Like most people I experience a range of emotion and mood while plowing through a typical day as a “modern” photographer. I love street shooting, talking with folks who say, “Oh wow, your a photographer, you have the best job in the world, you just walk around all day taking pictures.” Ah, if they only knew. So, from time time my emotions get the best of me and are reflected in my work.
Orange County, which as we all know is the CENTER of the universe, a near perfect land of harmony, culture and class. It’s colorful, hence the name, and filled with a vibrant and fulfilling surf culture. Things are manicured, controlled, but laced with an expressionism that rivals anything that Tulsa or Tallahassee has to offer. I don’t love to shoot in Orange County, but because I live here I do get out and make snappy from time to time.
I don’t like to drive to shoot, unless I have to, so most of the time I hop on the trusty “Belafonte” and ride to where I want to shoot. My mood has a dramatic impact on what I shoot and how I make it look. I’m not sure this is good or bad, but it sure is real. As a former “photojournalist” I was highly trained in the black arts of staying “impartial” but after attending a single meeting of upper journalism management, I knew right away that being impartial wasn’t really on anyone’s mind. Getting a story? Sure. Selling papers? Sure. Getting even? Sure.
Your mood, the ingredients you choose, etc, can have a dramatic impact on what you come back with. These color images for example are from an ongoing project about living in the OC. It’s a color story, obviously, it’s about the silly aspects of the culture, the odd tidbits of daily life and the general aspects of the region that make LA residents go, “Oh my God, Orange County sucks.”
Footnote One: If you haven’t been to The OC don’t believe all the LA hype. SoCal is solid concrete from Malibu to San Clemente. It all looks the same and if you didn’t have a map you would never be able to tell where you are from city to city. And just so you know OC residents think that LA sucks.
Most of the time when I work on this story I’m in a good mood. I’m on my bike. The light is fair to okay to mostly not crappy, and the mounting daily pressure of being a photographer flows past my shoulders like an ocean breeze.
And then sometimes I’m not in a great mood?
Sometimes I look around at The OC and I just can’t sit by and watch as another strip housing development springs up overnight, or another massive freeway drops pilings through a nature preserve. I see the choking cloud of mocha colored smog descend on our beloved land and spill out over the ocean and into the pristine peaks of Santa Catalina Island. I look around and ask myself, “How can I live here?”
It’s during these times that I also hop on “The Belafonte” and ride into different parts of my area(or drive to add to the smog). I see the land scraped clean then replanted.(Never understood this). I see the streets and houses springing up, the same cheap construction, the same design that makes it impossible to NOT be bound to your car for even the most simple of errands, and I shake my head at what our culture considers “progress.”
It is during this time I choose a different photographic tool. I choose a different photographic look. I allow myself to dive deep into the seedy world of my emotions and then I turn around and unleash it through the pupil of my eye, seeing the exact same places in a very dark and different way. All those places that I wizz by in the car, are suddenly like the modern gulag, impossible for me to ignore. Impossible for me not to question.
I can feel it as I work. Watching the population as they exist in this wonderland. I feel like a complete outsider, sent from another planet to investigate what the humans are doing to each other. I work slowly, one “ping” at a time as the Fuji 6×9 forever cements this experience on the precious emulsion.
I can feel myself slip closer to the edge as my job as observer takes me to places feared by the average civilian. But I’m there for a reason. I’m there to preserve, regardless of mood or conviction. I”m there to take my emotions and translate them into light and silver and dye. When I feel the comforting bulk of exposed film in my pocket I know I’m doing something good, something right and just, something that someday might have a place in this world. John J. Rambo was right on the money, “There are no friendly civilians.” There is just us and what we do, sometimes alive in light and color, other times like the edge of the abyss.