I knew it would happen eventually… I went to my photo lab today, Ohlone Photo - the only one that processes 120mm film in my area. They have closed permanently!!! I feel bad for the owner, Roger, but photo labs are a bad business today. The next nearest lab from me will now be 20-30 miles away, until that one closes. The logical conclusion, since I have a 10-year supply of film, is one day I’ll be mailing my film overseas. I’m guessing China.
As time goes by
After spending several days in bed this week, its time to face the world again. Aaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!!
I started the Alley series in the early 90’s, shooting 35mm chrome film with my Nikon. Many years, and many alley images later, I was finally able to afford to step up my gear. I bought my first 120mm Hasselblad. The quality of my images experienced a quantum leap. Suddenly they were doing what I wanted them to, which is to allow the viewer a feeling that he could step into the picture and enter one of the alternate realities of my Alleys.
On a trip to Montreal in 1998, I decided to re-shoot some of my favorite old shots. Although I liked the results, the originals consistently won. What makes a great image is not just the bold, whack on the head of a first look at a picture. Like great music, a great photograph reveals its subtleties over time, after numerous viewings. These subtleties at the location are usually fleeting. Here today, gone tomorrow, or gone in one minute, or one second…
Here’s one of the originals and the re-shoot:
Alley no. 3, 1993, Montreal
Alley no. 43, 1998
The original incandescant street light had been replaced with sodium vapour, which I was not happy about, but the big dismay was the light in the right window was off. I didn’t take the shot… instead, the following morning I went to the factory, briefly explained what I was doing to the owner, and asked if he wouldn’t mind leaving that light on. He looked at me very suspiciously, “Why do you want me to leave a light on overnight in my factory?” Beginning to worry my request would not be welcomed; again I explained what I was doing. I showed him the original photo, and though he was still not impressed (and wouldn’t even take the picture as a gift!), he was curious as to which light could have been on. Together we realized that the only possibility was an old Molson beer clock whose fluorescent tubes had burned out years ago (flourescent lights turn green on film). With this realization, he warmed up. I offered to fix the clock for him, which I did, and returned that night. The clock had 2 tubes and I replaced both - I believe the 1993 clock had only one working tube. Unfortunately because of this and other factors, I was unable to recapture the green jewel of the original window. Several other changes, plus who knows… a change in the stars? led to further changes that chipped away at the quality of the original. Although the later shot is good, it lacks the subtle mystery and range of interpretations of the original.
I re-shot several of the old shots on that trip in ‘98. I’ll eventually post all of them.
San Diego’s Balboa Park is a huge, beautiful thing, combining over 1000 acres of lush greenery and valleys with a large selection of turn of the century buildings. There’s virtually no urban decay in San Diego, so here are pictures of this beautiful park, which dates back to 1835. Most of the buildings are inspired by Spanish architecture and were built just before 1915. They house numerous museums, including the San Diego Museum of Man, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Museum of Photographic Arts and the Natural History Museum.
These were shot this past weekend.
I spent the weekend in San Diego and a day in Tijuana, Mexico with Pam. I’d love to shoot alleys in Tijuana, but without major backup it would be suicide. All I could do was shoot in the day… There are many pretty things to shoot, but I didn’t shoot any.
A vacant mall
Tijuana River… oh the things I could shoot at night!!
On our way back, it became evident I had eaten a bad thing… maybe it was the cup of toilet water, I don’t know. Nevertheless, as Pam and I are driving back to the hotel at night, the churning in my stomach begins. (Do not read if you have a weak stomach!!)
By the time I get to downtown San Diego, I know I’m gonna throw up, but I’m trying hard to hold off until I’m somewhere more discreet… doesn’t happen… I’m DOWNTOWN, Saturday night, the streets are packed… people, cars. I’m at a red light and there’s a car next to me, 3 ft away. A girl passenger is looking at me and I lurch out the window - it all comes out: a HUGE stream of projectile vomiting. It goes on the street, smears ALL OVER the door of our car, on my clothes, my hands… The girl’s expression is frozen in fear and disgust. She will be talking about this for the rest of her life. I barf out the window again, then Pam gives me a 24oz fast food paper cup and I start barfing into that. I heave 3 times and fill it to the brim, but thankfully that’s where I stop. Its a nasty scene, with people stopping and watching. The light turns green and I step on it, wanting to get the hell out of there. I go 2 blocks and WHILE DRIVING, I stick my head out and throw up again, vast quantities once more, all over the side of the car and on the streets in front of chi-chi night clubs. I stop the car to finish my second round of vomiting. When I’m done I take off again (I’m expecting the cops to be on me in no time, but it doesn’t happen). I manage to finally drive out of busy downtown, and I make it to a park where I go for round 3 on the grass. A lot more comes out, but in the end I’m dry heaving and my joyous experience comes to end.
Other than that I had a great weekend! Really!
This was shot last year in San Francisco. Several of my new images had an Extreme fighting match in a small cage I built for the occasion. Starry Night got the living daylights beat out of it, ergo the name… Having lost, it will not get a coveted number in my Alley series, but the consolation prize is appearing on my blog.
Starry Night, 2007, San Francisco
Stencil graff - Roadsworth and Banksy
Montreal, where I grew up, always had excellent graffiti. A current stencil graff artist in the city goes by the name Roadsworth. My friend Randy sent me these photos:
But the king of stencil graff is Banksy, a British artist
Another New Release! WARNING THE DOG
This image was done earlier this year in LA. It was shot the same night and in the same run down industrial complex as Alley no. 108 - Parking Lot
My friend Jeff and I had help from a homeless man, Jesus, who lived under a tarp in the parking lot. His story was oddly inspiring.
Also living within the parking lot were a couple of old dogs. The German Shepherd in the shot looks vicious but was in reality frightened and nearly blind. As the homeless Jesus was the designated parking lot attendant, its no surprise that this old, scared and gimpy dog guarded the place. In fact, the only thing he guarded was another dog - a small white mutt. The German Shepherd would scamper away if approached, but would stand his ground if you got near his little companion. Jeff became good friends with him, and he remembers his name. I’ll make sure to ask him.
Alley no. 111 - WARNING THE DOG (2008, Los Angeles, CA, 11:15pm)
New Release: Compton, CA
This image, taken at a spot where three alleys intersect in Compton, was shot in March of this year. It was the first of two images I would shoot following a frenzied encounter with an angry street gang. I was setting up this shot when I decided I needed more lighting equipment and went back to my van, down the alley to the right. I pick up a light and start heading back when I see my two friends, 40 yards away and running frantically towards me with all my gear. They are yelling for me to open the van doors - behind them, chasing them, are a dozen hooded gangsters.
Alley no. 111 - High Wire (2008, Compton, CA, 11am)