The Gilded Age is Back

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Los Angeles is one of those places on this Earth where one can observe the extent to which the disparity between the haves and the have-nots has become a gulf of historic proportions.

Just this week there’s the story of how prospective middle class home buyers, teachers, managers, in the Inland Empire of Southern California, are attempting to purchase homes while prices are at historic lows. But the properties are being quickly bought up by cash buyers. Not local individuals, but far-off investment firms ranging from places like Wall St. to beyond including China and the Middle East.

People who live, shop, work and pay taxes in cities like Riverside and San Bernardino, and certainly soon to be Los Angeles and everywhere else in California, can’t take advantage of these never-seen-before prices for homes because people from far far away will capitalize financially at this advantageous time.

The plan, as has been reported in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere, is to create a super-industry of residential rentals, owned and managed by the wealthy firms on Wall St. and elsewhere who can easily buy up these properties with cash. That’s right. They will then RENT these homes to the very area residents who were willing and able to buy those same properties at the prices they were sold at and, in many cases, even more as these locals have learned that they must often overbid by tens of thousands of dollars to even have a chance of winning the prize of their dream home.

Permanent far off landlords will take the place of the American dream of owning one’s own home. Someone will get rich on those locals instead of them being able to claim homes and property they were more than willing to buy and own.

Meanwhile in places like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica and I’m sure in the better parts of Manhattan and Boston and the northeast one can easily see up close how extremely well some people in this world are doing financially. What it really means to have the stock market hovering near record highs while unemployment and other economic indicators measure what continues to be an ongoing economic ditch for much of the country and the world.

I think we all better start getting used to it. Or get used to the idea that we’re going to have to do something about it at some point. Because the wealthy of this world are pulling together, across national or ethnic lines, their wealth binding them as an unstoppable force, while the proverbial and literal 99% of the rest of the world, maybe more, are relegated to being spectators watching how they live their lives.

6 comments

  1. For some reason I feel compelled to comment on this image and essay. The image is beautiful–and makes great use of the glass in the background. But on the theme, the people look bored. In many of your street photos of “have-nots” you see so much more emotion in the faces. Sometimes it’s desperation, but it can also be a kind of peace you won’t find on 5th Ave. in NYC or Rodeo Drive.

    I went to grad school at Ole Miss and took a photography class. I remember two photo essays, one on the Memphis Zoo and one on Courthouse square in Oxford. By 1973 the square was inhabited by both black and white “characters” whose faces reflected hard lives, but yet they were in some way more alive than the Yuppies at the Zoo.

    In your work I see great similarities with video (I hope you don’t take that as an insult–it is a compliment) You feel like you can step into the scene. One of my “soap box” lectures I gave in every production class was about the power of video to both influence and reflect society. I believe good video and good photography strike a balance, and I don’t believe that any image has ever been totally an influence or a reflection–although some are skewed one way or the other. Your images move me and open my eyes to a world I’ve never seen in person–but I feel like I know a little bit about now.

    Thanks for sharing your great work.

    1. No, thank YOU, David. I so sincerely thank you for your appreciation for what I’m doing. If there is ONE thing that I want to do with my photography, it is photograph the silent visual communications of people as revealed in their world. Psychological street photography. Social street photography. If I see it, and I think I do, then I will photograph it and hope that there are people who will also see it in my images. I think that has been at the heart of so many photographers that so many of us have grown up idolizing, even if we didn’t know their names were Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and so many who came after.

      But there’s something else that you’ve touched on that I think is and has always been paramount in my mind. Opening anyone’s eyes to ANYTHING that they might not have seen before. I know one thing about my street photography. It’s not a copy of anyone else’s style or results. If you want to do great street photography, there is a beaten path. I love that stuff, but I’m instinctively pre-disposed to avoiding repeating what other photographers are doing or have done. Even down to original graphic abstractions on the street that really aren’t repeatable but somehow are following familiar patterns.

      I would rather photograph someone who no one has ever seen photographed in that way before, in an environment that virtually no one photographically has ever seen before and certainly without that person framed at that moment, and, the processes of recognition and selections; the necessary psychologically tell or expression or gesture or posture or whatever… that shows that person in the thoughtful midst of his or her life… because without that I don’t have a picture… and together makes an image that NO ONE has ever seen before or will or could ever witness again. I don’t think there’s anything more important that a person can do with a camera with street photography than to, as you’ve said, open someone’s eyes to a world they’ve never seen.

      That’s the only photography that I’ve ever really been interested in. When I shoot events or sports or anything that I’ve done, I’m looking for moments that pass very quickly of people revealing themselves in their faces or by their body language or interaction with others.

      Anyway. I’m rambling. Thank you again, David. For your support and kind words.

      db

  2. You are not rambling. You appear to have succinctly summarized my “soapbox” lecture I’ve given to generations of budding young videographers on telling the story. BTW a “soapbox” lecture is one drawn from my life and professional experience rather than from the textbook or literature. I have always begun these talks with a disclaimer.

    A $35,000 broadcast camcorder will produce stunning images for anyone who has even a basic understanding of how to operate it. I have tried to encourage students to go beyond pretty images and concentrate on the STORY. Often the story is best told by switching off the auto iris, playing around with depth of field, and understanding how we can use post production tools to pull viewers into the heart of the story. Two of my former students that I know of have won national Emmys for what is rather interestingly called “news photography.” They were obviously very talented, but I’m egotistical enough to think I might just possibly have planted a seed that they nurtured.

    Anyway, keep telling those compelling stories with powerful images that pull people in.

    1. I’m very sure you did instill much that enabled those students to have the tremendous Emmy winning success. That’s incredible. I’m so honored that you see anything like that in my work, although I DO know exactly what I’m going for in my shots, but it’s not that often someone comes along who is dialed-in enough to recognize and articulate what is being done. Thank you and that you SO MUCH for your support for 50’lux.com. It is so much appreciated you can’t know. The encouragement and support from a person such as yourself, from the halls of higher learning in the visual arts, it really really means a lot to me.

      Thank you, David.

      db

      1. Thanks for the kind words. My world has been measured in 29.97 images per second for so long that I am enjoying concentrating on just one “frame” at a time again. Your site has been a real inspiration.

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