To mark the passing of Hugh Hefner I’m reposting this from years gone by. RIP Hef. Lord knows you’d need some rest by now. 😉
So let me tell you the story.
I get a call from a BET producer on a Friday night asking if I can go shoot an event for her at the Playboy Mansion the next night. It might come as a surprise to most people but the Playboy Mansion is the site of innumerable charity functions. I’d been up there before. Swam in the grotto pool. Blah blah blah.
But never, slow my rapidly beating heart, had I ever been there with a camera and a press credential.
So of course, I say yes! The problem, however, is that at that time in my life my health was absolutely miserable. So when the next day dawned blisteringly hot, I was both sick and apprehensive.
To get to these things at the Playboy Mansion you have to shuttle over. Actually they’re full-sized buses and you usually depart from a giant multi-level parking garage somewhere else on the Westside of Los Angeles. That was the case when I had my significant and dubious girlfriend of over three decades drop me off at the parking garage.
And I was still feeling very bad. And it was hot as Hades. I gave her strict instructions to be ‘on call’ cell phone on because I knew there’d be a long wait in a smothering parking garage and that I’d probably bail even before the first bus departed.
That was at 5:00 pm west coast time. Girlfriend didn’t hear from me again until near 1:00 am, when she found me lying on the sidewalk where she left me, drenched in sweat, with an absolutely stupid semi-permanent smile plastered on my half-crocked visage.
Yes. I was there a LONG time. I went through three or four different types of event photography all in one night. Red carpet. Long lens daylight candids. Available lowlight shooting. Standard event flash photography with the SB-800 and the 24-70 f2.8 Nikkor.
Lot of great stories. Met a lot of great people, believe it or not.
A pair of young female reporters for an online publication that covers charity events hooked up with me on the bus over. I guess this is when you know you’re getting old and harmless as a guy and maybe just a little pathetic. One of the girls was LOVELY. For a lot of the evening she carried my heavy camera back pack around for me. Are you kidding me? Nice girl, definitely not from L.A.
At one point in the dusky part of the early evening, after sundown but when there’s still some light in the air, and of course there’s plenty of lighting at the event, a heavily geared up Canon shooter came up to me while I was shooting with the 70-200 f2.8 Nikkor. This is in the early days of the D3. He was very irritated with me for some reason and he says, “You know you’re not getting anything with that lens in this light?”
That was right around the time the picture at the top of this post was taken. And this one.
I’m linking to a Flickr slideshow of the images that ended up being used not by BET but another publication. They might appear a little soft in the slideshow as they are only 800x on the long end. It’s the entire gallery of ‘safe’ images.
But I’m also including below a definitevly NSFW slideshow of images that have never been seen by anyone but myself. These are of body-painted girls and when I say NSFW I really mean it! These are not your father’s body-painted naked girls here.
It’s the Playboy Mansion. What’d you expect?
Former press secretary in the Kennedy administration Pierre Salinger told a story that shows the late president’s wit when the press secretary came to the Oval Office with a problem. “Mr. President. We’re getting into trouble with women’s groups over the fact that the First Lady is always seen walking three steps behind you.” (paraphrasing there.) The president thought for a moment, then said… well, I guess you can figure it out from here. 😉
The issues shooting the Leica M9/M-E sensor at higher ISOs are well documented. But it should also be well documented that, when shooting black and white, you can forget those noise concerns almost entirely. I very often will shoot JPEG FINE mode on the b&w setting when I make that decision to shoot b&w. I like the way they look and I always have since my first M9. I’ll tell the story of how I came to love shooting b&w JPEGs straight out of the camera some other time. But I love them. And at 18 megapixels in b&w, how much image data do you need? That was my attitude three years ago and it’s still my attitude today. Much more on that sometime soon.
I’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.
The image above is mine. The words are William Klein’s but I can certainly identify with them . He says this in an amazing contact sheet analysis film I’ve included below.
Everyone with an interest in photography should watch it and should look on YouTube for other contact sheet discussions by photographers like Sebastião Salgado and Josef Koudelka.
As always, thank you for looking.
“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.”
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.
Getting back to some Leica photography. The date has been announced for the annual Fashion’s Night Out 2012 and it is September 6th.
Sooo… this entry today here at 50lux.com has a triple purpose.
First, I would like to give Leica and other lowlight shooters a heads-up to the coming FNO extravaganza, Vogue Magazine’s world-wide phenomena and to let you all know that this very impressive event is probably coming to a city somewhere near you.
It’s an incredible opportunity to get out and photograph great style and beauty and all in the vibrant colors and exact low-light conditions where our super-fast Leica glass really shows its stuff.
Second, of course, I want to showcase my own humble efforts in that regard from last year. All the images you see here were shot on film, with my trusty M7. Mostly with a Zeiss 50mm Sonnar f1.5 mounted, but there’s more than a few with the Leica 35mm Summicron 2.0 ASPH. Also shot mostly Kodak 800 Ultramax film but I also put a couple of rolls of TMAX 32oo through the M7 which I will post in a few days.
But now, and thirdly, I’m also going to turn my attention to a gentle constructive review of the event itself with the hope that this critique will find whomever might be in the organizing group planning this year’s festivities in Beverly Hills, where the FNO event I attended took place. You’ll get an idea of why I would want to get this into their hands if you read on.
Okay, right up front I should say that my attending last year’s Fashion’s Night Out in Beverly Hills event was for the sole purpose of shooting some frames of fast film with some even faster Leica and Zeiss glass mounted on my M7.
But I’m a critical sort. So in between trying to catch some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my camera’s viewfinder, I did manage to cast a critical eye towards the event itself.
First, I think it’s a great idea. I’m a photographer. I love beauty and fashion. I have no connection, however, with the beauty or fashion industry as a photographer, or in any other way except as a admiring male who doesn’t leer from behind a camera.
Much. Come on, I am perfectly capable of taking a great picture of a beautiful woman without leering. In theory.
Anyway, I didn’t attend the event in 2010 so I have no reference point to compare 2011 with the previous year. But I was surprised at how little there was actually going on at this event on the very premier boulevard of shopping and fashion: Rodeo of Beverly Hills.
Not to be overly critical, but I expected many small continuous fashion shows outside of some of the major trendy stores. A little more effort from the big fashion houses. An appreciable media presence. A few big names.
Pretty much nothing like that here. There was a set up for a fashion show, so maybe I was late. Got there at 8:00 and the event was scheduled till 10:00. Stores were pretty much an indoor thing, just like any other day. Except this was night.
There was a makeover area which was certainly busy. A street portrait artist working in charcoal, I believe. Food was supplied by a handful of not very interesting food trucks. People were lounging on the curb eating.
At one or two of the stores, there was an actual doorman allowing entry to only, I supposed, an invited few. Nice touch there as some pretty fancy Beverly Hills wives were turned away. Ouch. I have pictures of that.
I’m sorry, BH. I just think this is a great idea that should be done with a little more attention to class and detail and results. The number of people in attendance clearly demonstrated that there is an appetite for this type of event right there on Rodeo Drive.
Come on, Beverly Hills, you can do much MUCH better than this.
That said, please enjoy the pictures.
THE REBLOGGING CONTINUES UNABATED! This from a few years ago.
Honestly, I’m not sure there’s two opposing camps out there. I think the way it usually goes is some poor unsuspecting chap says he likes to take pictures… and then, invariably, someone wearing a much more expensive watch says he doesn’t take pictures, he makes them.
Then the first guy smiles and shrugs and says yes, of course, and then looks at his feet. The party’s over for him. He doesn’t even know what the other guy is talking about.
Make pictures? What does that even mean? What’s the difference between taking a picture and making one? Are they really two different things? How come I don’t know this?
The reason he might not know it is because there are so many instances in life where others hang onto information as if it’s a proprietary asset. Or, just as likely a theory, as long as I’m casting aspersions, they can’t really explain it themselves even if they wanted to because they themselves don’t know.
Ansel said it. That should be good enough for everyone. Right?
The truth is, making and taking a picture are really two different things. What the annoying snobby person (a recurring character on this blog) may not know is that, believe it or not, both are important approaches to photographing and it’s important to know the difference and to be able to execute on either at your discretion as a fairly decent photographer.
Simply put, you MAKE a picture when your eye selects a subject or scene and you can envision how you want that picture to appear in a photographic image and then you set about the business of positioning yourself and your camera, deciding areas under your control such as the aperture and how it will effect depth of field, for instance, as well as principles of composition or how you might use exposure, the balance of light and shadow, and an almost infinite number of other variables that will allow you to achieve the image that you’re envisioning as an end result.
Almost everything is riding on you. Your desired outcome will come about to your satisfaction only if you can execute and control the many decisions and results that represent your own vision for the image.
It’s an important basic concept to be aware of as a photographer and you can cement the processes involved in making images as opposed to taking them into your mind by repeated practice or application. After you’ve ‘made’ a half dozen great images of things as banal as the folds and polka dots on your shower curtain you’ll understand the concept of making an image as opposed to taking one.
But as you have probably already figured out, this is just one approach or thought process of photography and there certainly are countless instances where great photographers producing iconic images were not and are not engaging in anything approaching such a carefully thought-out creative process in the capturing of their images.
In fact, and apologies to Ansel Adams, I would suggest the vast majority of photography’s most famous, memorable, or iconic images were not made in the sense that they were envisioned, preconceived, thought about, prepared or set up for, or any of the many actions that a creative photographer might go through in an effort to make an image.
This is probably best explained with a picture, which is, the last time I bothered to check, still not really worth a thousand words.
Sao Paulo, Brazil. 2006. Women’s World Championship of Basketball.
Team USA has just lost a game in international competition for the first time in 14 years. Since international amateur athletic bodies that govern things like world championships and the Olympics changed the rules that prohibited professional athletes from participating, allowing for the creation of ‘dream teams’ made up of the best professional players in a given sport, the United States had dominated the world in women’s basketball.
But the scrappy (and photogenic) team from Russia found a way to do what no one believed even possible; literally beat the Americans at their own game.
So a bunch of baseline photographers are under the far basket after the historic loss. Some of us, the Americans I’m guessing, are shocked and more than a little bit angry. We all came a long way to shoot the United States winning a world championship.
We’re all looking around in confusion and as the Russian post-game celebration extends beyond a polite 30 seconds or so, it seemed that most of us had gotten all the shots we needed of this sacrilegious demonstration and we’d gone back to mostly arguing about who screwed the pooch harder, the US players or coaches.
After a while, in any group or pool of photographers covering an event, there’s this group-think that seems to occur. We all know what we’re there to get, and I think some of us can get a little self conscious if we’re the last photographer still grinding away at our shutter’s life expectancy at eight frames per second shooting at essentially the same scene. You don’t really want to be that guy. What is that clown doing? You mean you haven’t gotten one in focus YET?
But then I saw something. Something was added to the scene. Instinctively I raised my Nikon D3 with the 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor VR mounted and took this shot.
I will tell you without question that it is my firm opinion that if women’s basketball and the exploits of our US national team in international ball were a big deal in this country, as big of a deal as say, NBA basketball is in America, then this image would have been an iconic capture.
It’s Diana Taurasi, then and probably now the best women’s player in the world, dejectedly walking by as the ecstatic Russians carry on the celebration of their incredible upset of a team made up of the best professional and amateur women ballers our country could produce. Something that hadn’t happened, as I pointed out earlier, in 14 years.
I know you could argue that I somehow made that image, and that’s fine. My mind recognized the opportunity and blah, blah, blah. Yes, I was prepared to shoot that moment. But we’re all as photographers in a constant state of preparation.
The truth is, I took that shot. And the further truth is, I seek to take shots a lot more than I set out to make shots.
I wrote this article because I think I understand the difference between the two and can explain it. I also wrote it because I’d like to change as a photographer. I can take shots. I’m very good at it and I want to continue taking them whenever the opportunity arises.
But I want to spend a lot more time in the future of my photography making images. This blog entry will be, I hope, a major step forward for me to focus my attention onto an approach to photography that I’ve often neglected.
You don’t really know something, it is said, unless you can explain it to others. And I sincerely hope this piece is as helpful to me as it might be to anyone reading it.
P.S Here’s another women’s basketball shot that this time I apparently, in spite of myself, somehow managed to make.
P.P.S. This article was originally published here on 50lux.com June 10th, 2012. I could (and probably should) just reblog these old articles, but they don’t display quite the way I would like them to so I don’t. I guess I don’t quite see the harm in doing it this way.
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 tropical birds in a zoo. Only, in this case, it’s just 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!
I’m not usually speechless or at a loss at how to respond to something. But I am through the looking glass right now. I’ve known about this for three days but I haven’t even been able to post the news here on 50lux.com because I’m so blown away.
The LACP, which selected one of my images, Gestalt Moment, for their first member’s exhibition earlier this year, asked for submissions for an upcoming street shooting exhibition early in 2015 which will be both in their gallery and also online.
I submitted 10 images. The response from street shooters in the LA area was great. 129 photographers submitted almost 800 images. The judges were serious. National Geographic’s much esteemed Sam Abell. Stephen McLaren, whose book, Street Photography Now has been on my bookshelf for years.
As far as I can tell, I’m one of only three photographers to have four images selected!
I don’t know what else to say. I would have been GREATLY honored to have one image selected and featured either in the online gallery and over the moon to have one once again on the wall of the LACP exhibition. But I will have TWO on the wall and an additional two different images in LACP’s online gallery for a total of four online.
I just want to thank Julia Dean, and the judges, and EVERYONE associated with the LACP for being what they are and creating their presence in Los Angeles photography and giving photographers here the platform and recognition as they have so deftly and gracefully done. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Since these four images will be featured on LACP’s own online gallery, and they have bestowed upon me this great honor, I don’t want to steal their thunder or take away even one web click from them by posting the images here.
I also won’t even post any of the six shots that weren’t selected as that too seems a bit of a weird thing to do at this time. I will at some point but certainly not now.
The shots have all been featured here in the last year. Three of the images were taken with Nikon cameras and one with the Leica M. I think. Don’t hold me to that. I’m so blown away I barely know my own name right now.
Thank you also to everyone who visits this site and has encouraged me and my photography. You have bolstered the notion in my head that I have something to say photographically and that has kept me going these past years and I thank you all so much for that.
And I want to also thank Leica for the inspiration. Always. Even before I shot Leica. Switching to Leica gear was a complete rebirth for my photography. I could not have gone on another year shooting big autofocus DSLRs. I certainly wouldn’t have been inspired to start this blog without Leica and without this blog… anyway.
I’m thanking everyone today!
No, this untitled shot from 2008 isn’t what I’m showing. But I’m extremely proud to have an image selected for this landmark event in Southern California photography taking place at the Los Angeles Center of Photography’s Hollywood gallery location. The exhibition will run through August 12 and features 49 works by what is I’m sure a wide range of local photographic talent.
Details are as follows:
Today at 7:00pm
1515 Wilcox Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90028
Another REPOST of one of my little iPad Garageband ditties. Always very influenced by the music of Frank Zappa, I recreated a Montana guitar solo groove, a funky nasty little pocket to jam over in F# minor, and played my Gibson ES-335 through a little Vox Valvetronic bedroom amp. I need to do more of this in my spare time. I’ve been playing the guitar now for about 48 years. Probably won’t be able to tell from this, though. 😉
Like the war, it goes on way too long and has plenty of sour notes and questionable resolutions. But here the only thing that bleeds is your ears.
Garageband has (had) some very crappy (as usual) guitar amp ‘modeling’ feature. When I tried it last year it was very lame. But Apple is constantly upgrading Garageband, etc. So I tried it again, just plugged into my iODock and directly into the iPad. Wow. Wasn’t expecting to record a guitar solo I would want to share on the second try. The amp feature is now very usable. I like the rawness here; it’s not polished playing, but that’s okay.
Love seeing those who hail from these beleaguered nations where their friends and family are living under murderous regimes enjoying the freedom we have in the US to protest those situations. M7, 35mm Summicron 2.0 ASPH, Walgreens 200.
Originally published here in November 2012 but after reading a recent article on the atrocities the regime in Syria has perpetrated against children, I think unheard of in any of our lifetimes, I wanted to repost these images as a reminder of the continuing hell that is Syria.
Despite the name of this blog, my favorite camera lens is Leica’s legendary 50mm 2.0 Summicron. I think both the 50 and the 35 Crons are the bomb. The reason I own and shoot the 50’Lux is because of the additional capability of the f1.4 and the beautiful ‘special’ effects of shootings the lens wide-open or even at f1.7.
I highlight the word ‘special’ because the ability to shoot a lens at 1.4 and take for granted great sharpness and color and contrast AND beautiful lush bokeh is to give your photography almost a special effect capability.
But as you can see from the image above, the 50 ‘Cron, despite the gripes sometimes heard about a busy bokeh, is no slouch in producing almost the same special effect of a razor sharp subject and a wonderfully bokeh-licious background. And don’t even ask about color and contrast at f2. My reading of LFI magazine down through the years tells me that Leica considers their Summicron lenses to be without compromise; perfect in every way. I agree.
My 50 ‘Cron is one of the Canadian jobs. Probably 18 or so years old. I picked it up at BelAir camera for the laughable price of $475. Grab one if you can find it.
Oh, yes, this is a reblog of sorts. Done today in recognition of the NBA All Star Game…. which I won’t be watching and wouldn’t watch if you paid me. But still… 😉
Not a lot to say here. Just my tribute to the decision by CVS to stop profiting from the sale of this most dangerous of product lines at their pharmacies. All Nikon shots. Deep in the L.A. street.
This guy has good form. Feet shoulder length apart. Arms loose at his sides. Get it, buddy!
No, really. What are friends for?
So glad I never had kids.
I read somewhere that every great photo, and I’m not suggesting the above photo is great, but that it is said that there’s something just a little weird about every great photo. That’s all I’m saying. 😉
Okay, at least he’s not hovering over my lunch. Yet.
I think images should require something from the person who is looking upon them. A photograph doesn’t or shouldn’t have to be obvious in order to be something that holds some value. I think this image could be taken as an example of that. I don’t want to say much more about the picture itself. It either makes a statement to you or it doesn’t. It made a statement to me.
Now it has a sequel. The top image was shot almost a year ago and was taken with the Zeiss 50mm Sonnar 1.5. I think the color representation of that lens is evident in the image. That lens is just stellar and classic. The second image, the one at the bottom of this post, was taken with the Leica 50mm Summilux 1.4 ASPH, and I think the color signature of that lens is also amazingly evident in this shot.
I call the color I get from my 50’lux ‘comic book color’ and I mean that as a high compliment, although some people have taken issue with that characterization. I think you can see what I mean by that description, however, by looking at this image in comparison to the Zeiss image.
The 50’lux does the most stunning job of slapping an abundance of the primary colors all over the film plane. I love it. I’m addicted to it. I’ve never seen anything like it. And I couldn’t live without it at this point. 😉
Both were taken with (shhhh!) Walgreens 400 ISO film. Light was much different, though. The first image was taken in sunlight, and the second was taken after the sun was down behind the buildings. Aperture opens up and everything here in Los Angeles at that time is bathed in a fantastic blue glow, I’ve always imagined because of the close proximity of the mighty Pacific.
My plan is to shoot more images like this that are attempting to make statements (even if only to me) that express the humanity of my subjects and hint at some of the complexities of their lives and their predicaments and the costs of their struggles as shown on their faces.
There are so many cliches surrounding the largely Mexican American immigrant base in California and the United States.
I’m not expressing a political perspective with what I hope to be an ongoing photographic project. But the Hispanic population, their families, their contributions, and their various ‘roles’ in what makes up Los Angeles is so complex that the cliches and the level of understanding around the country of their presence here amounts to an affront to true cultural understanding.
Being Mexican in Los Angeles, or El Salvadorian or Guatemalan, be it as an illegal or as a someone born of legal immigrants, with rare exception, is to live a life that makes you collectively part of the cheap labor engine that enables so many of the rest of us here to live crisp clean unburdened lives. Los Angeles is a story that is built, not just historically, but every single day, upon the labor of this population base.
There is a flip side to this story, of course, which is the effect that having such a massive cheap labor population base made up of one ethnicity has on other, even American-born, ethnicities. But these pictures can only tell the story that they tell, and it is, I think, an important one to tell.
Thanks for looking, and long live FILM.
Good lighting and exposures are very important. Color and proper focus are both critical. That’s all. lol. Okay, just kidding. But you didn’t REALLY think I wasn’t going to make a defense of street photographers taking pictures of kids who aren’t theirs, did you?
I originally published this about a year and a half ago and it met great controversy when I posted a link to it over on DPReview. Some people threatened my physical well being. Or at least it seemed that way to me.
In the interim, the state of California actually implemented a law last year preventing celebrity hounding paparazzi (not judging, I’ve sold many celebrity images via a celebrity photo agency and some of them were surreptitiously taken) from taking images of the children of, you guessed it, celebrities.
First, let me say that I’m just a little appalled that celebrities have the power to win the passage of special laws that benefit only them. That you can trot a couple of lovely weeping actresses like Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner out in front of the state legislature and get a law protecting only their children is kind of an outrageous proposition.
But I was also relieved to find out that it did only apply to them and their children. Sort of a dichotomy I guess you could call it. I’d thought of ranting and raving against the passage of the law and hounding the governor of California, Jerry Brown, to refuse to sign off on it but, honestly, on the one hand, I’m not supportive of the idea that children of celebrities should be targeted by a stalking paparazzi. That is unacceptable.
But had that law included ALL photographers, and made anyone taking images of children in a street photography situation law breakers for doing so I would have been even more outraged. There is a price of celebrity and that price should be paid by celebrities and not free citizens doing what photographers have had free license to do since the advent of photography.
Anyway. Here it is. I can only give you my answer to the question of whether or not it’s okay to take pictures of other people’s children, in public, with no permission from anyone. It is the answer that I’ve come up with that applies to me. Every single person reading this has to come up with an answer that works for them and please don’t take anything I’m writing here as legal advise or even suggestions as to what you should or should not be doing with your cameras or with your lives.
The only immutable law, I would suggest, is that you’d better be taking pictures of kids for good reasons and with the best intentions. And there are many and you have a right to those reasons and intentions. (as far as I’m concerned. Not necessarily according to the law or customs where you happen to be located. Or not. See what I mean? Me neither.)
Children tell stories, with their expressions, their body language and gestures, in an unfiltered and psychologically complicated way that adults very often don’t. And you have a right to grab those stories and record them on film or a digital camera sensor when and wherever you find them. (But don’t hold me to that statement as legal advice. I’m not a lawyer and it is not legal advice or guidance.)
The image at the top here is one of my favorites. There’s a lot of information in this shot. You have what would appear to any resident of Los Angeles to be visitors from somewhere else. It is summer and probably this is their vacation together. It is a family with three lovely daughters sporting matching outfits.
Their parents obviously take great pride in their brood here and it appears that two of the girls might be twins. The third, standing off to the right, seems a year or so younger than her sisters. That she’s wearing the same outfit nevertheless seems to indicate this family feels a desire or need for a certain degree of family conformity. I’m not passing judgment. I would probably be looking for three of everything myself if they were my children.
Mom looks like she’s ready to take a picture herself which further indicates to me that this moment, here on an icky sticky Santa Monica sidewalk, represents some holiday memory that must be preserved forever. Seems like they may have just gotten out of their rental car.
But kids are scary scary things and a set of three like this would give me nightmares if I was their father. You have three beautiful daughters, you dress them alike to show how much pride you have in your family. But then there’s the one with the broken arm to remind you how delicate and fragile your precious family is and how precarious and elusive will be your grasp on their lives for the rest of your own.
The second shot is a collection of three individuals connected by something technically invisible, meaning you can’t see a wire or a string or a discharge of energy like a lightening bolt or anything like that, but that is there nevertheless and is probably stronger than just about any physical connection could be. Love and adoration and maybe, again, family, sisterhood; this time it looks like a loving grandparent.
I like to say that I take pictures of things that a lot of photographers don’t typically set out to photograph. Things that are happening inside a subject’s head that are maybe very subtly represented by other things happening on the outside of their head or in their gesture or posture or physical relationship or interaction with other people in the photograph.
This picture is an example of what I mean by that.
The stately old dude has his admirers. Or one of them, anyway.
This here is about atonement for my sin. I’m not religious but I grew up with the idea and can relate to the metaphor.
I don’t really know how to say this but… I think it’s really a sin (figure of speech) to make a bullshit effort that doesn’t at all reflect who you are or your abilities, as limited as mine are. But I sure as shit did that in recording in just a about an hour a ‘tribute’ to Marian McPartland and posting it online. I should be ashamed of myself and I am.
So I spent the better part of the last week trying to make up for it by doing something I sorely hadn’t planned on doing with my week and that is TRYING to do my best. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve never had the tools I do now to make music at home but I’m like at an age where I don’t half give a shit anymore.
I’ve got to work on that but in the meantime here is a version of Key Largo that at least reflects my best effort and considerable sweat. I’m stuck with certain things like my voice but I am capable of shaking the rust off whatever capabilities I do have and either doing my best or having the good sense to skip the whole thing entirely. That’s my September onward resolution.
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.
I took this shot about five years ago and have never really shown it to anyone. I think the reason for that is that I never thought I could adequately explain how amazing it is to me. I guess I’ve felt it needed explaining and I guess I’m finally in the mood now to try.
No part of the West LA area is really that bad. But this is nearly as gritty a corner on the Westside as there is. It’s directly underneath the intersection of the 405 and 10 freeways, which is to say, the junction of the two busiest roadways in the United States of America. There are homeless people camped out under the overpasses and exit ramps. It was fairly late in the evening. The feel there at that hour is probably worse than the reality. Or vice versa. Who really knows?
I travel by that way innumerable times a year. At any hour, but especially late in the evening, the very LAST thing you would expect to find there is three truly lovely sisters, possibly triplets, on bicycles, cooling their jets waiting for the light to change. Trust me, you just don’t see this in LA at that hour. In most of Los Angeles, they kind of roll up the sidewalks. That’s a common complaint of people from New York and elsewhere who have moved to LA from cities with a more active night life.
I’m a man. The car was being driven by my lady of 38 years. We both were like, DID YOU SEE THAT? And then she asks, Did you GET it? I don’t know how I got it. The green light was with us and we never even slowed down going through the intersection. I probably was pre-focused to some degree and the amazing Nikon D3 sang the song. I put the camera to my face, framed the ladies and slammed down the shutter release. It just happened. It’s one of those moments that makes me so happy that I had a camera, not to create some work of art or anything like that, but just to capture the natural beauty I witnessed there at the grimy and otherwise unsightly corner of Sawtelle and Pico Blvds that night.
Alone, a younger man, I would have probably slammed on the brakes and went down the line asking for their hands in marriage. Because these sisters are not afraid of the dark or probably anything else. I thought maybe there was someone filming them, like a reality show or something. Truly gutsy young ladies. And reason #90454 I’m glad I never had children.
I know it’s Polish model Joanna Krupa. But I don’t understand the photography aspect. Can’t be paparazzi, they’re too geared up and professional and paparazzi would have NO interest in whatever her name is. Can’t be a photo shoot. Photo shoots uh.. usually involve ONE photographer. Why would there be so many photographers fighting for a shot? Of Joanna Krupa. I just don’t get this. Someone enlighten me please. The only thing I can think of is that she’s got a really good publicist and it was a slow day in pseudo-celebrity land.
Someone just paid that much for Barnett Newman’s “Onement VI”, a painting which consists of two vibrant blue rectangles neatly divided by a single, light blue line, an arrangement that Sotheby’s called “a portal to the sublime.”
Won’t someone please kindly pay Barnat Donald a million or so for this fine image taken late last year entitled “Is This Leica a Righteous Bitch to Focus Already? #10465”