Inglorious Color: Repost from March 2013


Here is a link to the great website American Suburb X and a group of street photos by newly discovered street photography master Helen Levitt. The difference between these pictures and the vast majority of her other previously shown work is that these images are in amazing color.

Seeing those images this morning inspired me to share some of my recent shots. You know, I’ve always thought of myself as a black and white street photographer. But I rarely shoot black and white street photography. I really have done very little in B&W over the last ten years. I think I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m  a street photographer who works primarily in color.

Color is the only way to capture the parts of Los Angeles I continue to want to shoot most. Hope these images from my Leica M-E capture both the timeless grit and the gripping palate of colors of life in LA in 2013.


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Something About Men and Walls and Glass


Still Fiercely a Man


An otherwise fantastic day in Los Angeles…


Two weeks ago today we started out down Pico Blvd., oblivious, enjoying our afternoon taking pictures. President Obama was in town and in the Santa Monica area so all the helicopters made perfect sense. So did the police barricades far down Pico near Santa Monica College. People milled about as if the President were likely to come right past them.

Well, that’s what we thought anyway. Had I known that there was a shooting rampage near the campus resulting in multiple fatalities, a sadly common occurrence in the United States at this particular time, I would have come away with an entirely different set of images, I think. But incredibly, even after seeing up close the disruption caused by the actions of a madman, we went about our day continuing to believe that, once again, the president had caused a major interruption to the already crowded Westside.

It was only much later in the afternoon that we found out what had really happened. So here are some random shots from that afternoon. Some capture the tense scenes around SMC, some reflect the degree to which we were completely unaware that this was unlike every other day in LA.

As so often is the case, in retrospect things look much different.






Flowers for Shirley


Learned today of the passing, not unexpected, of such a beautiful woman from my home town. She was way beyond my biggest grade school crush. She was a wife, mom, and young grandmother of an equally beautiful family. Gone way too soon. She was the consensus most beautiful girl in a town of beautiful women. I said that when I realized what was sitting behind me in the 6th grade it was like Columbus discovering America. Sad day for many people.


Too adventurous an eater in the big city…

I got  food poisoning yet again. This time it landed me in the hospital. I’m out now and feeling better but still have no oomph to post to the blog. Please forgive my absence for a bit while I get my oomph back and thank you everyone who visits, follows, and ‘likes’ here on


Sheri Wilson Dines 1958-2012

We lost Sheri at 12:20 am, Tuesday, August 28th, 2012.

Bernadette and I were with her on Saturday, my birthday, and Sheri was comfortable and serene. She commented that I’d lost weight. I have and so I showed her; walking away from her bed and turning around. “Wow,” she said, almost just mouthing the word.

I came back to her side and trying to be as cheerful as I could told her that I was getting a lot of looks from the young ladies. She muttered something unintelligible.

So I got real close, put my ear just inches away from her lips, and bathed in her pretense of disgust with me; the reality check that was the basis of our friendship, one last time.

“You’re not getting any looks from young ladies.”

And that was the last thing she ever said to me. One last dose of reality.

Sheri knew how much I loved her and how much Bernadette loved her. And we knew how much she loved us. None of that was even a question.

We didn’t spend nearly as much time together as we should have. But LA is like that. You might not see your best friend for a year and she lives two blocks away. Months fly by. I so wish I could have that time back.

I have nothing but love and gratitude for your friendship and devotion, sweetie. You’ll always be with me.


Details: Sheri’s Apartment

When Sheri moved back from Maryland she had an apartment she didn’t like for a year. Then she got to work finding a place back up closer to where she used to live. Finally found the neatest little one bedroom in Beverly Hills. Built probably back in the 1930s, the owner was meticulous in keeping up the details of the place. Sheri was always finding things to perfectly accent her environment. When she first moved in she told me to bring a camera over to take some pictures.

All shots taken with a Nikon D3 and a 85mm 1.4 Nikkor D.

Sheri’s details…, a slideshow on Flickr.

My Sheri

I’ve done everything that I can to distract myself for the past three months and avoid posting on this subject, anywhere on the internet, or to wait until I’m able to do it justice and not embarrass myself or rush it or drag it out either in frustration or emotion.

This new blog will not be a place for posts of this kind. I promise you that. is about moving forward for me. The idea and opportunity of it and how it all came together for me now is something I will go into at a later time.

But there’s no question that what’s going on in my life right now, which I address below, is triggering a maybe instinctive survival mechanism that has created a need in me to put something out there that’s positive and hopefully beautiful, something that allows me to contribute anything at all worthwhile to the conversation about photography as well as broader subjects such as beauty, politics, and life.

I met a girl 17 years ago out at the Mobil station near my apartment here in Los Angeles. Her name is Sheri Wilson. Her mom calls her ‘birdi’. I used a nickname some people called me combined with Sheri’s nickname to make the internet username ‘jammerbirdi’ that I’ve employed for the last 16 or so years online.

Life with Bernadette, my significant other for 37 years, has never left me any time for friends but Sheri was instantly a huge part of our lives, in drama and in bliss, from the moment we met.

Bernadette and I are opposites. The dichotomy is that after all these years we are as one person, almost, but we are at the same time as different from each other as two people can be. It’s been a lifelong conversation between people who are like alien beings from different planets. It’s just a chemistry thing; we love each other like there’s no tomorrow, and it’s been that way now for most of our lives.

Sheri, on the other hand, is not my opposite. She was from the beginning like something that had sprung from my own subconscious. She was the little voice inside my head. I used to call her Dr Phil in a weave and from the first moments after I met her she was already in my head snipping wires and moving things where they really were supposed to go.

I was a boy of 37 when I met Sheri and I’ve said many times that she made a man out of me.

Three months ago, Sheri called on a Monday night from her car and said she’d be home in a few minutes, to be sure to answer the phone. When she called back she told me that she had just left UCLA and had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Sheri didn’t have lung cancer, that was a misdiagnosis. The largest tumor was in her mediastinum, the cavity where the lungs and heart are, but it had already collapsed her left lung, which I’m sure contributed to the initial misdiagnosis.

The cancer was stage 4 and lesions were also found at two places on her spine, as well as on her pelvis and on her ribs. It has since spread to even more places and it’s obvious now to everyone that Sheri never really had a chance.

So that’s where it is. The first three weeks I thought I was going to lose my mind. I felt like the cancer was inside my own chest. I was depressed and I told Bernadette that I was going to go about another day of being in that place before I’d call our own doctor and get referred to someone for some professional help.

But then I hit a plateau and I got strong. Sort of. Many of you probably know what I’m talking about when I say ‘sort of’. Because things progress, you’re always being hit with something new and it’s always something terrible.

I love nothing nearly as much as Bernadette. But I’ve often wondered did I love Sheri more than my own mother, my family, my best friend from home. I don’t think you can actually know the answer to some of these things.

My emotional trigger for the last three months, and Sheri’s, has been … we just can’t believe this is actually happening. Not to us. I know that sounds less than admirable but we were both thinking why is this happening to us? To our tiny circle?

I lost my mom 9 years ago and that’s a very very hard thing. I’ve never had children, something I’ve never been more glad about than I am right now. It’s said to be the worst thing to lose a child. But I’ve personally never experienced anything as bad as listening to my best friend, younger than I am, sobbing and asking why, why, why. She was so brave and strong initially. But at some point, I guess when the finality of what she was facing hit her she became a devastated person.

I knew that this would be the most difficult situation I’ve ever faced in my life. I knew that I might not survive it myself. I’m determined to survive it, though. I thank whatever forces put certain things in my world at this precise moment because I’m using them all to help pull me out of the hell of this reality and distract my attention and thoughts to other, much better realities, that are about moving forward and trying and doing something good with the time and gifts and people you’re given in this world.

Long before this news, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the two kinds of people in all of our lives. The people who are in this world, among us, and those who are no longer in this world and among us. I’ve got a lot in that second group, and other than my mom in 2003, they’ve been there for a long long time. My father died of cancer 30 years ago. My two older brothers are dead 30 years or more. I guess when you have so many that are no longer here you think about them and how much you’d give for just a five minute phone conversation. I can make a pretty good cup of coffee. What I would give to just make my father a cup of that coffee and sit down and talk about everything we never talked about when he was alive.

My best friend is in this world, among us. So for me, with this distinction working in my mind all these many years, the last three months of knowing that she is still here right now but will soon and forever be gone has been a very destructive place to be inside my head. I can’t sleep. I don’t care how sleepy I am. I lay down and think about something else and start to drift off but the instant my mind falls on the situation, as Sheri and her mom call it, it’s like the front of my brain shoots off like it’s strapped to the front of a rocket. It’s just like that. You’re not seeing anything. At that point it isn’t even thinking. It’s just like a rushing sensation. And the adrenaline jolt is the only thing that’s real. In an instant you go from almost asleep to up on your elbows trying to breathe.

Sheri’s in the hospital now. I don’t think she’s going to be coming home. But with things so close now to where they are going I’m at times, not now but this morning for a few hours, at peace somewhat. Like I can almost see who I will be when this is over and how I can and will move forward. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t getting that glimpse of relief.

You know, I never thought of this until this all happened but… one of the most real and painful realities is that I’m losing one of the few people, honestly, in this world, who loves me. Like an asset in my column. A vote for me. Sheri has always loved me and gotten me.

Sheri spent most of her life in health care in some capacity or other. She felt deeply for aids sufferers and worked in HIV for 15 years at Pacific Oaks Medical Group in Beverly Hills with some of the most important aids doctors in the country, including President Clinton’s one-time aids czar.

When Sheri was hired untrained as a drug and alcohol counselor decades ago she was offered the job 30 seconds into the interview. You had to see it all to believe it, the charm, the eloquence, the savvy, the talent and beauty and glamourous flare that is Sheri.

Everyone who met Sheri loved her because she was just the most different chick you’d ever known. I’ll be posting more pics and some video and sound files. Because I want people to know what kind of a person she was and what a unique character she was and what this world and her family and friends and especially me are losing.

This is a hard thing for me to post this here. I appreciate anyone who took the time to read it.

She’s 53, but she never looked a day over 37. She has a boyfriend in his 20s. And he is devastated. This picture was taken three years ago.

Memorial Day 2012

Cookouts! Barbecue. Hot dogs and hamburgers. Beer. Friends and family. Unofficial start of summer. Hell yeah! That’s what Memorial Day is all about. Oh and, of course, the Memorial Day sale at Macy’s. Right?

Then there’s those people who try to remind you of the more sober aspects of the holiday. Sanctimoniously thanking ‘our’ soldiers. Does that really stick with you or are they just as annoying as the people at Christmas telling us all to remember the spirit of Christmas and that Christ ‘our’ savior was born on Christmas Day?

So they had this event down at a new memorial in Irvine for service men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. I saw it on the 11 o’clock news. The Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial looks really nice and is said to be the first of its kind in the country honoring those who have fallen in the wars on terrorism we’ve been fighting for the last eleven or so years.

But they’ve got this open mic thing going. And the wives and mothers of those who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan come up to the mic and, if you didn’t see it, I’m telling you these women are just fucking raw. All are emotional but more than a few can barely get their words out; they’re just dying up there.

Blubbering women. Most of them young enough to be my daughter, if I’d had one. Talking about what they feel on Memorial Day.

While these women are stepping up to the mic, one at a time, to tell you the names of their husbands and sons and what happened to them – as best as they can between the sniveling and gasping and choked-off words – all over this country, millions of Americans are getting drunk, washing down burgers with Bud Lite, laughing the day away talking easily about everything that careless partying Americans talk about on a summer holiday together. Most Americans are having a good time, a welcome day off from work, celebrating the start of summer and vacation time – which is and always has been the real point of Memorial Day in our culture.

A really young woman steps up to the mic in Irvine. Her two hands are in a wrestling match with each other as she speaks.

“My name is Brooke Singer and my husband was killed in January.”

Brooke looks to be about 22. She’s wearing a pretty black dress with nickle-sized white polka dots and spaghetti straps that cut into the soft skin of her shoulders. She seems to have more to say but after that one sentence she puts the back of her right hand to her face and unsuccessfully tries to stifle a sob. You can see her hand is shaking. She drops it momentarily but then quickly raises it back again to cover her mouth, which is contorted in a way she’d probably rather the entire world doesn’t see. A girl who looks like she could be Brooke’s younger sister stands helplessly to her left. A woman who must be her mother puts her arm on Brooke’s back and whispers something to her.

If you need to be told at this point that Memorial Day isn’t about cookouts and really good shopping then I don’t know what to say to you except that you’re not alone.

But if you still think it’s about thanking ‘our’ soldiers and telling them how much we love them and appreciate what they’re doing for us then you really need to either wake up or grow up or maybe just look up the word ‘memorial’ in a dictionary.

Memorial Day is about looking squarely and responsibly at young women who can barely breathe as they muster the courage to stand before a microphone in a public square and choke out the names of their dead husbands.


Film images made with a Leica M7 and 50mm 2.0 Leica Summicron lens.