10 minutes

I rarely shoot just architecture anymore.  Somewhere along my photographic journey I was pulled towards images narrating a  human experience to art or architecture or the surrounding environment.  Architecture began serving a compositional role that is one component of the human experience as opposed to being the experience in it of itself.  I’m still drawn to stark lines, textures and contrasts, but those elements feel incomplete to me without a subject experiencing them first hand–to give them scale and grounding in the real world.  That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate people who create architectural images, it just means I seek a different balance in my own work.  Usually.


A few Saturday’s back, Ester and a few of her friends marched in the AIDS walk Downtown.  I was proud of her and of her friends.  I don’t want to sounds like the out-of-touch father but I didn’t realize that Ester was felt so strongly about showing her support for social issues like AIDS.  I was touched.  Surprised by touched.  


While we were waiting for her to meet us up at the car, I realized we were parked half a block from the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The second I realized it, I immediately started feeling fidgety.   My camera bag was in the back and I reckoned I could get in at least 10 minutes before Ester showed-up so I jumped-out, grabbed my Mamiya and asked AM if she wouldn’t mind picking me in front of the Disney Concert Hall as soon as Ester finally showed.  


I crossed the street, walked half a block down to the back entrance and took the steps two at a time.  When I arrived at the garden there were images everywhere and in my haste to bail I hadn’t thought to take another roll with me–just the camera.  I started with a couple images of silhouetted trees and I got lucky.  There was a guy walking around back there shooting himself and I managed to catch him in one of my frames.  The other pictures were made purely as a testament and celebration of Gehry’s intimate understanding of light and form.  He was a genius and every time I have the pleasure to experience his work I feel humbled.    


Just as I shot out the last frame on the roll, AM called.  She and the kids had already looped around the block twice and hadn’t seen me.  I ran down the front steps, out into the street in front of the Concert Hall and jumped in the passenger seat feeling totally overwhelmed by 10 minutes spent basking in the intense glow of what could only be defined as greatness.


Shot on my Mamiya 6MF at 50mm on Kodak Tri-X 400 film, pushed to 800 at the Icon.    


Fuck you man

The story behind this image starts as a familiar one.  I’m out shooting downtown and something catches my eye. I quickly frame up and hit the shutter.  A few weeks later I look at the negatives and it either worked out or it didn’t.  Sometimes when I get the images back the images, the ones I was positive were going to be keepers turn out to be shitty and sometimes vice versa.  That’s jus the way it goes


There is however a rare third scenario when I make an image that I think is going to be good and it turns out to be amazing for completely different reasons than I ever expected.  The legs shot I wrote about a few days back is one of those rarities… this image is another.  When I made this I was facing away from the subway station, waiting for an interesting subject to approach.  When I saw this guy, all pissy, all grey with that bald head tearing his way towards the subway, I had only a split-second to spin 180 degrees to catch him heading towards the escalators.  I whipped around while framing him in the right third and then panned up slightly to come level.  In that split second of panning up my eye wasn’t on my subject, it was framing the background and then I hit the shutter.


So flash forward a few weeks and I’m at the Icon with the loupe and the light table checking out my shots.  I pan over to this shot and start laughing my ass-off.  This fucking guy gave me the finger.  What’s even funnier is that when I think back, I totally remember someone saying “Fuck you man!” Thing is though, there’s always someone screaming “fuck you” or “eat shit” or just howling at the top of their lungs so it totally didn’t register at the time.  


Anyway, I just want to say thank you Mr. Fuck-you-man–you made my fucking day.  Oh, and fuck you too buddy :)


Shot on my Mamiya 6MF on Kodak Tri-X film, pushed +1 by the Icon.    


Waiting

My train rides with Elliot always lead to Union Station.  The Expo line stops at 7th Street and we transfer to the red line and ride the rest of the way to Union Station.  Sometimes we’ll get out and walk down 7th and then turn left, up towards Grand Central market so I can shoot Broadway or Spring or somewhere else along the way but usually it’s a transfer.  


Subways in LA aren’t like subways in New York or other eastern towns.  The LA metro feels like it still has it’s training wheels on, like one day it’ll become a real subway system.  For now it’s still learning, taking small steps towards being completely unreliable, totally unsafe and utterly jam-packed with commuters.  In fact it just dawned on me… LA metro is a glitzy movie version of a northeastern subway.  The same is true of Union Station.  It’s the Hollywood set of central stations.  It’s like you’ve wandered onto a location shoot–filming in progress–and nothing feels quite real and you don’t know where the set stops and reality begins. 


The people who are to’ing and fro’ing become unwitting actors in this fake movie magic world.  They seem real, but as you wander around it’s hard to imagine where they might be going.  True, I arrived at the station on a subway train, but for some reason it feels so strange to think that anyone would have a reason to be at Union station at all.  Aside from the subway stops all of the trains are above ground, away from the station itself.  You never seen anyone borad a train.  You never see a train depart.  You never see people crowding or lovers kissing goodbye or children crying while a mother departs.  None of it ever really happened for all I know.  It’s all hidden away from me as I wander, so it becomes the Truman show.  All of these people waiting to depart in the main hall, running frantically up this ramp or the other, buying snacks with their children and walking through the halls–a massive ruse playing out only for me.  When I leave they all go back to their starting positions and wait for me to come back through again.  


After a while I start to make up stories about the people I see. I think we all do it but aren’t always conscious of it, this bizarre act of making up stories about strangers.  When I’m wandering around Union Station, though, my mind shifts into overdrive and I’m actively interweaving narrative after narrative after narrative for every single interesting looking individual who crosses my path.  That guy’s girlfriend is coming back from college… they haven’t seen each other since the start of school, hence the flowers and chocolates and the spring in the step.  That girl’s on her way to adopt a puppy–that’s why she’s carrying an animal carrier but has no animal. I think she had a leash, yes that’s a leash.  That couple is fighting because he lost all their money at the dog fights and got fucked up when they came to collect which is why his arm is bandaged and there’s blood on his polo.  That woman’s crying on the steps clutching her phone, because she’s waiting for her lover to come back from San Francisco and he just called to say he missed the train.  That older gentleman over there is lost.  No, I actually think he’s lost.   


I am the Sherlock Holmes of fictitious bullshit.   


It gets so bad sometimes that I forget to take pictures.  I need to remember to see as well as drift–to combine the vision and the narrative and to take the picture.  Clear my mind and see.  I think I saw the light first.  Then I saw the woman.  The light was perfect, but I struggled with a story for her.  She looked so ordinary and plain.  She was looking at her phone and seemed so completely disinterested in the incredible light flooding the small area she occupied.  She had been chosen by some divine force to be the center of this incredible celestial event and she couldn’t have cared less.  So I decided that was her narrative.  She was waiting, while a world of beauty was forming around her.  So much beauty that people began to take notice.  They covered their mouths when they spoke.  They shielded their eyes it was so bright.  They could feel the warmth radiating out from around her, but she just sat there, waiting.  


The click of my camera and it was gone.   Shot on my Mamiya 6MF on Kodak Tri-X film, pushed to 800 at the Icon. 

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