I shot at 50mm for two years.  It was the only M mount lens I owned so it was the only lens that mattered.  During those two years I learned to shuffle my feet, to duck and tippy-toe and bow and every other strange contortion you can make to put your camera where it needs to be.  

After a while I added a 28mm which quickly replaced my 50 for a whole slew of reasons that had little to do with composition or compression.  At the time I had become obsessed with Winogrand and his 28mm lens.  I loved how close he was getting and the way the 28 slightly distorted the perspective of his subjects.  I wanted to push past Cartier-Bresson’s compressed scenes and become more intimate with my framing.  Then, of course, there was hyperlocal on 28mm where at f22 you were in it to win it from a meter.  Oh the joys.  This was going to be the lens for me.  

Except it wasn’t.  It’s an unwieldy beast truth be known. I quickly realized that mastery was going to take me years and years and all this just when I was feeling really good about my 50.  But I pressed on, fucking up all my lines at first, jacking up my perspective all over the place for roll upon roll.  After a while my ratio was starting to get better and compositionally I was getting the hang of it.  I still wasn’t getting as close as I would have liked but it was feeling ok bordering on acceptable.  Then I tried a friend’s 35mm lux.  

That was it.  I was sold after an hour.  It was perfect—not as unwieldy as the 28 and not as compressed as the 50.   I found a nice used 35mm Summicron and from then on out we were like peas and carrots.  I couldn’t part with the 28 as we had grown so close and I secretly hadn’t given up the dream of getting closer, so I stowed it on another body, figuring I would come back to it at some point.  The 50 lux, suffered a different fate.  My once beloved was bardered away for a used Mamyiya 6MF and it’s accompanying lenses at the bargain camera show.  For me the door was closed for 50 on small canvas.  

Until recently.  Anna Maria and I were heading out at sunset to the beach.  She lives for the sea and loves taking pictures at sunset.  By the front door in our house we have a chest of nine drawers, a few of which have old film gear hidden away.  There’s a Nikon FM2F4 and F100 in there, and old Minolta (which Ester just adopted), a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, and a shit ton of old glass.  We were in a bit of a hurry so rather than run to the back of the house to grab my camera bag, I grabbed a roll of Tri-X from the top drawer, the FM2 and a 50 1.4 and away we went.   Sunset was almost over when we got to Tower 26 but before I even noticed what was happening I had burned through most of the roll.  I had forgotten how incredible a camera the FM2 is.  It’s as close to mechanical perfection as you can come with Nikon.  The hammer cocks perfect, the dials click perfect.  The shutter press is perfect.  The view finder is perfect.  The real revelation, however was the 50.  I had forgotten just how surgical it feels–how discerning the framing can be in the right hands.  I realized how much I had missed that perfect bokeh, how it compresses the frame just enough.  It felt like coming home.  I had three pictures left on the roll when I saw the image I wanted to make.      

Anna Maria was gazing out over the sea.  The pier had come to life behind her in a tinkling of multicolor lights.  I swept in behind her getting as close as I could and burned through my last three frames.  Since then I find I’m fighting the urge to take it out again.  I love the images.  What do you think?   

“Home,” shot on a Nikon FM2 with a 50mm 1.4 lens on Kodak Tri-X film pushed to 800 at the Icon.  




verb (used without object), eloped, eloping.

1.to run off secretly to be married, usually without the consent or knowledge of one’s parents. 

2.to run away with a lover. 

3.to leave without permission or notification; escape: At age 21, the apprentice eloped from his master.

4.(of a person with a mental disorder or cognitive impairment) to leave or run away from a safe area or safe premises.

Elliot is of variety no. 4.  He always has been.  He’s not interested in what the rest of the family is doing most of the time–especially not when there’s a whole world out there that he could be exploring.  This is of course if he’s not pretending to be asleep on a bench in Gallery 1 at the Hammer, which was where I had last seen him while walking around admiring some photography around the corner from where his feet were hanging off the edge of a bench.  

But that’s all the time it takes.  Two seconds of not paying complete and full attention and he’s gone.  It’s his prestige.  He has a radar that goes off when I let my focus wander to anything other than him and in a flash he’s gone like Keyser-fucking-Söze. What’s funny is that the second I realize that I’m not keeping a full eye on him I always know he’s gone.  I don’t even have to double check.  What’s more is that I knew he had a good enough head start that he would duck, cover and maneuver his way through the galleries so deftly that I had zero chance of finding him until he got to where he wanted to go.  Poof.  Gone.  It’s irritating as all hell, but he’s a damn good participant in an unwitting game of hide and seek.  

I remember when he was 4, Elliot, Ester (who was two at the time) and I when to Fältöversten Centrum to do some last minute Christmas shopping–this was back when we still lived in Stockholm, before we moved to LA.  I was at the toy store with Ester on my back, while holding Elliot’s hand at the checkout counter.  I realized I needed to grab my wallet and without thinking let go of Elliot’s hand, reached into my back pocket, took out my wallet and handed my credit card to the woman behind the counter.  That was all it took.  Elliot was gone.  It was the first of many times he would elope but it scared the shit out of me.  There are at least three exits from the shopping center that go directly to the street and he knew where all three were.  I ran around like a maniac through Christmas shopping crowds looking for him for 20 minutes before calling Anna Maria to call the mall security.  She was calmer than I thought she would be by the time we hung up and five minutes later, which incidentally felt like and absolute eternity of running up and down holiday shopper packed halls, she was back on the phone telling me to head towards the electronics shop where security says they’ve cornered a young boy who may or may not be Elliot.  I was maybe 50 meters from the shop, so I bolt over there and sure enough, a group of Swedish rent-a-cops have him surrounded and won’t let him ride the escalators up and down any more.  Then he looks at me like, what’s your problem.    

So it’s always been this way.  It’s one of the million things about Elliot that make him Elliot.  In fact I could write a book filled with stories about how Elliot eloped from pretty much everywhere on the planet at some point in time or another.  One day I’ll write about what he did at our wedding reception.  That was a hoot.  Point is, at that particular moment when he hauled-ass out of the gallery I wasn’t as concerned as I maybe should have been or would have been if this had been the first, third or twentieth time he had pulled this shit.  At this point I’m honestly convinced that no matter where he goes I will find him.  That’s maybe naive on my part but I have come to believe that’s the case.  I know I should panic a bit more but I don’t.  I know I should be upset but I almost can’t be.  Well, almost.  I tend to get pissed now more than anything.    

Anyway, back in the present day, sure as shit only five minutes later, Ester points down at the courtyard and there’s Mr Escape-from-New-York himself playing on one of the chairs that you can sit and spin around in that cost $700 at the Museum book shop.  After a brief mental note is taken regarding Elliot sitting and spinning, I notice the scene.  There’s a gentle harmony to the geometry in stark contrast to the massive irritation bordering on rage I feel at having to chaise my child.  

I let that irritation break on the concrete composition unfolding below me and made an image of my irritating beautiful eloper. 

Mamiya6MF, Kodak Tri-X at 800, processed at the Icon.    

Half and half

On the same day as I made the portrait of Magnolia, the kids and I stopped at the Hammer for a little Saturday culture.  I wanted to see the Radical Women exhibit and I think the kids wanted to go to the book store and then maybe take a hot chocolate at the cafe which for a parent of three is total win-win.  

The exhibit was good, angst ridden for sure but it was good.  Ester and Ella both saw pieces they liked and of course Elliot could have given a shit less that we were there.  He just wanted to go have a hot chocolate.  He voiced his objection in ever single gallery in the museum by finding the closest bench and pretending to sleep on it.  If there were multiple benches in the room, he would try out each and every one of them in turn–lying down, pretending to sleep for a minute or two, waiting until I wasn’t looking and moving to the next.  Rinse and repeat.  I have pictures of Elliot pretending to sleep in maybe every museum I’ve ever taken him to.  Shit, I should make a book.   

It’s frustrating at times having a 15 year-old who has the capacity of a 3 year old and the temper of a 90 year old Italian.   It’s often very frustrating, but when it comes to this particular annoyance, pretending to sleep in art museums, I’ve seen enough adults do it to not give a rat’s ass about Elliot pretending to do it.  After a while even the girls were tired of radical women and their radical paintings and sketches sculptures and angst-ridden vhs tapes from 1978 where they continuously lick a frozen popsicle down to the stick in extreme close-up looping for hours,  so they went to sit down where Elliot had made his latest bed, lying face-down, arms folded under his head and his feet dangling off the end of the bench.  

I realized I needed a break too, so I joined them.  I spied a tiny bit of space on the bench and wedged myself between the girls.  That’s when I saw the pair of legs in the image, bifurcated at the thigh, wondering through a white space with no uppper-body–half human and half art.  It’s an interesting framing that I would never have seen if it weren’t for the silent protests of my miserable, art hating son, so way to go man.  It was totally worth every irritated stare from every childless patron at the museum that day.   

“Half and half” was shot on my Mamiiya 6MF at 50mm on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 at the Icon.  


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