Billy Zane, “Rock, Parchment, Scissors”



January 23 - February 29, 2016 at Leica Gallery, West Hollywood

by A. Moret



The mystique of Hollywood has long been an alluring subject of public fascination. The stories that take place beyond the veneer of the silver screen are of particular interest to actor and visual artist Billy Zane and professional photographer Dennys Ilic, who have each documented behind-the-scenes moments of feature films and captured raw, soulful portraits of actors. Both storytellers create a narrative through a Leica camera lens.




Billy Zane, “Rock, Parchment, Scissors,” 1999, color photograph.



“Rock, Parchment, Scissors” marks the first public exhibition of the photographs of Billy Zane. As an actor featured in over 120 films, Zane kept photographic diaries of his experiences on set, revealing the beauty of locations around the world and catching actors in moments when the camera was not rolling. Working with several mediums including film, Polaroid, Super 8 and digital, Zane kept his photographs filed away in a personal archive. This amounts to a personal excavation, revealing a series of color and black and white photographs from a four-part miniseries, “Cleopatra,” filmed on location in Morocco in 1998 in which Zane starred as Marc Anthony.


When he wasn’t on screen, he was behind the lens of a Leica 24mm soaking in the majestic landscape and elaborate costumes. Standing above Cleopatra’s headpiece, we can more closely examine the intricacies of her costume, including the Egyptian style bracelets that adorn each arm, the gold and blush colored silk gown and her tightly braided hair. Seated on a royal blue fabric, the desert landscape becomes illuminated by the luxury of the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt. In another photograph, Zane captures a long shot where a sea of Egyptian soldiers lies dead at the feet of Roman soldiers. A corresponding image moves closer to five of the Egyptian soldiers as they lay on the desert sand. Shot between takes, three of the soldiers look up to the camera and smile.


Working in Los Angeles, Ilic has been active for more than a decade. His background as a cinematographer translates to a calculated style that captures a subject without the noise of elaborate lighting. His body of work demonstrates the personal relationship between the photographer and his subject. A portrait of Robin Lord Taylor captures a face partially obscured by a horizontal metal bar that creates a corresponding shadow. The two lines meet like a “t,” framing the subject’s face and pushing it out of the shadows. While we cannot see his eyes, we have an palpable sense of being stared at. Ilic further explores the symmetry of the human form in a black and white photograph of two nude women embracing each other. One blond and the other brunette, their bodies fold into one another’s as if they were one person. While we never see their faces, their embrace emotes an honesty indicative of Ilic’s work, as if the camera just happened to discover the scene unfold.