You don’t have to be a boxer or wrestler to appreciate the photography of the late Theo Ehret, who served for decades as the house photographer at the storied Olympic Auditorium downtown and died this past September at the age of 91.
The German-born Ehret lived for years in Echo Park, and his images capture a moment in time in Los Angeles as much they do the storied characters who appeared there. A new gallery exhibit opens tonight at 722 Figueroa in celebration of his work.
Curator Steve DeBro said he and sportswriter David Davis sifted through thousands of images these past years in the hopes of giving Ehret his due as an artist. That’s not what he considered himself, said DeBro: “For him, it was just a job.”
Over the decades Ehret captured the greats, from Cassius Clay to Andre the Giant. He also chronicled celebrity audience members like Clint Eastwood, Ryan O’Neal, Sylvester Stallone, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion.
But while the Olympic became a hip spot in its later years, its roots were for the common man. “The tickets to the Olympic were cheap. It was very much for everyday working Angelenos. People’d go out and have a beer, and see a fight,” said DeBro.
And what Ehret was chronicling was not just the nightly fights, but evolving race relations. “The Latin fighters were known for being fights where there was a lot of heart and guts left in the ring,” said DeBro, who watched the fights as a kid in LA with his dad. (They were broadcast each night on TV.) “The crowds were extremely loyal. And I think a lot of Anglo-Americans saw Mexicans fight and gained a lot of respect for them through that.”
The photographs of Theo Ehret can be seen downtown at 722 Figueroa. The exhibition is open to the public from 2-5, Monday through Friday, by appointment only. For reservations, call 213-620-9971.