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by Kara Fox

The Life Changing Photography of Gil Garcetti

Gil Garcetti is a man who changes lives. As former District Attorney of Los Angeles County, he was known for prosecuting many high profile cases, O..J..Simpson and the Menendez brothers among others. And now, as an urban photographer, he creates daunting images to motivate, educate and to help change the world for so many.

Photos from the Frozen Music collection

Life's many twists and turns take us on journeys unexpected. For me, Gil Garcetti is the result of one such twist and turn.  Malibu is commonly accepted as home to ravaging fires. Most residents are filled with gratitude for the many firefighters who unselfishly place themselves in harm's way as they save lives and properties.  A devastating fire ravaged Malibu in the late 1980's. So many structures, and all the memories contained within their walls, were destroyed.

While watching our neighborhoods being protected by the tireless firefighters, we felt compelled to show, in some meaningful way our deep appreciation. When a local publication wrote about Project RESCUE (approx. 1992), a collaborative mentoring program between the L. A. County Fire Department and the L. A. County District Attorney's Office, we knew instantly that this was what we had been hoping for. We wanted to be involved...a twist and turn that led us to then District Attorney, Gil Garcetti. Mr. Garcetti recognized the importance of stopping criminal activity in the younger population. While in office he established the Crime Prevention Foundation, the 'parent' of Project RESCUE.

I was honored to become a part of this. We met monthly in the conference room of the District Attorney's Office and while waiting for Gil, I was always drawn into his powerful black & white images lining the walls. To me, he was a fine photographer before being recognized as such by the world.

Photos from the Iron collection

Gil Garcetti has been taking photos longer than he has been a lawyer. As a teenager, he was given an Argus C3 by his father. That began his love affair with photography. After Gil's daughter, Dana, was born in 1969, Gil enrolled in a Night School photo class taught by Warren King. He was "schooled" for 4 1/2 years . Mr. King would no doubt be very proud of his student!

Photos from the Paris Women & Bicycles collection

In 2001, while traveling in West Africa, Gil and his wife, Sukey, learned that over 70% of the inhabitants had no safe water. He took photos as part of his own personal healing from an election loss, and from the tragedy the entire country was feeling after 9/11. He had an epiphany that we in the industrial world must share with the people in West Africa and other impoverished nations.

Gil and Sukey learned there was ample water in this part of the world but the people were too poor to bring it up from the ground and there was no one to show them how to use it. The people who lived in the villages were forced to drink unsafe water. Some would become blind (river blindness); many others would become infected with guinea worm, infants too often died from the bad water. He worked hard to create powerful images that would capture the nature of the issue. A call to action.

From Gil's book, Water is Key, we learn that in Niger, some girls spend half of each waking day fetching water, leaving no time for education or work. Young girls would sometimes balance as much as a 5 gallon water container on their heads often making 2 trips a day to deliver this water to their families.

Gil learned that drilling a bore hole well in West Africa changes the lives of those living in the village for generations to come. With bore hole wells, girls and women no longer have to walk long distances to fetch unsafe water. The wells free girls to attend school and free women to become the marshals of their village; and it enables many to use micro-credit loans to start small businesses. They have seen that so much good flows from a bore hole well that was funded many generous Americans.

Photos from Water Is Key collection

Gil has published six books, from the construction and architecture, to Dance in Cuba, to the Obama Inauguration. Water is Key::A Better Future for Africa is a book that helped educate and energize people to bring safe water to West Africa.

The profits from this book go toward drilling wells.

Photos from Dance In Cuba collection

Gil works mostly in black and white. He feels that color can distract from the message he wants to deliver. He wants the viewer to really "see the faces, to see the skin, to feel the texture" of the image.

I am honored to present this portfolio of a man who used his career transition from law to art, referred to as his "second act," to give hope for the future. He has changed lives, from gang kids with Project RESCUE, to spearheading the drilling of borehole wells in West Africa to provide people with safe water, and so much more in between. And from Gil Garcetti, there is much more to come!

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