At the end of the day

I had a brief exchange with someone today about writing and photography.  Alex is not only a talented film photographer, but an equally talented writer.  His point: the stories behind the images we make give the pictures far greater weight than any story that is inferred by the image itself… or at least that’s what I though he meant.   Like me he also enjoys pairing the image and the story behind the image, and while I tend to agree with him the conversation got me thinking as well.  Do truly powerful photographs need an explanation? 

I just realized that if Sarah Jessica Parker were reading this out loud it would sounds like the Lens Culture episode of Sex in the City.*  

It seems to me that if you have to explain an image in order for it to have weight than I wonder if perhaps you’ve failed in your task of creating a compelling image.  I want you, dear viewer, dear patron of the arts, to be drawn in to one of my images–be curious for more–lean in and have some sort of response.  You may hate it or you may love it but the one thing I don’t want to have happen is for you to feel nothing.  That’s failure.  Hate’s better than nothing.  To Alex’s original point, the text should be there to support the image but not to prop it up.  I think my goal with these little stories is to add some additional context to it all.  To pull back the curtain back, or construct some outlandish narrative, or just explain what was in my head, if there was indeed anything in there at all (as there rarely tends to be).  These musing are simply just that: musings.  

But even as I write it, I’m still conflicted… I love reading other’s musing as much as I love writing my own and I enjoy the photos of others with that added context.  There’s not a single person who can say that they don’t enjoy Gilden’s photography more after watching interviews with him or footage of him stalking the streets of New York, pouncing on his subjects with his flash held high in left, kneeling low and shooting high with his right.  Or what about Winogrand in Venice, or Arbus or any of the photographers you/we idolize?  Their images all have the benefit of interviews and videos and forwards and afterwards and onwards and upwards to fame that we unknown photographers have yet to achieve or transcribe.  All of these things add context.  Some of the things are the context.   

At the end of the day, the image needs to stand on it’s own though–that much I know.   Shot on a Mamiya 6MF at 50mm on Tri-X 400 film pushed to 800 at the Icon.      

*Note to reader: “italics” infer inner-monolog

What the fuck?!?

I was walking the Huntington Beach Pier with AM and the kids when I made this image.  The surfer in the picture was doing a run when all of a sudden it was almost like he was yanked back by some invisible force.  He started screaming at the pier and shaking his fists like a madman.  It caught me so off guard that I immediately made the picture.  An instant later he was smashed into the ocean, a wave sneaking up behind him and crashing over his head.  

When he came up he started yelling at me.  At least I thought he was yelling at me.  When I looked down the pier I understood what had happened.  There was a couple fishing who had moved down the pier–pretty close to the beach and they had their lines cast long into break.  When I looked closely, I could see what looked like at least twenty lines cast off the pier flooding the waves that were rolling in below.  

The surfer was still yelling at/near me so I gestured at my camera and then at the fishing couple slightly cowering by a bench, pretending to be invisible.  Then I made the universal sign for fishing by putting my camera over and behind my head and then making as though I were casting it out over the ocean.  Fuck if I’m going to take the fall for them.  The surfer must have gotten the message because he paddled over to the lines, pulled a knife out from near his ankle and started cutting the lines one after another.  The couple who had cast them stopped cowering, pounced to the railing and started yelling at the surfer in some unknown language–gesturing almost as loudly with their hands in large sweeping motions punctuated with staccato stabs of their fingers. 

The surfer just stared at back at this hysteria in what could only be described as exasperated awe.  Then, he shook his fists at the sky and yelled, “What the fuck?!?” before cutting the last line, stowing his knife and paddling out to another wave leaving the fishing couple and their fringe of cut lines blowing in the wind. 

Shot on a Mamiya 6MF at 50mm on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 by the lovely folks at the Icon.  


The boy in the bubble and other nearest misses

After yesterdays seriousness, I wanted to go the opposite way today.  When I first started shooting those first 10,000 pictures that were supposed to be my worst and which preceded the next 10,000 which were arguably just as bad, I absolutely used to work exclusively in series.   At the end of a shooting day there tended to be one or two shots that I really felt were standout and the bones of the story (if in those early days I actually had one) but were in turn complimented by a series of images that I was pleased with but that weren’t as strong.  Basically rudimentary editing.  I would lump the two together in a series of maybe 10-15 images which to me felt largely cohesive and beautiful and thereby in my mind, complete.  Feet up on the table, pour a glass of wine, shit knocked out of the park.

As I became more focused on drilling down the work to a couple glory shots that were super cohesive and that could be neatly filed into smaller even more concise narratives, more and more of my good-but-not-great-picks hit the edit room floor.  As I write this, I’m scanning a handful of rolls fresh from the lab and I’m seeing images that I really like (and am bothering to scan) but that I also doubt will make the final cut.    Based on this revelation there may be a good chance that your third 10,000 photos also suck and that HCB was a fucking liar who secretly worked for Kodak. 


So dear reader, tonight I’ve decided to post a few outtakes from my photographic musings.  Images that I liked but I worry will never see the light of day if I don’t do this right now.  These are all from the Santa Monica Pier and the Venice Boardwalk and I do hope you enjoy them.  

“The boy in the bubble” and others, shot on the the Mamiya 6MF with a 50mm lens on Kodak Tri-X 400 film pushed +1 at the Icon.  

Using Format