of a noticeable lack of gathering places for a small but vibrant arts community, Zeitlin's downtown shop immediately became
a focal point for local writers, painters, photographers, graphic designers and architects. Most of Zeitlin's early circle
of friends were recent immigrants to Los Angeles and were drawn quickly to this intellectual oasis located at the sign of
the grasshopper, which adorned the downtown store.
the new circle of friends that Zeitlin attracted was Will Connell, who began an informal series of portrait studies that he
termed "Swell Photographs." The early portraits were generally taken in Will's studio where the sitter was provided with an
assortment of props, and positioned against a backdrop depicting fragments of an 18th century English landscape painting.
The style and presentation of these portraits on Connell's custom printed mounts is a parody of the 19th century cabinet card
portrait easily obtainable from any commercial photographer of the period.
once described the genesis of the informal portraits that Will took during this period: “Will Connell was very much
a friend of the important writers and artists in Los Angeles including Merle Armitage, Bill Conselman, Lloyd Wright and Lawrence
Tibbett. Whenever somebody interesting would come into town, we'd rope them in. We had Louis Untermeyer one evening, and Lewis
Mumford. The routine was usually they would come into the shop, then I would take them over to Will Connell, and Will would
pose them and shoot these old-fashioned, cabinet-type photographs of them. Then we would all go to dinner to a French restaurant
on West Sixth Street, Rene and Jean... and we would then gather at my shop and talk and make a lot of noise and argue and
generally have a hell of a good time.”
increasing notoriety of the literary soirees at Zeitlin's shop attracted a dedicated following who quickly became friends
with one another. This circle of friends had become familiar enough with each other that by October 1929 they decided to start
a magazine to articulate their talents and ideas to a larger audience.
first issue of Opinion magazine appeared during the month of the stock market crash that signaled the end of the economic
prosperity and hedonism of the 1920's. Opinion magazine was the product of a
bohemian intellectualism alienated from the crass materialism of the Southern California boom economy and the lunatic gospel
of Bob Shuler and Aimee McPherson, a social landscape that was fragmented, formless, and chaotic.
Angeles historian Carey McWilliams became acquainted with Zeitlin in 1927 when McWilliams went to interview Zeitlin for Saturday
Night magazine as part of a series on contemporary writers and poets of Los Angeles. McWilliams contributed a witty denunciation
of Robert Shuler to the December, 1929, issue of Opinion under the title, "Anti-Shuler Serum."
The articles that appeared in Opinion took the form of literary criticism, poetry, short works of fiction related to
life in Los Angeles, debates on the function and significance of art museums in contemporary society and commentary about
legal issues affecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties. Although no photographic images were ever reproduced,
several visual artists made contributions including the artist Paul Landacre,
who lived in Echo Park for over thirty years. Zeitlin also wrote poetry, and a book of poems, For Whispers and Chants,appeared in 1927.
*Photo from a private collection. Reproduced from "L.A.'s Early