Zion National Park, once the ancestral home of the southern Paiute, as well as the Ute and Navajo, and once known also as Mukuntuweap.
I hadn’t been back since I was a kid. In fact, I found a display in the park noting the last time I was here, 1995 when I was trapped with my family in the Zion Lodge due to a landslide. I nearly jumped when they mentioned said landslide on the shuttle ride in.
You can’t help but be inspired by this place. I feel like a poor man’s Ansel Adams. No photos do these incredible cliffs justice.
The crowds were a bit much. I got an earlier start, parking early enough to catch the very first shuttle into the park to see the famous Court of the Patriarchs at dawn. I got in a few of the simpler hikes, ate at the Lodge, then left the park midday back to the airstream camp I’m staying in.
I know why everyone—the indigenous folks, the Mormons, the Methodists who named three towers here after three biblical patriarchs—sees this place as a temple of sorts. The un-scalable cliffs humble you almost instantly.
I actually spent two full days in and around Zion. I also worked on some video, so I’m working on a way to share that as well.
The summer slump–that period between from somewhere in August to somewhere in September–has seemingly ended for me. August had a restless feeling. The sun suspended motionless in the afternoon sky. Clients all on vacation, so no work coming in. I did my best to keep the creativity in flow during the long, luxurious afternoons. Almost under our noses, the days begin to shorten. The sunsets come sooner. The mosquitos still manage to bite. Fall comes in.
Now I’m going back to client work. The first was at Angel Stadium in Anaheim for an event. A casual, yet extravagant, evening for wealthy donors to a non-profit held on the actual field of the stadium. I had to steal a quick selfie in the dugout, which was where I was to store my camera bag for the night.
I’ve been thinking of a clip I saw online of someone saying “you can’t always be in the reaping or harvest stage of life” and it really struck me. On some level, it’s something I already knew, but somehow never full had heard it articulated as such.
When I was younger, all I wanted was success. I had worked hard in college. Moved to the big city to pursue my dreams. Networked with the right people. I even made some really great friends. Yet, I was shocked that I wasn’t swimming in success. I knew I was talented and I knew I liked to work hard. So why weren’t opportunities falling from the sky? I waited for the phone to ring. I floated from day job to day job. For so many years I was focused solely on the reaping without really focusing on the sowing.
As a gardener, I knew this! I knew this as the years came and went, a few “somedays” came and went. Now, as I start booking my regular clients for fall events, I recognize that the only way I can do so confidently is because of seeds I sowed long ago. Seeds sown, by the way, in the face of personal adversity. I lost a relationship then, and friends of mine fell away. (I’m not saying you should sacrifice relationships to pursue a dream, but that is just how it played out for me.)
These are just reminders that there are indeed seasons to life. I may be having a harvest year of sorts, and it’s a good idea to think of planting new seeds as the year winds down. Lately, that has been reminding people around me that, while I am extremely grateful for my photography career, it is not the only thing I do. I’ve been playing and posting more music while looking for more opportunities to perform again.
I have shared less and less of my personal photography work on social media lately. My client work has taken off this year, but I’ve found myself hesitant to share anything outside the scope of what I do for my clients.
I know I’m not the only one who feels that the large social media platforms have changed so much, enough to feel that they no longer have the users’ best interests in mind. I won’t lie and say that Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr didn’t help improve as a visual artist. Sharing my work there helped me build confidence, take risks, find a voice. I also bought into what happened there, too. The people going from artists to “brands” to “influencers.” The photos in exchange for “free” watches. The purchased followers (never did that) and the mad dash to hack your way to a large following.
Things got lost in that process. I’ve studied visual art my entire life, and learned to see the world around me as creative inspiration. That started to become the cliche—doing it for the ‘gram. As in constantly seeking the most visually stimulating thing to post.
I’m trying to remember what it is like to simply make photos as visual meditations again. Pictures of nothingness and that don’t serve an outright agenda. Work that documents. Work that is my own mix of influences that follow me everywhere: Salvador Dali, Vivian Maier, Leonardo Da Vinci, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and lots of musical theatre.
Social media isn’t all bad, but it’s also not that great either. Instagram in particular was built of the work of photographers, then became saturated by media and Meta’s attempt to appropriate ever other app out there. I’m sticking around with a few selfies, and some updates on various projects. I still believe in building a long-haul audience, in having a space like this to post quality content. It’s extra work, but I’m keeping this site exactly for that.
Mid-July and much of my work has sort of slowed. Being freelance, I can focus my attention to other things. Well, things that don’t require too much movement, too much exertion during a massive nationwide heatwave. A little over a year ago, I was trying to find ways to be creative as we crept toward a post-lockdown world in fits and starts. COVID waves kept coming and going, and every creative effort I tried to make felt forced or like wandering. I want to avoid going there again, so I use many of the tools outlined in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Amazingly, I read it over 20 years ago and still utilize her very simple approaches to creativity: daily journaling (morning pages), artist dates, and later on she added regular walks.
I think summertime is made for a slight sense of boredom. In the midst of it all, the days are almost too long. The afternoons linger with a bit too much sun into golden hour. It try to be outside for that every day of summer. I’m happy to have a backyard and a grill that I can use so I don’t heat up the house unnecessarily.
It’s no secret that I love to cook. I do secretly love food writing. I think if I had the time and dedication, I’d pursue something in that realm. Indulge me in some of my food stuffs from this summer. Some grilling, some whole roasting, some pasta, some salads, some pink pickling red onions–all vegan, of course.
Like all things, I’m sure the world of food writing and photography has its downsides, its shadows. Anthony Bourdain comes to mind, while many of the food writers I follow today make it seem so easy. An endless stream of farmers markets with oversized produce (no mention ever of their prices), lovely evenings tending their kitchen gardens upstate, and oddly zen-like and immaculate kitchens. I cannot pretend that’s me. Sure I love to cook and shoot colorful, fresh foods, but my kitchen is constant chaos in need of constant cleaning. I’ll stick to the close ups on the kitchen table.
It has been quite awhile since I’ve posted anything here. To tell you the truth, I’ve had this URL since about 2000 and haven’t added much to it. It used to be a catch-all site for my fledgling acting career back then. Then came the rise of the blog, then the rise of what we called the micro-blog, the then the rise of the social network, and that became the rise of the social media. Now seems to be the fall of social media as we know it, with some of the most reliable platforms seeming to fall under their own weight…or onto their own swords. I still love them, despite that everyone seems to regard them as “hell-scapes”. All this is to say that now seems to be more important of a time to keep one’s own website updated with quality content and connection.
Where have I been? Well, it’s nothing serious. After several years of building a freelance photography career, only to have it put completely on hold at the start of the pandemic, things have been back. I wasn’t doing all that well during the long stretches of lockdown months. For any creative person who found that time to be ultra-productive, great for you. Despite my introverted nature, I found my anxiety to be barely manageable and I had almost no ability to actually concentrate on a single project. In fact, I think I just got my brain back within the last year or so.
But, yes, things have been back since last fall. I’ve built relationships with a handful of new clients who have been fantastic and who have kept me busy. I expected maybe a few bookings last fall, but the phone kept ringing right up through the holidays and into this year. I’m a very lucky photographer because I know a lot of us went out of business in 2020.
It’s been a year of shifts. No, it’s not January, but I think of this time of year as a New Years in many ways. My birthday is in summer, and I tend to take stock of myself and my year around June/July. Many shifts began about a year ago when I was approaching a big birthday. Friends I had regarded as ride-or-die seemed not to be “ride” at all, and I had to sort of quietly let them go. A family member was in the midst of a health crisis and I spent several weeks in the hospital with them during a record heatwave in Southern California. (They are doing much better now.) What I thought would be a joyful celebration of me entering into a new decade surrounded by friends actually had me feeling very alone. Most plans I had made to welcome this next stage of my life all seemed to fall completely through amidst a bad COVID wave.
Things can, and do, change. I had to accept that as I watched relationships in my life shift. As I watched my priorities realign around certain people. As I understood that by embracing my own personal growth I had to course-correct certain precedents I had set around how I had always allowed myself to be treated before. I’m risking this post becoming a bit long and cliche, but that is sort of it in a nutshell.
Again, as social networks continue to annoy and/or disappoint their users, I am aiming to be more committed to this space. I’ve never been much of a writer, but I’d rather my words and quality creative efforts go here.
While I’m not far away from an old, creepy mansion, much of my small town on the outskirts of LA County goes all out for Halloween. This is a fairly recent development, and for the first time I took the Leica M240 out to capture some of the ongoing decorations. I’d kinda love it if my town became known as Halloween Town.
I’m back from a whirlwind few days in NYC. As always, the trips there feel too short, especially when there’s so much to see. And so many friends I missed!
I somehow always end up at the Met, and I’d been wanting to see this exhibit ever since I had first heard of it. And I’m so glad I got a chance to go. Greek and Roman sculptures were once painted, though we think of them as pristine white marble. I’ll just admit it: to us it might look utterly tacky, but seeing how these statues once meant to look to the ancients changes our relationship to them.
This exhibit combines research finding the exact pigment remnants on the statues, along with 3D reconstructions of them as they once appeared.
Highly recommend it. And, as always, find your way to the roof of The Met for some great views of Central Park.
Last week, I was able to catch one of the last tours of Phillips Mansion for the year. The mansion is one of two remnants leftover of Spadra, a real wild west town located a few miles from where I was born in Pomona, CA. The other remnant of the town is the very old Spadra Cemetery, which is closed to the public. The mansion was built by Louis Phillips in 1875, then one of the wealthiest men in Los Angeles County. I’m not very familiar with second empire style houses, but I’ve always been drawn to Spadra and the rich (but lost) history of the small town that go left behind in time after the building of a railroad stop in neighboring Pomona.
The mansion has that classic “haunted house” feel, and has actually been used as a location for a few horror films. The last time anyone had actually lived there was around 1960, when the rooms were rented out as apartments. It suffered bad damage from several earthquakes.
The creepy vibes we real, and since I love old things, I was drawn to every corner of the house–except for the attic. A few people went all the way up into the attic and came down a little creeped out. The interior is quite run down, not at all the lush interior that it had once been. The Pomona Historical Society runs this property and has been doing work to restore it as much as possible.
Onsite of the Phillips Mansion property is also the Currier House, another old mansion that was moved to the property from the City of Industry about 20 years ago. The Currier House is in much need of repair, but exudes character throughout each of the rooms we were allowed to see. Each had unique custom wood floor designs, and some beautiful antique tile work on the fireplaces.
The Pomona Historical Society is doing excellent work maintaining and restoring this property, as well as educating local people on the rich history of the area, going all the way back beyond the Missions of California to the indigenous Tongva people who were here originally. Please take a look at their website on Phillips Mansion to learn accurate information on these.
The first month of the year has been eventful in many ways. For me it hasn’t been very eventful photographically. I’ve had jobs cancel due to pandemic worries. I’ve found myself once again preoccupied with household chores and projects that somehow never got finished during the actual lockdowns. The camera has been down.
Last night, however, the Santa Ana winds came through–hard. I was born and raised here in Southern California, and never have I experienced winds like these. Gusts of over 60 mph blasting through my quiet little suburban enclave nestled up against the Angeles National Forest. I didn’t sleep well as I witnessed helplessly the winds tear apart my backyard, moving furniture and toppling pottery. I’ve always taken comfort in knowing that on the hillside below our home are very old and very tall trees that protect us from the elements. Imagine my shock when I looked out the window during the storm to see that several had fallen into a neighbor’s property, damaging their fence and crushing their patio.
In the morning, all seemed to be still as I woke up from a few hours of sleep. I photographed the fallen trees above.
Today meant a lot of clean up and some rest. I heard crews around town cleaning up the destruction from last night. Later on I stopped by an old park that I often photograph. Several large old pines fell in the winds, completely uprooted. Several folks stopped to see the massive roots shoved above ground.
I lost my stepdad to cancer a few years ago, and besides being a huge guiding force in my life, we did a lot of photography together. He left behind a trove of cameras and gear, including a few film cameras that were loaded with film he’d already used for a few shots. One of these was a Leica M7. It took me awhile (it seems a little too long, now) to finish the roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 that was inside. I actually had no idea what film it was until I had finished it out.
With the recent passing of legendary photographer, Tom Stoddart, I’ve been spending time thinking of some of the most celebrated masters of street photography (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Elliot Erwitt, Vivian Maier) and how mundane they might have felt their everyday lives might have been. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve struggled with creative stagnation during this extended time in pandemic. How did they stay so close to their work and still keep it interesting?
Walking about with this loaded M7 was a change up. It felt like driving blind. I’m old enough to remember shooting film, but never with manual settings. What film was in this camera? What lens do I use? Am I going to completely mess this up while unloading the camera?
Turns out I actually did completely mess up a roll of film in another camera my stepdad had loaded. Not my greatest of moments. The world will never know what photos he’d gotten there. The shots he’d gotten on this roll were either blurry or completely gray. I’ll never know the when and the how there. But I did find a small local photo lab that processed and scanned the shots managed to get. I have to say, I’m enjoying the results way too much.
I think of these as mundane, but close to my mindset. The solitude of the times meeting my prolonged grief meeting my creative mind searching to keep photography interesting to me.