(This is) Magnolia and her jacket

The kids and I were walking back from the Hammer when I saw this lovely young lady sitting on a stoop waiting for a Taxi.  She was looking at something on her phone and smiling with this big beautiful smile.  Then I noticed her jacket and my mind just flashed.  I swear I had one just like it when I was a kid–not like you needed one in New Orleans but I absolutely remember wearing a red one just like it this one time my parents decided to fly us up to visit my pop’s family in Detroit around Christmas time.  I think I was maybe 10.  My parents put my brother, sister and me on a plane, sans parent and away we went.  It was the first time I remember flying and it was mind-blowing.  The attendants checked in on us a couple times and brought us orange juice and peanuts but for the most part it was just the three of us, faces glued to the window for all 4 hours of the trip.

I remember seeing clouds like that for the first time.  Remember feeling so empowered and excited to be making the trip with my brother and sister.  Remember how crazed we were to finally see a huge dump of snow–more collateral damage of a NOLA upbringing was the distinct lack of snow.  We maybe got a flurry every decade or so but nothing like you would get in Detroit and we were jacked up to a million to run around in it.  

I remember putting on the jacket over a pair of matching red overalls covering my black snow boots.  I slid my red, mitten covered fists through the sleeves, zipped-up and barreled out the door and into the snow.  My brother followed immediately after me and last came my sister who could only move in small jerky gestures.  She was like the little brother in “A Christmas Story” or any episode of the Simpsons where Maggie has to wear overalls.   I was so proud of my red jacket, I remember.  I thought I looked like a real Michigan winter dude, just give me a mountain and a sled and I would conquer that shit.    

So I pass this girl and all this flashes through my mind.  I’m half way to the car when I stop dead in my tracks and head back to where she’s sitting.  She looks up from her phone and I introduce myself.  I tell her my name and ask her if I can make a portrait of her.  Turns out her name is Magnolia.  She asks why and I bumble through my usual explanation of how I make street portraits from time to time and how they’re usually candid but sometimes I’ll ask permission first.  I show her my Insta account so she can see I’m not a creep.  I tell her how much I love her smile and that I love her jacket and I can see I’ve winning her over.  Meanwhile my kids are looking-on and laughing like crazy people–their old man is making a fool of himself right before their very eyes.  Magnolia says she would love to have her picture taken and I make two portraits of her right then, sitting on the stoop in that vintage jacket and that incredible smile.  

This is Magnolia and her Jacket, shot on Kodak Tri-X 400, +1 on my Mamiya 6mf, processed by the lovely folks at the Icon. 

At the end of the day

I love the sunsets here in Santa Monica and I don’t get out as often as I wish to shoot in that glorious light.  During the summer it’s a bit easier since sunset comes just late enough that I can make it out in time after work, but this time of year I’m lucky if I catch it during the week at all.  Tonight would have been one of the most dramatic sunsets to shoot for a long, long time.  It’s been cloudy here and our typical blue skies have been cloaked in enormous, cotton-ball, storm clouds; dark and grey and foreboding.  I wish I could have taken a couple cameras down to the boardwalk and shot for an hour.  Right at the horizon there was a strip of blue that turned purple then pink then red and yellow and orange all at the same time.   The rest of the sky was a thick fluffy blanket, slowly rippling through the dusk like someone was making your bed with you still in it.  It was glorious and I hope that tomorrow will be just as cloudy and that maybe, oh maybe I can sneak out of work a bit early and shoot. 

I might even shoot some color.  It’s interesting but lately I feel myself being drawn to color… I fault Gruyaert and Webb and their beautiful books for distracting me from my beloved monochrome images.  In fact I just got a new two volume monograph from Gruyaert (signed !!!) called “West, East.” Or is it “East, West?” Regardless it’s gorgeous.  It’s not the “Suffering of Light” but it’s incredible.  Speaking of “Suffering of Light,” I was pouring over it for a couple hours one night last week and I think it warped my brain.  I went out the next day and bought a shit-ton of Portra 400/800 like a man possessed.  

That’s how much it effects me.  Plan is to head down to K-Town, park and walk towards DTLA on Wilshire or maybe Beverly while shooting the shit out of everything.  There are all of these incredible swaths of color down that way.  I always these gorgeous red walls with blue trim at carwashes or green markets with yellow doors and patrons coming and going and always while just driving around.  In the end I just want to hop out of my car and shoot.  In fact I did that more than once this weekend.  Stopped at a red light, I see something that will make a beautiful color image, jump out, shoot, almost get run over… 

All that color nonsense aside, I’ve decided to post a small series of monochrome images that I made at sunset on the beach.  These were from sunnier days where the shadows ran long and low for days.  They work better as a series than singles and it’s just as well–I fear they might have hit the cutting room floor had they not.  All of the images were made in Santa Monica or Venice except for “Curious boys” which I made in Laguna.

All were made using my Leica M7/35mm Summicron on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 at the Icon.  


Here’s another attempt at seeing what’s happening around me instead of looking for the image I’m expecting to make.  I walked into the LACMA book store right after the guy in the picture.  Anna Maria and the kids were already wondering around inside looking at books and posters and little ceramic mugs with Pantone swatches printed on them.   There are so many compact references to art surrounding you in those museum bookshops–it’s like a cliff-notes version of the real experience, completely bite-size and ready for immediate and mass consumption.  And like the cliff-notes you might have the broad strokes of it all but all the minutia has been sanded away with 30-grit paper in the shape of Blue Nude II.  

It’s neither here nor there I guess, and it’s “the way it’s always been” but it stings a bit to think of all the money that’s been made from the pure and unadulterated creations of some deceased artist’s penniless, shit-ball existence.  There’s always someone there to make a catalog, or a coffee mug or a limited-edition-collector’s-print-specially-numbered-by-the-art-preservation-society-of-wherever-for-only-100-dollars.  But that’s how it works.  Things don’t happen in the art world unless they make financial sense ultimately as it appears that capitalism has indeed become the world’s most prevalent religion.  Incidentally, I saw a documentary the other night about a woman who’s father brought one of Warhol’s Brillo Boxes for $1000 bucks.  The doco goes on to tell the story of how that same Brillo Box changed hands a few more times and eventually sold at auction forty years later for 3 million US.    But I digress.  

So I’m wandering in and out of isles scanning for anything photography related because I guess I’m just as much a consumer as everyone else (and perhaps even more so when it comes to photography books), but it’s always the same books: 

100 Ideas that changed Photography

Friedkin’s Gay Essay 

…and like 50 books by Maplethorpe and I can only look at so much cock. 

So I drift back to the original task at hand.  I’m emptying my mind and trying to see.  I wander here and I wander there, only seeing things 1.5 meters or closer.  While weaving in and out of the isles I almost weave straight into the patron I walked in with.   I take a step back, hoping he didn’t notice me nearly mowing him over.  The whole situation was a bit confusing for a second and then I understood that I was seeing his reflection in the mirror.  I frame up and make the image above as he turns to ask me what I am doing.  

“Twinning” I reply with a little smirk.  He smiles back, a book of Frida Carlo’s work still open in his hands.     

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

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