April 21 – A Dutch newspaper, the Dodgers, street photography, and the Pasadena Playhouse Gala.

I found out that some of the work I did for the Consulate of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was featured in a Dutch newspaper. Hidde, a friend and colleague, sent me a photo of the paper. I also found the article online, if you speak Dutch and want to get past the paywall.

A friend of mine invited me to a Dodger game. I took my Nikon F3 loaded with Kodak 400 T-Max. I took a few shots. Haven’t developed the roll yet. This started me carrying a smaller 35mm camera with me to more places, something photographers talk about all the time but I sometimes find a little burdensome. Carrying a camera around the grocery store, to the gas station, the post office…it seems a little odd. Then again, the great street photographers carried cameras and film with them always. They’d either roam the streets all day, or shoot in any spare moment they had.

More and more, I wonder about street photography. My stepdad had introduced me to the idea years ago, and we even attended one of the first exhibits of the work of Vivian Maier in Los Angeles. It seems like over the last six or seven years, especially on platforms like YouTube, street photography became more about content creation than actually decent photos. Content churner-outers are more emboldened to stick cameras in strangers’ faces, the idea of consent goes out the window fairly easily. The mystique of street photography lies in photography books. The now-forgotten names of the faces in the works of Vivian Maier, Elliot Erwitt, Robert Frank, and Diane Arbus, they peer out at us from another time. It’s easy to forget that they may not have consented to having their photo taken, while these were also eras when cameras weren’t so ubiquitous. No one was making content from street photography, because street photography didn’t pay. I’m not so sure it pays now since it doesn’t seem to be for anyone now, but for generations to come.

I’m in a swirl of photo editing from my steady stream of clients this month. I’ve been really happy with how much of the work has turned out, especially some of these shots from the Pasadena Playhouse annual gala. It was almost rained out, save for a set of elaborate clear catering tents. I put a prime lens on my DSLR and took advantage of the shimmer all around me from the raindrops falling on the enclosure.

Eclipse Day In SoCal

It wasn’t as exciting in our neck of the woods. But I do remember the phenomenon of the light making little crescent moons through the trees.

Some people use a colander. I liked this for some simple black and white shots.

Matt

Photo Walk: Olvera Street and Union Station

An impromptu day trip to Olvera Street in DTLA for people watching and street photography. 

Took the train into Union Station, which is classic Los Angeles in Mission Moderne style—a blend of Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival, and Art Deco architecture.

I grew up thinking Olvera Street was the preserved remnants of a small Mexican village, but learned recently it was actually saved from demolition and built as a tribute to Mexican culture that had existed here before urbanization. 

Still, Olvera Street features some deep history of LA, including the Avila Adobe (the oldest house in Los Angeles), the oldest living grape vines in Los Angeles, and a stone pathway marking one of the founding water channels of the Pueblo de Los Angeles.

Mexican vendors selling toys, decor, music, games, clothing, and food are are meshed together in this small, cramped street. I wanted to order the famous taquitos from Cielito Lindo, but being vegan the only menu option seemed to be a Soyrizo and potato burrito. It sounded delicious but my appetite wasn’t quite ready for it.

I caught some dancing in the nearby Plaza de Los Angeles (the oldest plaza in California)  where I couldn’t help but feel the sheer joy of seeing people simply dancing in the streets. I’ve been coming to Olvera Street since childhood, and it was good to feel this place once again.

Travelog: Zion National Park

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.

The Court of the Patriarchs at dawn

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 loved the various natural hanging gardens along the Riverside Walk.

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. 

The famous Zion arch, about 900 feet long.

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.

Pictures of Nothingness

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.

Touring the Remnants of Spadra

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.

Phillips Mansion sometime in the late 19th Century

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.

Self reflection from inside the Currier House.
Some of the wood paneling inside the rooms of the Currier House.

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.

I photographed this tour with my Leica Q.

Photo Diary: January Windstorm Aftermath

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.