Simple

This morning I woke up with a single word on the tip of my tongue.  “Simplicity.”  Life is complex.  I can’t say if it’s work or the current political climate or navigating the treacherous waters of two teenager girls, or Elliot.  When I write it out like that it seems pretty obvious that it’s all of the above in constantly mutating, random combinations.  In all honesty it doesn’t really matter why it’s happening, what matters is the outcome.  I feel run-down and uninspired and a bit detached from my own life.  I don’t think I’m alone.  The few friends I keep (and few being the key word here) feel similarly.  We all seem to be having trouble sleeping.  We all have issues with anxiety or depression or health.  We suffer from self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence.  You wouldn’t know it to look at any of us.  We strut around, joking and laughing but a good deal of it rings hollow… well it does for me at least.  


There’s a danger to look back on your life and remember times that were easier and less complex.  When you were younger and bulletproof and unafraid.  When work was just something transitional to get to that place you really wanted to be.  Somewhere along that journey though work became the destination and that place you were aiming for turned out to be a mirage.  Or maybe you just made it one.  Maybe I just made it one.  I don’t know anymore.   Along that journey you make friends and sometimes you make enemies.  Those friends sometimes turn out to be enemies and enemies who turn out to be friends.  You have a rationale for each instance and often times that rationale turns out to be nothing but self-serving bullshit rather than nuanced, altruistic reasoning.  Sometimes you’re the asshole and sometimes you are the good guy but that ultimately depends on who’s watching–everyone has their own perspective and those perspectives change and evolve.  That includes your own. 


Complexity.  Then along comes family and that fills many of the gouges, sores and wounds left by career and faltering ambitions.  Those wounds are still there; some fester but family heals most pains.  But with the love of your family comes new pains and worries and concerns.  You empty your emotional account every night staring at the ceiling before the curtain goes down and everything goes dark.  Are you raising them right?  Are you emotionally available as much as possible?  Are you more angry than you should be sometimes and not angry enough at other times?  Are you spoiling them?  You tell your partner that you’re doing your best and that your best is all anyone can ever do but are you really doing your best?  Could you be doing more?  Are you to hard on your special needs child?  Are you as compassionate as you should be to their needs?  Have you called your mother enough?  Should you call your father?  Do you tell your partner that they are beautiful?  Do you treat them with the respect they deserve?  Do you feel respected?  Do you feel loved? 


More questions, more complexity.  Then there’s the world around us in this constant state of flux.  Credit being pumped into an economy to substantiate growth to in order to give more credit to substantiate more growth in this constant cyclical consumerism that we are so accustomed to at this point it’s like gravity pulling our wallets out to buy more shit that we truly do not need in order to prop-up a self-inflicted system of wealth and power who’s end is it’s means.  This rampant-running, rabid dog of capitalism in a constant state of invisible ideological war with our beliefs in liberalism and the sovereign rights of every human being.  We’re being pulled in a million different directions by a million different forces–forces that are no more than fictions we’ve invented to bind us together as a society of socially conflicted consumers.  Then you have faith ripping through that shit storm like a hurricane of chainsaws.  God defying fact defying god.  The religion of science offers constantly evolving answers, the science of religion dictates never evolving mandates.  One has all the truth and none of the answers while the other offers all the answers and none of it’s true.  More forces pulling you apart.  


Complexity, complexity, complexity.  I’m out of breath.  Rather than traverse the history of humanity searching for the point when we went wrong and failing to make sense of a time when each day is systematically an order of magnitude more complex than the previous, I’m trying to close my eyes to it all–if only for a minute or two.  I’m trying to breathe in and breathe out and clear my head.  Trying to find a certain beauty or serendipity in simple everyday moments–finding joy in doing little but seeing and breathing and being.  It’s complex trying to be simple but I’m trying.  Camera in my hand, I’m trying. 


A “Simple” shot on my Nikon FM2 at 50mm on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed +1 at the Icon. 

      


50

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.  


Eloper

elope

[ih-lohp]

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.    

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