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Memorial Day… Again?

This is a repost of the very first real blog entry (after Hello World!) on this website back in 2012. I was in a very bad place at that time. My best friend was dying. I was not good with that. I was in one of those places where a person has no patience for the simpering superficial bullshit people tell each other mostly to make themselves feel better about themselves.

And although I feel strongly (always) about the message of this post, I didn’t repost it the last few Memorial Days. I was probably in a better mood. This year though, with Memorial Day coming so closely on the heels of more gut wrenching domestic tragedies, and given everything else I see on the streets and read in the newspaper, I’m once again in a dark and unforgiving mood about my country. So fuck it.

Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ exposed much of the truth about America. We might have looked at that work and been properly shamed and sought to make a course correction. But we didn’t do that. Anyway. Enjoy this holiday. Don’t thank our troops. Remember instead the dead ones, and their wives, and their children, and their mothers, and their fathers. And forgive me for encroaching into sanctimonious behavior with a self-righteous attitude. I have no room to talk. It’s taken me over half a century to finally wake up.

Memorial Day

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

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 solitary sentence she puts the back of her right hand to her face and unsuccessfully tries to stifle a sob. That hand has a mind of its own and, almost to conceal the degree to which it is shaking, Brooke drops it momentarily but then quickly raises it back again to cover her mouth, which is contorted in a way she’d obviously 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 into her ear.

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. Not in my America.

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.

If this country can ever find its soul again it will be on some hopefully not-too-distant Memorial Day. One day when enough Americans are finally able to look squarely and, maybe more than anything else, responsibly, at young women who can barely breathe as they muster the courage to stand in front of a microphone in a public square and somehow manage to choke out the names of their dead husbands.

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

City of Night

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I grew up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. Aliquippa was the home of a giant steel mill; at one time it was the largest in the world. The entire monstrosity was near 11 miles long and employed close to 15k workers.

The town was like something out of a rust-belt boom-town dream. Or was it a nightmare? Aliquippa was in the Guiness Book of World Records for having the most bars per square mile. A recent article in our local newspaper put it this way. “Aliquippa was a dirty little town of 30,000 with more bars, bordellos and gambling rooms than most would care to admit. In 1918, a state Supreme Court justice offered the following assessment of Aliquippa:

It is said that the region is largely peopled by uneducated foreigners, who invariably carry concealed deadly weapons; that murders are common; and that when a quarrel ensues, the question as to who shall be the murdered…

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Faces of Ancient Street Shots of Los Angeles

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More from the Nikon Coolpix 950. Probably from around 2000 to 2004. I’m like Vivian Maier Lite. Less calories. Less filling. Etc. Please enjoy responsibly.

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Son of Even More Ancient Street Shots of Los Angeles

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Yes it just keeps on going. I THINK all or most of these were taken, as were the rest in this week’s blast from the past, with the Nikon Coolpix 950. Trusty little devil. Between 2000 and 2004. Which is mighty trusty indeed for a first generation digital camera. Solid.

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More, Even Better, Ancient Street Shots of Los Angeles

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Again, these images were taken with one of the first great digital cameras, the Nikon Coolpix 950. Probably from around 2000 to 2004. I had so much fun with this camera that twisted the part with the viewfinder from the side with the lens. Twisty little sucker. Like having a viewfinder camera and I don’t know why I remember it being ‘live view.’ Maybe I’m misremembering. Anyway. Yet even more images to come tomorrow.

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My Ancient Street Shots of Los Angeles

Very busy time for me. Please accept and enjoy these collections from last summer while I re-situate. 😉

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All of these images predate even my first DSLR, the Nikon D70. These were, believe it or not, taken with one of the first great digital cameras, the Nikon Coolpix 950. Probably from around 2000 to 2004. Yes, I’ve been doing this a long time. More to come.

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Nikon D70: My First DSLR – Reposted

Copy - DSC_0021I’m going through some archive realignment ordeals lately but the upside is I am relocating older images as I go. These were all taken the few months with what was then a really hot number, Nikon’s big splash in the consumer enthusiast DSLR market, a camera that was a true game changer, the D70. Anyone remember custom tone curves?

Here are some of the shots I’ve always remembered for various reasons.

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Reposted: My Sunday Morning in Vivian Maier’s Chicago

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My first outing with the Leica M9 back in 2011 was a weekend trip to Chicago. I only could afford the wonderful Leica 35mm Summarit after shelling out the money for what was my dream camera at that moment. I’d never heard of Vivian Maier at that point, as most people hadn’t. But, save for the color, this first shot I think captures a bit of the spirit of shooting on a Chicago sidewalk as she so often did. Anyway. Here’s some more. I think in some of them there is wonderful color. In others, uh… a hint of the incredible struggles to come I would experience trying to produce passable color with my M9.

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Help The Los Angeles Center of Photography Improve Kids’ Lives! 

Photo by Julia Dean

The Los Angeles Center of Photography has applied for a $100,000 grant to help teach LA’s Boys & Girls Clubs photography. To win the grant requires votes from friends of both photography and kids!

More from the LACP:

There are 51 proposals in our category and right now, we’re in 20th place. We must be in the top 10 for a chance to win. (The committee selects the winner from the top 10.) Our proposal outlines a yearlong photography program in LA’s Boys & Girls Clubs. The grant is meant for non-profits with projects that will help create a better LA, now and in the future. VOTING ends on November 3.

PLEASE VOTE!!! It will take only five minutes. Here is how to do it:

1. Go to: http://www.LA2050.org

2. Hit the hot pink tab that reads VOTE IN THE MYLA2050 GRANTS CHALLENGE

3. Choose a Submission Category (Our proposal is under CREATE)

4. Now you have to sign up. Signing up is easy. See the top right corner of the LA2050 home page, where it reads, “Join.”

5. Then find our project (you will see a picture of me in a classroom with the Boys & Girls Club kids) and VOTE for LACP’s proposal!

6. You will then get an email confirming your vote. (This may take up to an hour to get this, so don’t fret.) You have to click on the link in this email to confirm your vote.

More on the proposal from Julia Dean:

About our proposal: I set up the curriculum and began our one-year program at the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Boyle Heights on Jan. 14, 2015. I teach every Wednesday afternoon. We have completed the basic, portraiture and street shooting class so far. The documentary class began last week. The plan is for each boys & girls club to document their own community and exhibit the work at LACP. Our first exhibit — from the Variety Boys & Girls Club — will take place in February 2016. There are 26 clubs in LA County. We hope to implement our program in all of them, once we raise enough money.

Source: Help Us Improve Kids’ Lives. Please Vote for LACP!

Inglorious Color

One of the moments with my new M-E when I realized that I had something. This day completely turned around my street photography and set the stage for all the images I would post on 50lux.com thereafter. Seriously. I can’t believe I’ve never reblogged or reposted this. Here it is….

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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…

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Happy Birthday, Sister Linda!!!

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Happy Birthday and much love to my big sister, Linda. So amazing to have her as a friend at this age. We are really the only two left in our family and I think we both feel really so fortunate to have each other and that we’re both healthy and sane and sober (for the moment 😉

Love you, Linda, and thank you for your friendship and you guys have a great day I’m sure watching the Steelers. Talk to you later today!!!

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Peace, please…

Another day like this one…

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Sometimes the message gets lost in the flow and crush of humanity. Click on the image for a larger version.

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Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, November 2014

I have no thoughts to add to the wonderful quote by the Archbishop of Canterbury. 😉 Enjoy this post please from last year.

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Viewers of Landscape

Each landscape is formed by the point of view of the spectator; it is a spiritual experience, the reflections of a culture. In a sense, therefore, the photographer first has to make a portrait of the people who muse over the landscape they behold. In thus placing himself behind them, he expresses both complicity with the natives and irony towards the invaders.

– Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1988

Magnum Landscapes
PHAIDON – 1996

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More Long Forgotten But Not Gone Pictures

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

DSC05611-Edit-2In Colorado. Get it? This is NOT L.A.! Okay. Just wanted to make sure. 😉

This is, I believe, Pikes Peak, the back view. It was, I can confirm, taken midmorning from a very high elevation in the beautiful Rocky Mountains overlooking the most gorgeous mountain lake. So the mountains you see don’t seem quite as high as the 14k foot range they are. What a trip! Many more pictures to follow in the coming days.

REBLOG: A New Leica M-E is Coming! Happy Dance (and a bit of a confession from me…)

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Some of the images in this post were made with a Leica M7 and Fujifilm 400 and some were made with a Leica M-E. This isn’t a test or a game. They’re just so wonderfully close and that result is so typical of the M-E that I thought I’d sweeten this news with a graphic demonstration of why I’m so happy with the Leica M-E and the news that follows.

Incredibly excited beyond any words today to hear this. Please click on the link at the bottom to the great Leica News & Rumors blog for more info.

But I have to say, one reason I’m so happy to hear this is that I can now really open up about how happy I am with the Leica M-E. And the selfish reason I didn’t do that to the extent that I wanted to is because my understanding is that Leica was discontinuing…

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My Image Entitled “Gestalt Moment”…

A reblog from last summer. Hoping for similar news to report in a few weeks as the second LACP juried member’s exhibition images are selected.

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Very excited to learn that the above image, Gestalt Moment, won a spot in the Los Angeles Center for Photography’s first Juried Member’s Exhibition that will run from July 11 – August 12. Over 800 images were submitted and 50 were selected.

I set out to do a number of things in terms of street photography when I embark into the city to make my images. I don’t go out with a single project in mind but after so many years of shooting in Los Angeles I know there are a number of things on the spectrum of possibilities that I can hope to find and document.

This image actually represents a number of those things. First and foremost I think what my photography is about is that it’s psychological. That’s certainly a matter of perception and right or wrong, true or false, I attempt to make images of that…

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Art, Documentary, or News: Photography and Racial Politics

Somewhat unimpressed with my current photography, here’s a little something from last year. 😉

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L1050830-Edit-2That title suggests a lot, I know. These are amazing times online. There are at any point, almost surely simultaneous, multiple battles occurring in larger cultural wars over things like racial and sexual politics. The recent Stephen Colbert – Suey Park skirmish was fascinating, the back and forth analysis provided me, at least, with an education in the current taxonomy of racial and gender politics at least framed by a small subset of the larger culture.

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Anyway, so it now falls on photography to fire our interest and further the fine-tuning of all of our racial and political sensibilities. Here specifically, in the article I’m linking to, the analysis turns towards two different presentations of the same photographs taken (obviously) by the same photographer and how those presentations differ and cross many lines. Some that are probably okay to cross and some that are, increasingly, not.

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None of us really want…

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Ever So Slightly Crushing It

One day last year. At least I think so. I’m loving the ‘mosaic tile’ gallery option on WordPress. It only took me years to notice it. So I might go back to some of my older posts with lots of images and put them together in this new (ahem) and exciting way. 😉

Their Night

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Thank you, once again, to Tollie and the master witchy hostess, Marjorie, for another incredible Halloween party! We promise to dress up next year! Promise! L1067122-EditL1067116-Edit L1067179-EditL1067239-Edit L1067136-Edit L1067216-EditL1067102-Edit L1067222-Edit L1067163-Edit L1067129-Edit L1067158-EditL1067104-Edit L1067272-EditL1067093-Edit

Memories of Rio

P1000690BSAs I’m typing this, Russia and Belgium are scoreless in the 82nd minute in the stadium in Rio. Yes, I wish I was there. The afternoon we went to Corcovado was incredible. Finding my scattered images from those days is, however, an incredible pain. Anyway… GOOD LUCK… to Team USA later today as we take on Portugal! Happy Sunday to everyone.

Dirt Surfing

One of my favorite shots ever. From a powdery warm winter’s day in Los Angeles quite a few years ago. Reblogged from Aug of 2012 because so few people were visiting my blog back then!

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Finally, get your Leica M-E review here!

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Today, it is the digital Leica M-E that embodies the philosophy of the M-System in its purest form. – Leica Camera AG

HEY EVERYONE! DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER… 

@50Lux14

From the get go I should point out that this is as much a love story as it is a review of a piece of photographic equipment.

Yes, I love the Leica M-E. But this is the love of someone who owned a Leica M9 for over a year and who put 24k shutter clicks on that first full-frame Leica digital rangefinder. I did not like my M9. I don’t like YOUR M9. (I’m kidding, I don’t know your M9)

Almost from the moment I first held my M9 something seemed to be not quite right. I’d been shooting an unused silver M7 for about four months, a camera that Ken Rockwell likens to a gun. I…

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Cheerleaders: A Love Story

Reblogging this one from last August. Hope you all enjoy it!

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When I first started shooting women’s basketball, the instructions from my boss at the publication were to not just bring back action shots from the floor, but shots of fans, cheerleaders, the band, etc. Everything and anything that would capture the atmosphere in the arena.

But he made it pretty clear that what he really wanted was cheerleader shots. That should be perfectly understandable; it’s an online publication, he needs traffic just as much as any other online publication does. And pretty girls equal heavy traffic.

No better place on Earth than to fulfill our need for click bait than the campus of USC, where the cheerleaders are icons of youth, beauty, energy, and style. I’ve seen a lot of cheerleaders, but USC’s “Song Girls” (that’s right, they don’t even call them cheerleaders) are in a class all their own.

But these fabulous ladies strut their stuff at Rose Bowl…

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