true nature in Akers’ own dramatic photographic style. His results were impressive. So much so, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel displayed the work in a months-long solo exhibition. This year, Akers is back, with new photographs of Festival of Arts artists and their work, again on display at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel through September.
Akers’ passion for photography came at an early age; he started taking pictures as a young boy growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina. “In fact, I still have my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 304, the one with the little film cartridges in it,” he says in his good-natured Southern drawl.
And Akers’ creative streak is all his own making. He jokes that though his dad took pictures, he was strictly by-the-book. “He did it exactly like Kodak said: sun over his right or left shoulder, so my sisters and I were looking directly into the sun, tears just running down our faces. He actually got some okay shots but we were blinded for hours,” Akers laughs.
Akers was anything but defeated by mediocrity, however. He kept at it and later got into Santa Barbara’s Brooks Institute, then went straight into a job as a photographer for New England’s biggest studio of the time. That led to an impressive career, shooting on assignment for Fortune 500 companies all around the globe and now, three decades later, onto even more artistic portraiture.
His passion for creativity has also led him to ditch the studio and shoot almost exclusively on location. “Shooting on location is a real challenge because you never know what you’re going to run into. A little tiny room or a giant space. You really have to think creatively,” he says. That was certainly true of the artist photographs he has on display at the Ritz. Some of the spaces were so small Akers was pressed up against walls or helping artists pull things outside to make room for a snap or two.
Another signature of Akers is the creativity he brings to his images through the use of computer manipulation. It’s his way of mixing his classic photography skills with the advantages of the digital age. His strongest influences, however, have been from the work of the master photographers in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, such as Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh and the Vanity Fair photographer Edward Steichen, Akers says.
It’s all resulted in Akers’ unmistakably unique style. “If I were to describe my current portrait style, it would have to be: "Yousuf Karsh meets Steven Jobs,” he says. And as the images of Festival of Arts artists illustrate, Akers is keeping their legacies alive and well.
SEE THE PHOTOS
Akers’ work can be seen in The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel’s Art Hallway through September. Admission is free.
:: Facebook page: charleyakersphotography
SEE THE ARTISTS
Laguna Beach's Festival of Arts runs through the end of August.