You know Jeff Bridges, the actor of such films as "Seabiscuit," "The Big Lebowski," "The Fabulous Baker Boys" and "Starman." But you might not know Bridges the artist, musician and photographer.
His accomplishments as a photographer are now on view at the Museum of Photographic Arts through March 13. The exhibition, which opened Thursday, consists of 71 photographs featuring life on a movie set as seen by the actor.
Bridges, 54, has appeared in more than 50 films and has earned four Academy Award and two Golden Globe nominations. He has been taking photographs on movie sets for nearly three decades. The MoPA exhibition encompasses his films from the 1976 "King Kong" to "The Door in the Floor," released earlier this year.
In 1984, Bridges began compiling these candid shots into small books that he then gave as gifts to cast and crew involved with his films. Some of those photographs made their way into the book "Jeff Bridges -- Pictures," published in 2003. The MoPA exhibit of the same name features images from that book.
Bridges' black and white, behind-the-scenes glimpses of the film industry were taken with a Widelux F8 camera, a bit of a rarity in the photography world. The camera has a 28mm lens that pans nearly 180 degrees. Instead of a traditional shutter, it has a slit that exposes the film as the lens pans. But instead of the sweeping vistas normally associated with such panoramic cameras, Bridges uses the Widelux to take intimate -- and sometimes whimsical -- shots of the people and processes of moviemaking.
"When you take a picture, it actually scans from left to right in a very quick motion," explained MoPA curator Carol McCusker. "It's one of those cameras that a lot of people have fun with. When it starts to pan from the left, you can actually appear twice if you move quickly."
Bridges used this technique to photograph actors like John Turturro and Michelle Pfeiffer mirroring the theater masks of comedy and tragedy in the same shot. However, these images don't appear in the exhibition.
"The images we have are much more about the production of filmmaking. So they have a little bit more of an investment in subject matter," said McCusker.
The photos have an edge-to-edge sharpness that allows viewers to explore many layers of storytelling. And the format of the images has a similar ratio to film.
"You get a full range of subject matter, where there are many characters at work here, the way there would be in a film," said McCusker. "There are multiple things going on, so it lends itself to narrative."
In his work "Peter Bogdanovich: Lining up a Shot, Texasville," for example, we get Bridges' point of view from the interior of a car -- his knee protruding into the frame while the director in the center peers through the windshield to set up the shot. On the left are members of the film crew. In this way, Bridges' photographs are also democratic, giving equal "exposure" to star and gaffer alike.
The photographs give viewers an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the movie industry working, instead of its ready-made product. Some of the many actors and directors that Bridges has photographed include Tim Robbins, Kim Basinger, Julianne Moore, his brother Beau and father Lloyd, Cybill Shepherd, Joan Cusack, Ridley Scott and Kevin Spacey.
Bridges will be at the museum Dec. 10 to present a slide show and lecture on his photography. However, if you didn't snap up tickets when they went on sale, you're out of luck; the event sold out almost immediately.
But you can still familiarize or reacquaint yourself with the actor's filmography -- beginning in late February, MoPA will host a Bridges film series to accompany the exhibition. The films will run Thursday nights in the museum's Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theater, giving the public the opportunity to take in the exhibition as well as one of the films featured in Bridges' photographs.
Signed copies of Bridges' book will also be available for sale in the Museum Store. Proceeds from his book are donated to the Motion Picture and Television Fund, a nonprofit organization that offers care and support to film-industry workers.
PROGRAM: "Jeff Bridges - Pictures"
Organization: Museum of Photographic Arts
Admission: $6 adults; $4 students, seniors and military; members and children under 12 free. Admission is free on the second Tuesday of each month.
Dates: Through March 13
Gallery hours: Monday through Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursdays until 9 p.m.
Location: 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park
More information: (619) 238-7559, www.mopa.org