Head shrinking

I’ve been trying to see things differently.  I’m trying to really look at what’s happening around me and to not see what I’m expecting to see.  I feel like I’m missing things, important things that are worthy of finding and exploring are happening and it’s not for want of curiosity, my eyes just aren’t open the way that they need to be.  They used to be though.   

My daughters can see things like I used to.  In fact they see them everywhere–tiny details, incredible juxtaposition and visual irony that’s just plain ridiculous.  They’re always taking pictures with their phones or pointing things out to me.  Little scenes that they create narratives for, complete with characters and voices and subplots sometimes and all I can think is that it’s all so damn clever.  

My brother David still has that gift as well.  I posted this picture above a while back on Instagram and his comment was,

“Robot lady legs,” 

…which is now the title of the picture because it’s brilliant.  Completely fucking brilliant.  The arch becomes a pair of legs, but who’s legs are they?  Well, the light looks like pubic hair in a landing strip, so the legs belong to a lady.  But this is a very boxy pair of legs so she must be a robot.  Et voila.  His mind just sees things that the rest of us somehow forgot how to see and the fact that he still can gives me hope that if I try really hard to open my eyes again, I might be able to see again like they do. 

It’s not easy.  The first step for me is clearing my head.  Not thinking about what I need to find.  Not thinking about what time it is or what I need to do later, but being completely in the here and now.  The next step for me is limiting my vision.  I usually do this by front focusing my lens.  Now I have narrowed my view to happenings closer than two-and-a-half meters from me–everything further away simply must fade into nothing–beyond my focus range can’t exist.  The last step is to ignore the patterns I know and to see beyond the immediate state of recognition.  Our mind store memories based on hierarchical systems of patterns.  Part of a black line, becomes part of a letter, becomes the letter “A” becomes part of a word, part of a word that has three letters, that looks like the word “ass” because I’m looking at the word “ass.”  I try to subconsciously hijack that process and see what I could be looking at.    This is the hardest part, just letting my mind flow. 

I’ve had some success.  I’ve had a lot of failure, but like all things it’s a work in progress.  I was using this technique when I shot the picture at the top of this post.  It’s not a picture I would normally see or shoot.  It lacks the strict compositional bullshit dogma I’ve built around myself and is the polar opposite to the “Bag man” picture I wrote about yesterday.  It was straight from the subconscious, made possible with a little bit of head shrinking.   

Shot on a Leica M7, with an amber filtered 35mm Cron on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 at the Icon.  



Grumpy old men

I followed the gentleman in the photograph for a while.  I liked his suit and bald head and didn’t quite understand the bag, but then again I didn’t really need to.  I found him interesting and I thought he will make an interesting subject in what I hoped would become interesting image.  I named him “bag man” and bag man forever shall he be.    

The issue was that now that I had found bag man, right at the entry in the asian pacific area (and right after I had made the image of Mr. Hokey Pokey who will forever be known as Mr. Hokey Pokey), there was sadly nothing in the immediate vicinity worthy of framing him.  There were tons of hand woven things, rugs, statues with long heads and other beautifully crafted items but nothing that I could find that was equal in character to my bag man.  Because that’s the dogma for these images, humans experiencing art.  If I only have a human, I only have half an image.

So I initiate stalker protocol.  I follow bag man at a distance keeping one eye on him and one eye on the art.  Tangentially, I don’t care for stalker protocol.  You don’t get to enjoy the spontaneity of happening upon and photographing a scene while at the same time you don’t get to fully enjoy the environment you’re currently stalking in.  It’s lose/lose for me.  Some street photographers “enjoy a good chase” but I’m not them and I want to find someplace nice to endless pursuit of bagginess. 

But bag man has other ideas.  Bag man goes here, the bag man goes there.  Bag man’s in a box, bag man’s with a fox.  Bag man goes up the stairs, stops mid way, picks a wedgie and gazes back over his shoulder to see who saw the wedgie removal.  Bag man enjoys a Matisse (which would have been the image if two women hadn’t walked up obstructing my view), then a Miró (which I shot another grumpy old man at), next a Lichtenstein (which, I’m sorry, I’ve shot so many times) and then meanders his way over the piece in the picture (which I don’t think I had ever noticed before).  

For a second I stop tailing bag man and look at the painting.  It’s massive and contrasty and completely unknown to me.  I’ve walked this gallery a hundred times and never noticed it.  But I need to stay focused, and bag man is my focus.  I turn my attention back to bag man just in time to see him get his face so close to the art that I can’t possibly imagine what his next move will be.  His chin is jetting out and his face is creeping closer and closer, millimeter by millimeter.  I can’t see his lips but I imagine him licking them, as if… wait, what the fuck is he going to do?  Is bag man going to lick the painting?   That’s when I take up my camera and make this image.  

I’m not the only one noticing how close bag man is getting.  A guard swoops in from behind me and screeches at him to “step away from the art” adding a calmer “please” in a more reassuring voice.  Bag man takes a step back, turns to the guard and says, 

“You should leave grumpy old men alone.”

Shot on a Mamiya 6MF with a 50mm lens on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 by the Icon.   The painting is Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic 100

What it’s all about

You put your left foot in
You take your left foot out
You put your left foot in
And you shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey
And you turn yourself around
That’s what it’s all about

I really have no idea what this guy was doing.  I’m guessing he was stretching because he had been on his feet to long and his legs were sore.  It’s hard to know for certain but the fam and I were coming down the stairs from the contemporary exhibits at LACMA on the floor above, when he started doing his awkward little dance.  

I had just shot out a roll on the Mamiya so it was empty and the M7 was in my bag.  Actually it’s my wife’s bag but she’s letting me use it.  It’s this gorgeous black ONA with the red dot on the front and red interior that she bought at Samy’s.  I love it, although but I’m not aloud to call it mine because she might take it back from me one day.  The issue of bag ownership is neither here nor there but, it is so choice.  If you have the means I highly recommend picking one up.

So the guy is hokey pokey’ing on his right foot–it’s already been sufficiently shaken all around and he returns it to it’s regular position astride his left foot in what I would call a normal, two-legged guard-stance.  I haven’t faired as well though, the Mamiya is out of my hands now and in the bag but I’m only just managing to get the M7 out when he commences to putting his left foot in.    My pace quickens and I switch on the Leica.  I look down at see that I’m already at f2 so I set the shutter at 1/30 and take the last last two steps with a large and really ungraceful half-lunge/half-fall.  I frame and shoot and I swear to you here and now, dear reader, I thought I missed it.  In fact I was pretty sure that if I got anything at all it would have been motion-blurred to shit since there was no way that neither he nor I were still when I made the image. 

In my mind all I could think was, that’s what it’s all about. 

Shot on the Leica M7, 35mm cron with an amber filter on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 at the Icon.    

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