Leica

A Contrary Iranian Opinion on Suleimani


The Killing of General Suleimani Has United Iranians in Anger Against the U.S. So says the New York Times here. A comment by Laurie in New Jersey offers another perspective.

I think it is an error to say, as the author of this article does, “Iran is united—in anger at the United States”, and “the nation rallied behind its leaders”. The silent majority of Iran stays silent as they cannot speak out truthfully. I have Iranian family, who tell me that the vast majority of their fellow citizens despise the Islamic government, and are very happy that Suleimani was killed, as they consider him an evil killer of their own people. They cannot say what they really think because they fear arrest, torture, or death.

Late this afternoon I drove past the Federal Building in Westwood CA and there was a medium sized group of Iranian Americans who I believe were not united in anger against the U.S. But I’ll leave their protest signs to speak for them.

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.

The Democratic Forest: William Eggleston

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“Eggleston was in New York during the last week in October for the opening of a new exhibition of his work at the Zwirner gallery that runs through December 17. All of the nearly 50 images in the show were taken in the ’80s as part of a mammoth series called The Democratic Forest, which in its entirety includes some 12,000 images. But in the Zwirner show, for the first time, many of the images have been reproduced on a giant scale, some of them five feet across. Staring at them on opening night (and it is a measure of how Eggleston is idolized, particularly by the young, that hundreds of people braved a truly filthy rain to attend the opening), I thought, when you make a picture that big, there is no room for error, no place for a photographer to hide. And in this case, no need. You could put these pictures on a billboard, and they would lose none of their integrity.”

Source: William Eggleston: The Father of Modern Color Photography – The Daily Beast

What We’re Talking About When We Talk About Light

Apologies to Raymond Carver. Reposted from the early days of 50lux.com

Leica M9, 35mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX-M ASPH FLE

I think of the best stuff when I’m half asleep. It’s called hypnagogia and I’ve got a bad case of it. I’m not alone, apparently, as a New York Times article pointed out late last year and as Wikipedia establishes as encyclopedic fact.

Many other artists, writers, scientists and inventors — including Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Walter Scott, Salvador Dalí, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton — have credited hypnagogia and related states with enhancing their creativity.

I’m intending to capture some of these fantastic creative thought processes that trot through my mind when I’m half asleep for the purpose of bringing them back alive and showing them to the world here on 50lux.com. It won’t be easy. Not many things are when you’re half asleep. Nature of the beast. More on all this later. But let’s start off with an example from today.

There’s nothing more annoying than some snobby-sounding photographer going on about Light. I chase after the Light. I live for the Light! I’m always out looking for the Light. I’m a Light chasing stalker of the Light.

Light, that fickle temptress, has taken out a restraining order on me!

You know the type. Butterflies and rainbows all around them. They shoot Leica but, of course, they could do just as well, maybe better, with a piece of cardboard and a tiny hole punched in it for a lens.

Never mind too the 14-year old future supermodels that seem to prance through lush meadows all around them, stopping only for the occasional extreme closeup on the sun-speckled perfection surrounding bee-stung lips.

What does any of that matter?, the light snob would say. It’s all about the Light!

Okay, let’s go there. Because as annoying as these people are, they just might be on to something. Pictures might lie, but not that much when it comes to the role of light making a great picture.

First let me say that my goal here, because I want to help myself to be a better photographer, is to learn along with anyone who happens to be reading this blog. So that some day, some glorious sunshiny day, we might all be just as annoying to others as these people are now to us.

It is important to have goals. Let’s get to work on achieving them.

Leica M9, 40mm 1.4 Voigtlander Nokton

Think of the world not as a place made up of things or solid objects to be photographed, but instead as a place where light exists.

You see what I’m talking about when I’m talking about half-asleep thoughts? Thank you and good night, ladies and gentlemen. Let me repeat it.

Think of the world not as a place made up of things or solid objects to be photographed, but instead as a place where light exists.

Because light in an infinite number of variations certainly does exist in this world. It shines down upon, through, wraps around, bounces off, backlights, highlights, dapples, washes over, peeks through, reflects off of, illuminates, obscures, virtually everything in this world and all of that enters into our consciousness, or DOESN’T, which is what we’re trying to correct here, through our eyes and through our lenses onto the plane of film or sensor we’re using to capture it all for posterity.

Light has so many different colors and shapes and effects upon whatever it touches or is near that it’s far beyond the scope of this blog post to even go into any of that. And it’s not important for the ideas that I’m trying to solidify in my own creative mind to try to address any of it at this time.

This post here on 50lux.com is more about what we all can maybe derive or benefit from in the form of an internal tweaking of our perspectives on light as it exists all around us and in our photography.

The important thing to keep in mind about light is that it can be as easily photographed, and as easily sought out as a subject to be photographed as a flower, a snow-capped mountain, a beautiful woman, or anything else that people almost instinctively point their cameras at before hitting the shutter release.

As you probably remember, like me, from reading it somewhere, whenever you take a picture, you really are only photographing reflected light anyway. Why not make a concerted effort on light’s behalf?

So now try it! Go out and, instead of looking to photograph mere things, solid or liquid objects of the Earth, as an ongoing exercise for your photographic eye and mind look past all that stuff and look only for light, wherever and in whatever form that you find it. Take pictures of that light. Make pictures from it.

Leica M9, 50mm f2 Summicron-M

If you’ve ever asked yourself or anyone else what’s the best way to radically change how you see as a photographer, then this is what I would suggest. Stop looking for and at everything around you as subject-objects, and instead allow yourself to look for and see only light.

Forever?, you might be asking. No. And then again, YES! Absolutely. Because we are talking about change here and hopefully permanent change. Some of us are always looking to change or open up our vision as photographers.

For now I suggest maybe working without your camera and going through your day looking past objects and people that you would normally focus your attention on and trying to see only the light and thinking about what you’re seeing wherever you do find light.

One of the first things you will discover is how incredibly easy this all is. You’ll be surprised. The change will be immediate. Your nose, as a photographer, will start to rise up into the uppity upper air involuntarily as you yourself become yet another annoying light snob. Phrases like I seek light wherever I can find it will roll off your tongue with the same highbrow snobbery of Grace Kelly in a 1950s Hitchcock film.

Go for the light and don’t come back empty handed!

Leica M9, 40mm 1.4 Voigtlander Nokton

Urban Portraits

Tho I Walk Through the Valley…

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Legendary Photographer Mary Ellen Mark Dead at 75

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Mary Ellen Mark at the Leica store, Los Angeles, 2013. Photos by Donald Barnat 50lux.com

Sad news VIA Philly.com –

Mary Ellen Mark, a photographer known for her incredible humanist photography, passed away Monday in New York City. A rep confirmed the news Tuesday morning. She was 75.

Mark was born (March 20, 1940) and raised in Elkins Park. She graduated from Cheltenham High School (“I was head cheerleader,” she told the Inquirer’s Stephen Rea in 2008). In 1962, she received a bachelor of fine arts in art history and painting from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s in photojournalism in 1964 from Penn’s Annenberg School of Communication. She would return to the local institution to receive honorary doctorates in fine arts in 1992 and 1994.

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Mark said she got her big break while working for a Penn alumni magazine. On assignment at Rosemont College, she met Pat Carbine, then managing editor of Look, who later took her pitch to photograph London drug clinics.

“From the very first moment I took pictures [on the streets of Philadelphia], I loved it,” Mark told the Inquirer’s Michael Matza in 1988. “The thrill was the idea of just being on a street, turning a corner and looking for something to see. It was just an amazing feeling. … Photography became my obsession. … In a way it’s not so different when I go out to work now. It’s just that now I have years of experience in knowing how to use that little machine in front of me – at least better than I used it then. When it’s good and interesting it’s still that feeling of being on the street and wondering – God, I love this! – what’s going to happen next?”

via Legendary Philadelphia-born photographer Mary Ellen Mark, 75, dies.

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Throwback Thursday: Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux FLE Review in Pictures

Robert Frank, Telling It Like It Was – NYTimes.com

 

From LENS at The New York Times:

“One of the most consequential images in Robert Frank’s “The Americans” is a raw, cinematic photograph of a black couple in San Francisco in 1956. Approaching them from behind as the pair relaxed on a grassy hill overlooking the city, Mr. Frank disrupted their solitude. Startled, they turned to acknowledge him. The woman was annoyed. The man crouched protectively. As his eyes locked on the photographer, his expression hardened into a scowl. The couple seemed determined to protect themselves and their dignity.

On one level, as Mr. Frank himself has said, the photo demonstrates the ease with which the camera can invade the privacy of others, portraying “how it feels to be a photographer and suddenly be confronted with that look of, ‘You bastard, what are you doing!’ ” But the photograph is also racially fraught. Rather than a neutral observer, Mr. Frank looms over them, an active, unseen participant — a surrogate for the intimidating whiteness that shadowed the lives of black Americans, no matter how liberal their environment.”

via Robert Frank, Telling It Like It Was – NYTimes.com.

Finding Robert Frank, Online – NYTimes.com

From LENS on The New York Times:

“The cover image for the U.S. edition of “The Americans,” Robert Frank’s epochal book, spoke volumes about the state of the nation in the mid-1950s. The tightly-cropped photo shows passengers in the widows of a New Orleans trolley assuming their place in the social order of the Jim Crow South — progressing from a black woman in the rear to white children and adults up front.

The contact sheet that contained the image showed that Mr. Frank had photographed the city from multiple perspectives, but he ultimately selected the frame that most dramatically and symbolically captured New Orleans’ racial hierarchy. Learning this photo’s backstory would be impossible without the ability to view Mr. Frank’s contact sheet.

Now, such important archival material, typically reserved for scholars and curators, is just a click away. Launched by the National Gallery of Art in time for photographer’s 90th birthday in November, the Robert Frank Collection Guide is an extraordinary resource for the general public and researchers alike.”

via Finding Robert Frank, Online – NYTimes.com.

Street Shooting Exhibition 2015 Winners | Los Angeles Center of Photography

Donald_Barnat_02_Sunday-Was-Soft-And-WarmHere are the winners (link below) of a spot in the LACP’s 2015 Street Shooting Exhibition. Please find among the work of all of these wonderful photographers my four images. I can’t thank enough the LACP, Julia Dean, and guest judges Sam Abell from National Geographic and Stephen McLaren, author of Street Photography Now. But thank you again to all of them. I will put one of my winning shots here, entitled Sunday Was Soft and Warm. And it really really was.

Street Shooting Exhibition 2015 Winners | Los Angeles Center of Photography.

The Leica Look

Donald Barnat - 50lux.com I’m linking today to what’s called a long read. But this one isn’t just for photographers. Everyone should read this. America should read this. American businesses should read this. This is the way it’s done. This is the way we are supposed to do things here in America.

Gibson. Fender. Cadillac. Are you listening? I think some of you may be starting to.

I just bought a guitar amplifier from a boutique maker named Michael Swart. It’s the Swart Space Tone Tremelo model. I’ve heard, but don’t hold my words to be legally binding, that Michael Swart will fix any of his amplifiers that come back to him, no matter if they’ve been resold. Is this perfectly true in all cases? I don’t know. But the story is out there because this is what people who have experience with him are saying. He doesn’t give a fuck who owns the amp now! It’s got his name on it, it’s broke, it’s in front of him, he’s fixing it.

Booyah! (R.I.P. Stuart Scott) That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Leica. Leica is the mother of all boutique brands. That Leica would react to a situation like this — with the expense of the items involved — is breathtaking. Booyah on you, Leica! This is the kind of story that makes me proud to be a human being. Proud that we all evolved from the primordial soup together. It doesn’t happen all that often but here it is.

How I lost my Leica equipment and what happened next – Witold Riedel

The following story has some parts that might feel a bit strange to some, and yet will feel completely familiar to others. I guess that’s how stories go. When reading it, some will dislike me for some of the facts, while others will be able to relate and feel that what happened was not exactly easy. The story is true. And it has something to do with my cameras; with my M Leicas.

via Witold Riedel › Notes › How I lost my Leica equipment and what happened next..

Cartier-Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment” to be republished this December

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From LightBox –

For new generations of photographers and artists who have missed out on experiencing many of the world’s important books first hand, it cannot be stressed enough how important this new edition of The Decisive Moment is for a contemporary audience.

“Robert Frank’s The Americans and Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment were published within a few years of each other in the 1950s and both books have since become the blueprint for the modern photography book,” Steidl says.

Its value as an out-of-print collectable has risen over the past few decades resulting in keeping this masterpiece out of the hands of many younger photographers. Finally, after 62 years, it is again seeing the light of day this December with a gorgeous facsimile from the German publishing house Steidl.

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via The Return of The Decisive Moment – LightBox.

Legendary Magnum, Leica Photographer René Burri Died Today

René Burri 1933 - 2014 | Design | Agenda | Phaidon

Via Phaidon:

As befits someone who’d photographed everyone from Churchill to Che Guevara, René Burri had a weapons grade arsenal pf wonderful stories and anecdotes, and he told them extremely well. One of our favourites was one he revealed in the garden of his Paris apartment a couple of years ago when we were interviewing him for his memories around the book Impossible Reminiscences. It concerned his mentor, Henri-Cartier Bresson and his habit of looking at negatives upside down. It infuriated all the Magnum photographers but particularly irked the Swiss-born Burri who revealed how, with one of his most famous photographs he managed pulled the wool over the Magnum founder’s expert eye and, as he put it that afternoon, “killed my mentor!”

René Burri 1933 – 2014 | Design | Agenda | Phaidon.

Transitory State

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Winogrand at the Met: The Genius of His Reviled Late Works

donald barnat / 50lux.com

There’s an anecdote buried deep inside the footnotes of the catalog for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Garry Winogrand survey that speaks volumes about the present exhibition. In it, his better known contemporary, Lee Friedlander, watches Winogrand release the shutter of his camera with nearly every passerby encountered on a New York street. Thirty years after Winogrand’s quick dispatch from cancer in 1984, Friedlander’s shocked response to his friend’s incontinence appears more informative than lapidary: “Garry, you’re not photographing, you’re taking the census.”

via Garry Winogrand at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Genius of His Reviled Late Works.

donald barnat / 50lux.com

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 production of the M-E and that the CCD based Leica would be no more. Thus stock would dwindle and I might not ever get my hands on a new replacement let alone the half dozen I dream of having in rotation when I get back in the game of making money with a camera. I love this camera. I’m incredibly excited to hear that it will live on. As should be every single photographer on this planet.

Because this is a camera. Plain and simple. (Reminds me of the line from Julius Caesar spoken by Marc Antony over the slain leader’s dead body. Something like, “Here lies a Caesar. When comes such another?”) That’s how good of a picture taking image making machine is this Leica CCD camera and now we know when comes such another. Simple. Incredible. Film-like results. Film like ISO performance which, given the glass you can place on the thing, is and always has been plenty adequate. Anyway, as we used to say back in the 80s here in LA, I’m fucking stoked!

If this rumor is correct, this would be a clever move from Leica since many people prefer the specific look of the photos taken with the 18MP CCD sensor.

via Leica rumored to announce a M-E camera replacement | Leica News & Rumors.

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19 Pages of Famous Leica Photographers and their Cameras – NewOldTime

 

Leica tra realtà e finzione - Parliamo daltro - NewOldTime

Incredible! Mary Ellen Mark did not just show up at the Leica Gallery in LA lovely but apparently was a lovely person prior to last summer. Who knew? And she actually DID shoot Leica cameras. What a shocker that is. (kidding. well… )

Leica tra realtà e finzione – Parliamo daltro – NewOldTime.

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: “Arrogant Purpose” 1947 | AMERICAN SUBURB X

Absolutely one of my favorite places online, American Suburb X. Please click on the link to a great bit of writing from all the way back in 1947 that accompanied an exhibition of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work at the Whitney.

Excerpt from Review of the Whitney Annual and Exhibitions of Picasso and Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Nation, 5 April 1947

The unusual photographs of the French artist, Henri Cartier-Bresson, also at the Museum of Modern Art, provide an object lesson too – in how photography can assimilate the discoveries of modern painting to itself without sacrificing its own essential virtures. One thing that painting since Manet has emphasized is that a picture has to have a “back”. It cannot simply fade off in depth into nothingness; every square millimeter of picture space, even empty sky, must play a positive role. This, Cartier-Bresson, like his fellow-photographer Walker Evans, has learned preeminently.

via HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: “Arrogant Purpose” 1947 | AMERICAN SUBURB X.

Pico Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, California, April 13, 2014

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New York Times: Classic Lensman, Using Full Palette

Perhaps the greatest revelation provided by “Capa in Color” is not that Robert Capa, best known as a war photographer, shot in color film. It is that he shot in color frequently, honing his technical facility and trying to get the work published in magazines that began printing color photographs in the late 1930s.

via ‘Capa in Color’ at International Center of Photography – NYTimes.com.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: ‘There Are No Maybes’

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Great New York Times feature on HCB. With audio.

In 1971, Sheila Turner-Seed interviewed Henri Cartier-Bresson in his Paris studio for a film-strip series on photographers that she produced, with Cornell Capa, for Scholastic. After her death in 1979 at the age of 42, that interview, along with others she had conducted, sat like a time capsule in the archives of the International Center of Photography in New York.

Why the 50-millimeter lens?

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It corresponds to a certain vision and at the same time has enough depth of focus, a thing you don’t have in longer lenses. I worked with a 90. It cuts much of the foreground if you take a landscape, but if people are running at you, there is no depth of focus. The 35 is splendid when needed, but…

Read the rest HERE.

NY Times Article on Garry Winogrand

Metropolitan Opera, 1951

“Mr. Winogrand had no patience for the phony sympathies he thought connected too many photographers to their subjects. In the exhibition catalog, Mr. Rubinfien writes that the most successful pictures, in Mr. Winogrand’s mind, were the ones “that told you that the world was a jumble of fragments, that the truth was more complex than any account could be.”

Garry Winogrand

l-camera-forum breaks news of Leica AG sale to The Disney Company

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Los Angeles area Leica rep and protege react to news of Leica AG being sold to Burbank, California based The Disney Company. NYSE: DIS

http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-news/2013/04/leica-camera-sold-us-company/

Alvarado Street; Westlake District of Los Angeles

The Westlake District of Los Angeles is purported to be the most densely populated area in the United States. It doesn’t seem that’s possible. But Wikipedia says this.

Westlake is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Los Angeles, with a population density of 38,212 persons/mile²

Situated right to the east of MacArthur Park (yes, THAT MacArthur Park), it’s just another amazing slice of the life of Los Angeles. Click on the first picture for a semi-slide show of all four of the images.

Fashion’s Night Out Beverly Hills 2011: T-MAX P3200

Leica M7, Zeiss 50 Sonnar 1.5, T-MAX P3200 (click for larger version)

Nothing much to say here. Just a slideshow from a couple of rolls of this very fast and grainy film. I liked it. I just didn’t really have the easiest time scanning it. Actually shooting it was also something to get used to as well. Would have to get used to it and think about shooting it much differently than I did.

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.

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