October 25, 2014

Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days

 

Photos by George Mann captured Topanga on July 11, 1970

PHOTOS BY GEORGE MANN

Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days

It was July 11, 1970, when George Mann photographed the festivities of the Topanga Bohemian Festival three years before it would be renamed the Topanga Days Country Fair.

While we don’t know who these fine folks are­­­ (a free one-year subscription to anyone who does!), today we can celebrate the wistful nostalgia of a bygone era and the timelessness of the images preserved by George Mann and shared by his daughter-in-law, Dianne Woods.

Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days

She describes her discovery and decision to take on the enormous job of archiving all of his works—photos, 35mm negatives, 3-D slides and 16mm film, some dating back to the 1920s.


Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days

My husband, Brad Smith, had told me about his father, George Mann's days as a vaudeville headliner from the late '20s to early '40s with the comedic dance act Barto & Mann and the extraordinary photographs and 16mm film he had taken of well-known performers, backstage rehearsals, theater marquees, New York street scenes, and a great variety of other beautiful shots taken during his travels.

He also took thousands of 3-D slides in the '50's and '60s, mostly in Southern California, displayed in a device of his design in businesses around Los Angeles.

Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days

I was aware that somewhere in the basement was a collection of B&W negatives, color 3-D slides, and 16mm film that had not seen a light box, enlarger, slide viewer or projector for many, many years.

Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days

Curiosity got the better of me and I began searching the basement for something akin to a cigar box or maybe a shoebox. Instead, I found a couple of much larger containers and 12,000 or so of mostly 35mm negatives, thousands of 3-D slides, and three cases of 16mm film. I spent the next two weeks poring over this incredible body of work, repacking each filmstrip into proper archival sleeves.

Being a commercial photographer by trade, it was easy to see, even in negative form, what was in front of me. Some of this film goes back as far as the 1920s and much of it had not been cared for as well as it might have been.

Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days

Digitizing and retouching has been a big part of my job of managing the George Mann Archive. What are the odds these photographs would be discovered by a photographer? From the moment I laid eyes on the imagery it has been my goal to get George on the map as a significant American photographer.

—Dianne Woods

GEORGE MANN


PHOTO COURTESY OF DIANNE WOODS

Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days

George Mann

George Mann was born December 2, 1905 in Hollywood, California and died of cancer on November 23, 1977 in Santa Monica, California. He grew up in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles, moving to Santa Monica as a teenager with his parents. At 20, he developed a dance act, Mann & Clark. In 1926, two days after he turned 21, he and Dewey Barto signed a contract as the comedy team Barto & Mann. They became one of the top vaudeville comedy acts touring the U.S., Canada and Europe until the team split up in 1943, the same year Mann and his wife, Barbara Bradford, divorced.

During his time in Vaudeville, Mann took about 12,000 B&W photographs and thousands of feet of 16mm film. In the early 1950s, he designed a 3-D viewer to display his 3-D photographs, mostly taken around Southern California.

To see his photographs and films and learn more: thegeorgemannarchive.com.

Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days

Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days

Celebrating Topanga’s Bohemian Days