Ground Zero


All of these images were made within a ten minute time span. I’ve never specifically made a trip to Ground Zero. I was just passing by. The sky was for me uncommon, but I live in Southern California so cloud cover is a rarity. Walking within a block of this place and you could feel a palpable sense of unease. There were lookers and onlookers and watchers and viewers, all trying to make peace with the place, the event, etc. I also noticed there were a few eyes on me, wondering eyes, which I see far more of these days, so I made myself quiet.

There was a majesty to the cranes operating and this place holds a sense of power. Perhaps it always did, but in another way. Everyone it seemed needed to catch a peak, to see a little more, even those you would least expect to climb a fence or peak through a hole.

About a half an hour ago I wrote something that I think does justice to this place, and before I could save it, my internet connect went out and I didn’t notice. So when I went to save the post, it was gone. Completely gone. Normally I can remember exactly what I wrote, but this stuff just came pouring out and I can’t remember a single line of it. Not a single line. Maybe it was my internal purge? I sat here and tried to reboot my brain but it just didn’t work. It was as if the thoughts I had put down were not even mine.

Looking back, what I find remarkable is the invisible wall surrounding this place. Sure there are screens, and gates, and fences, and barriers and warning signs, etc, but there is also an invisible line you cross when you even get close to this place. I’m not well versed in Manhattan at all. I’ve been there many times, but always for business and I come and go to the places I need and then depart. I’ve never really explored. Rounding a street corner, making my way back uptown I just felt something. I would imagine it is a combination of ingredients. The physical structure yes, but also the feelings of other people around me. You can feel their experience and their reaction. I honestly didn’t know where I was. And then suddenly I did.

Cashio Street. Los Angeles. Where I was that day. Three hours behind in the global clock, but just happened to turn on my television. “Hey honey, you should come take a look at this.” My first response was not the attack, the buildings coming down or the death toll. I found myself looking into the future, our collective future, and having a vision of a new world. I saw a chain of events. I saw armies and desolate places. Just brief flashes and blips, incoherent pulses trying to paint a picture.
When I return to New York I’m going to return to this place once again. I don’t know if I’ll shoot more images, but I just want to feel it again.

Friends in Front of Me

I don’t often post my “work” images, but perhaps I should. I’ve gone over this before, but I’m always careful not to make this avenue of communication into a full-on sales assault on your senses. I do a lot of portraits, but rarely do they make it up on the ranch.
But, every so often, I shoot something that I think has a specific meaning that might be interesting to contemplate. These pictures are from a recent family portrait, which in itself isn’t anything novel, but the folks in these pictures happen to be long-time friends. I’ve known Paul since the early 90’s, and his family as long as they have been a family. You can search the Earth for a better dude, but you won’t find one. Well, maybe Hugh Hefner, or some other guy that gets to spend his entire day in his pj’s, but other than that you won’t find anyone better. When Paul called me and asked me to do this shoot I of course said, “Sure,” but I have to say, a shoot like this comes with a different feeling. First, they are friends, and you want to rack your brain to make something special for them. Not that this doesn’t happen with people I don’t know, it does, but with friends there is on one hand LESS pressure, because they are friends, but on the other hand there is MORE pressure because they are friends. Add to this the fact that Paul is a photographer. A really good one. And I know as a photographer what it feels like to make something good, and I know what it feels like to fall short. So making pictures of a fellow photographers ramps up the internal demand even higher. Now this is one of the great things about being a photographer. A shoot like this is like working out because your heart races, your mind races and the list of “what if’s” goes on and on. Shoots like this are over before you know it, and cause me to suddenly wake, as if in a dream, as I’m packing my gear, thinking to myself, “Wow, what just happened?”

I think this first image is perhaps my favorite. For some reason it feels natural. At first I thought the spacing was wide, but the more I look at this picture the more I like it. I don’t think I could have posed them any better. I’m not sure what was happening at this exact moment, but I remember the light going in and out and in and out and me trying to figure out what to do, in what light, in what direction, etc. I had never been to this location before, and frankly it was complete and total overload in the best possible way. MOST of the time I’m working with locations that are nothing like this, locations where I’m struggling to find a place to shoot. This was the exact opposite, there were too many places to shoot, and having this happen really does create it’s own issues. Ahh, if only we always had to deal with issues like this……

This image might be a little odd, or dark, or whatever, but I like it, and knew I would like it when I saw the cross. This sky is RARE in these parts, so knew that I had to someone use the darn thing. Family portraiture comes with history, tradition and baggage, and I know their faces are out of focus. Just deal with it. I promise it will all work out. I know what they look like, so I don’t need to see them! If I had my way, I’d print this for the sky and let them go completely black, but hey, that’s me. I’m having flashbacks of a young photographer telling me I was “unprofessional.” A great compliment in my book.

Father and son. You gotta have it. I have it. I remember pictures of me in a duck blind in South Texas, golden mullet flaring from my trucker hat as I waded from the blind to retrieve our downed birds. Dad was there, his disc camera whirling, his fat fingers fumbling with the odd buttons as he cursed under this breath, “Damn this damn photography thing.”He knew he wanted to cement the moment, but the technical task was not his strong point. This image to me is simply about foreshadowing. This image is about me and Paul playing with this little man for years into the future. I see the first football game. I see hanging around the high school trying to score chicks. Okay, just kidding about that part, but I do see it as the future, as the beginning of a lifetime of images.

Imagine trying to photograph a spider monkey just released into the wild. Imagine trying to photograph a spider monkey just released into the wild with a camera that you have to look down into. Imagine getting dizzy, blacking out and falling over. That’s what it was like trying to pin down this little firecracker.
I figure when I’m 108, she might be at an age when she’s slowed down enough for me to photograph, but in the interim, I just get what I can. This hot light shot was something Paul mentioned when we got there. I thought it would be easy. I’m a slow learner.

This shot is simple but I like it. You might be thinking that my focus was the hair or the eyes, but actually that’s not the case. For some reason I think kids teeth are really funny. I think seeing teeth in kids is proof we are born to be carnivores, and I can’t see a kids teeth without laughing. Also, this was a great chance for dad to pin her down for .2847584566349934 of a second. Don’t worry, she was only upside down for less than an hour.

And finally, I had to put this in. That sky. It’s rare folks. And this location, it’s rare as well. I’ve been thinking about this place a lot, and thinking about how great it was. I could go back with Paul and the family, over and over and over and never really tire of this place. In fact I think that is probably a good idea. To go back every year and just keep creating pictures as the family grows and the years pass by. I see a book about Paul’s family on the horizon, with this image on the contents page. At least 700 pages, printed on virgin, Redwood timber paper and the world’s most expensive ink. It would totally be worth it.
In all seriousness folks, I like this shoot, but it only wet my appetite for more of the same. I want more of my friends. I want more family. I want more time together. I want more time to dream and create. I want more time to record history.

I don’t think I’ll be content until we go back. But when am I ever content?

Happy Trails.

Smogranch Featured in Flash Flood

Recently I was alerted to the fact there existed a new, online publication regarding contemporary photography in New Mexico. Checking the list of founders, I was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar name or two, so I sent off an email of congratulations.

I began to think about my photography, about New Mexico, and wondered what I had from the region. This place, the “Land of Enchantment,” is one of my favorite places in the world. If you have never been, you must go. That is all I can say.

In fact, I recently did a radio interview and was asked about my favorite location I had traveled to, and without hesitation I replied, “New Mexico.” When I’m in New Mexico I feel different. I feel more connected, to both the land, and those around me. There are tensions there, both man made and the natural kind, but these tensions are what gives the region its flavor.

This image is active, so it will link you directly to the site. This feature was on the Flash Flood Blog, so don’t forget to check out the main site.

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The story relates to my move there, and a trusty pickup that is no longer with us.

www.flash-flood.org

The Flyers

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These were shot, and probably posted, over a year ago, while up near San Francisco.

These have never been published, or sold as prints, but I frankly have not shown them around that much. I didn’t know I was going to be attending this event, but was surprised by home much I enjoyed the process.
I shot three or four different formats and looks, but was happiest with the straight, square, black and white images. I think sometimes I get lost in the technique, which can fool you into thinking you have a great image when you really don’t.
You make great images with basic, straight techniques, and I think you are doing something. Not saying these are great, just that I like them.

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