85mm f1.4 Nikkor D

Minimalist Mondays : Voyeurism

“The basic condition of the voyeuristic scenario is distance, an essential separation between seer and seen. Despite this distance, which is by definition unbridgeable, despite the unrequitable nature of the desire that drives it, the voyeur’s gaze is a privileged one.”

Great book I highly recommend called Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography by Roswell Angier. The quote above is from TYG. Almost by anyone’s definition it is not a book on portrait photography. It is really an analysis of contemporary art photography as well as some of the classic but nevertheless quite daring, in their time, 20th century photographers.

The chapter on voyeurism begins with a quote by Walker Evans, certainly an idol of mine and countless other photographers.

“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”

Cali-fk’n-fornia, Man – Reposted Yet Again!

This is a very different picture of people in a car than probably anything else I’ve ever captured. In many ways.

When I saw it and shot it, I didn’t really expect that it would have the glow that popped up on my D3’s LCD. But sometimes light and a piece of glass like the legendary 85mm 1.4 Nikkor D combine to create something that goes beyond what we could reasonably hope for when we snap that shutter.

It is of a place and of a people. California, and Cali-fuckin’-fornians. There they are. I got them and I’ve brought them here to show you all. Like pretty animals in a zoo. Only in this case it’s an old T-Bird, but whatever.

That’s the stereotype right there. Straight blond hair that’s sun and saltwater bleached to go with that classic black California license plate. But of course!

You know they’re a handsome family. Well to do. You don’t eccentrically teeter around Los Angeles in a glorious old 60s tanker sporting the original paint job that YOU know looks way cooler than any redo ever could unless you have the wherewithal to maintain that level of quirk. And quirk it is.

The irony is how rarely these kinds of California residents pop up into a person’s field of view in Los Angeles. The truth about LA is there are more brown-haired, brown-eyed, brown-skinned people here than there are stereotypical California blondes. But that’s for another conversation.

In amongst the Lexuses and Hundais and preppy BMW drivers, here are the quintessential eccentric Southern Californians.

Grandpa looks like Lex Barker from the Tarzan movies. The girls look like Kate Moss. They were eating Goji berries in the Amazon rainforest 20 years before the rest of the world even heard of them. They have a cliff house in Malibu Canyon and mom had an affair with the Dalai Llama.

I’m kidding of course! I don’t know these people!!! Have a nice Tuesday!

Going Down

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On an escalator, that is, at the Century City Mall. This was taken with a Nikon D700 and the legendary 85mm 1.4 Nikkor D.

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Cheerleaders: A Love Story

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 games played on New Years Day which decide the national championship of college football. (Or they did back then, anyway.) There can’t be any question that sitting on the baseline during sparsely attended women’s basketball games would be on the other end of the spectrum for the Song Girls in terms of the excitement and exposure they enjoy as USC’s finest.

So, in that first season, when a pasty middle-aged male pointed his long lens in their direction as they dutifully performed their Song Girl responsibilities at women’s basketball games, more than once I came away with looks like this.

Beautiful, yes. But I pride myself on being able to read people’s faces and maybe, hopefully, photograph what they might be feeling or thinking at the instant I trip the shutter. This was not good.

Where’s the famous USC ‘V’ for Victory sign? This seems to be teetering dangerously into ‘Hit the Road Jack’ territory and I’m just glad the razor thin depth of field on this shot only captured the scornful glare of Song Girl number one. I don’t know that my ego could have survived all three of them giving me that look.

Okay, I’ve had my fun with this shot. It was just an instant, it wasn’t planned, I know that. But I don’t think the looks being given to me here are at all misleading. After all, I was there before and after this shot was taken. I kind of know.

But I persevered, as a man with a camera is sometimes known to do. I continued to work the baselines of USC and other schools and accumulated my share of pretty good cheerleader shots to go along with hundreds of, I hope, pretty good basketball shots.

It was probably in the third season when I had prints made of some digital images and, just to see how colors in these lighting environments transferred to print, I threw in to the order a handful of the better cheerleader shots.

Well, I really liked the way the cheerleader shots looked from USC. The lighting in the Galen Center is fantastic. Colors were gorgeous, the subjects were stunning.

And far from the somewhat violated look I got from the ladies in the image above, the Song Girls had gotten used to me and went about their business and I went about mine. The images I took of cheerleaders became very good.

So I decided that I should share the prints of the images I took of them with USC’s Song Girls. I put about a half dozen in an envelope, including the image at the very top and the two below, and, I think, it was at halftime one afternoon that I handed them off to the sports information director for women’s sports at USC, who shall remain nameless because she’s a wonderful lady and we subsequently become pals and I don’t want to drag her into any of this.

At that point, however, she really didn’t know me and when I said I had some cheerleader shots that I really liked she kind of gave me a look and muttered something about not being interested in pictures of cheerleaders. But I handed her the envelope anyway and asked her to pass them along to whomever is in charge of the Song Girls.

Never heard another word about my cheerleading pictures. As I said, the SID and I became pals as I continued to shoot USC basketball for the next couple of years. USC even presented one of my shots, blown up large, to a graduating senior. That was a tremendous honor. The SID told me once to keep doing what I was doing, calling it a ‘fine art’ style of baseline shooting. Oh yes, that SID was a pal o’ mine.

But here’s the punch line. Starting maybe the next season, and for the rest of my two or so years shooting USC, I literally could not point my camera at the USC cheerleaders (or majorettes even) without finding them already looking at me. Smiling broadly. I would notice them looking at me as I sat there doing absolutely nothing. It was all so obvious. I told my significant other about it, she agreed it was happening and we would laugh about it.

The USC Song Girls were now very willing subjects for me. Too willing. It was hard to get the spontaneity, the far off looks in someone’s eyes that you only get in truly candid moments. It was no longer sports journalism; it was something else, and the pictures were never quite the same.

And, of course, I LOVED every minute of it.

Anyway. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, as my mom used to say. And I’m not going to be humble regarding the images. I think these shots are almost iconically wonderful images of the USC Song Girls, caught candidly doing what they so cheerfully do for the University of Southern California.

Hope you like them as much as the subjects seemed to.

AUGUST: GRATUITOUS STREET CHARACTER PORTRAIT MONTH – DAY 4: UNTITLED

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.