Après la Pluie

Yesterday was a weather day in SoCal. That means it's not just sunny as usual. There was a downpour that caused some brief flooding that was quickly gobbled up by the Los Angeles River. The LA River is not your normal river with a bed of rocks and grassy embankment. It's man-made of concrete.

I've shot a lot of pictures of the river over the years because of the light and shadow opportunities and the rare times it fills up. So, yesterday, after filming a short piece on my phone while walking Pumpkin (you can see that one HERE), I decided to get my 35mm camera and take some other photos.

When I went back to the river I shot it from the other direction and then shot this 15 second video. With thanks to the Photography Gods, I captured the coolest natural special effect followed by an errant tennis ball. Check it out...

And here's a still shot in the opposite direction of a wind-blown palm tree.

 
 

Contact Sheet Photography - Tip #8

Several years ago, maybe 5 or 6, I signed up for a Photography 1 class because I wanted access to a darkroom. I hadn't been in one forever. Maybe I missed the chemicals.

When it comes to photography, I'm self taught. I even figured out the black and white on my own. I did take a color developing class a million years ago. It was really hard. I was in way over my head. But other than that minor experience, my first real photography class was the Photography 1 at Valley College in Los Angeles.

I learned a lot about myself in that class. There were two different classes and luckily I somehow picked the right professor. When my class was assigned to go out and shoot 'light and shadow' everyone in the other class had to go and shoot the same car wash sign on Ventura Blvd. The one with a giant hand and a corvette on the top. 

I was initially just interested in the darkroom portion. There's nothing better than shooting a roll of film, not knowing what you've captured until you develop the film and print your contact sheet. To my surprise, I also relished being sent out to shoot the assignments and I fell in love with photography all over again. 

Below is an assignment we were assigned later in the semester. I had never heard of this, much less tried it out before. The idea is you go out pick a subject and instead of shooting it in one frame, you had to break it up into 35 individual frames that would then comprise the photograph as a whole in the contact sheet.

I chose to shoot the altar area in a church. And damn, it was really hard. Trying to line up the individual frames to make up the picture of the whole image. It's hard to keep track of how I framed each shot, especially when I got to the end of each strip (5 frames) and have to move to the right and up to where the shot would be next to the first shot. Frame by frame, strip by strip, trying to make it line up vertically and horizontally.

 My results were nowhere near perfect, but ultimately it didn't matter. I liked it. I think I caught the true feeling of the room. I was very happy with its fractured look.

For any of you shooting film, I highly recommend giving this assignment a try. I'm going to do it again as soon as I get my film camera fixed and have a darkroom to play in. Hoping that day comes sooner than later.

Presenting An Image

I'm big on people watching. Since I was little, I've loved to imagine what it would be like to be that other person I'm looking at. While I'm not a Peeping Tom, if someone's drapes are open I will take a look in to see how they live. I'm curious about people's lives and what makes them tick.

More and more, I am finding out that most people are presenting an image. Or maybe it's that we are assuming things about others without them having to present an image. Recently, I've learned that several people I know are facing harder times than I would have imagined. I'm not sure if it was my assumption, or their ability to present an image...maybe a little bit of both. And when it comes to the artists (pick a talent - painting, photography, filmmaking, writing, music or all of the above) it's even trickier. I meet people and they appear to be flush, making a great living from their artistic endeavors, having gallery shows etc, etc. Then I later find out they are struggling to survive. I'm sure there are people who have met me and presume that I'm making bank. Is that the image I am presenting? Is it the idea if you act the image you will become the image? Or can we confirm that we are all struggling artists working toward that lucky big break the we truly believe is just around the corner?

I love shooting pictures and I want to get my feature film projects funded and made. I want more people to collect my work. I would also like to have a rep that would pitch me for jobs. And a gallery that wants to rep my fine art photography. For some reason, I am lost in making these things happen. I do get paid to take photographs but not at the level and income I believe my work warrants. And I have an artist friend that I think should be making a lot more money than he probably is. In the past year, I've come to realize that quality of the work really has no relation to the monetary returns. Follow Artnet News for a couple of weeks and you'll understand what I'm talking about.

I also have a penchant for shooting homeless people - FYI this post was originally titled "Homeless" with the idea that many of the people we know or are acquainted with could be closer to being homeless than we think. One of the times I went out shooting with Israel Broussard (talented actor and budding photographer) around New York, we ended up in the Bowery and came across these two characters.

 
 

It was a Friday in late July, around lunch time. I was immediately fascinated by the guy on the right and asked if I could take some photos. I also liked the sign that makes no sense. We ended up hanging with there for a half hour. I knew the guy on the right was homeless but was surprised that the guy on the left was too. He was sitting on this new computer case which I believe had his computer inside. He had been employed but had recently fell on hard times. Anyway, we introduced ourselves and learned that both were named Peter - the guy on the right is Peter Diaz. Diaz has been homeless for a long time. He had no qualms letting us know he loved his beer and was totally okay with living on the streets.

 
 

Hopefully that is apparent in this portrait I took of him. 

 
 

Peter Diaz was also happy to receive Israel's half-eaten sandwich. The more pictures I took, the more I really appreciated the relationship that these two men had forged. And that neither of them were presenting an image. They were fine with just being themselves, despite the fact they were homeless. They were not bitter and were actually enjoying the simplicity of their lives. At least that's how I remember this encounter.

 
 

I've thought a lot about the possibility of being homeless. I was homeless for a couple of weeks when I was barely of age and first moved California. And I wouldn't be surprised if I found myself homeless at some point in the future.

So let me toss out these questions. I'm interested and curious to see if anyone will answer them...Have you ever been homeless? Are you presenting or feel you have to present an image that you are better off than you really are? How far away are you from being homeless?

I'll go first: Yes. Possibly. Probably not as far as I think I am.