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.
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.
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.
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.
The days in November seem to quicken as they go by, probably since they do. And this is made worse by the coming of Standard Time (the fall-back time change). People seem to love the extra hour of sleep, while I bemoan the shortened days. The sun sets around 4:45 p.m., and I can’t get anything done. I do revel in the changing light, though. Everything starts to become tilted and surreal. Dali-esque shadows stretch lengthily across streets and sidewalks.
I’ve been busy with client work since the world as started to reopen again (thank you, vaccines). I’m grateful for the work, and it reminds me to get back to shooting personal work again. I’ve been creatively depressed during the various lockdowns and, while I can’t stand the crowds back out again, I’ve been taking the few extra moments to go on photo walks with whatever camera I have on hand.
A few weeks ago I got to photograph Acentos Bienvenidos, a celebration of Latin/Hispanic Heritage Month at the Citadel Shopping Mall in Commerce, CA. The celebration was outdoor with COVID safety precautions in place, and featured performances by Yamila Cuban Latin Band, Heart of Samba Brazilian dancers, and Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles. The event hosts were Valentina and Alexander Rodriguez. Enjoy this selection of photos…
I was particularly moved by Mariachi Arcoiris as they are the worlds first all LGBTQ+ mariachi, also featuring the first transgender woman in mariachi.
This beautiful event was presented by Hulu and constructed by the talented folks at AKJOHNSTON Group.
I have to admit that finding any sense of creative flow over the last eight or so months has been a challenge. The summer was hot, arid, and felt long. The remnants of “pandemic brain” have slowly started to recede as I find I have things to look forward to once again. As the world seems to surge back to activity. As my COVID vaccine does its job, allowing me to be in a world to some extent.
A short visit to my weekly local farmers market. An exploration of tone.
An early heatwave hit Southern California and for some reason I thought it a good idea to hit the desert for a weekend in Palm Springs at a friend’s house. This is normally calm, relaxing, and fun with plenty of libations flowing by a cool pool.
It was somewhat challenging this time around. The temperatures lingered around 116 degrees all day. It was so hot, the pool water resembled a lukewarm bath. My friend lightly burned his bare feet on the hot patio, and we even had a few power outages.
Still, as pandemic worries slow down steadily, and as the world starts or reopen, it was nice to walk around (yes, in hot noon sun) with the Leica TL2 taking in bars full of chattering patrons under the palms of Palm Springs.