Wednesday, July 25, 2007

no trespassing

if you think for one moment that i would obey this directive, then you don't know me. intrepid photographer. the hidden treasures on a late summer afternoon were pretty cool and quite worth trespassing.

urban CORN! lots of fruit trees, cactus, all in a city setting.

city? not quite.

welcome to the wine ghetto on california's central coast.

i have always loved that contradiction in terms - contradiction in california at least - of "wine" and "ghetto." sure "ghettoes" have winos, but here, we are talking about a kind of non-glamorous place where some very fine, fine wine is made. no touristy visiting the vineyard for tastings or anything like that...

yeah, california has napa for that. but i always liked sonoma better.

and those of us who hail from further south on the central coast have our own secret vineyards and vintners. from santa cruz all the way down to santa barbara, we have the same coastal fog, we have the same temperate climes (except for paso robles, with excellent wine yet hot hot heat), we have a few different grapes and different soil. we have lots of oak down here and our chardonnay is sublime. we have tons of fruit trees, making our syrah sublime, too (sorry, none of that aussie "shiraz" pronunciation around here, ok? petite syrah. c'est un mot grenouilleuse. froggie. french word). we have a marked LACK of pretension, however. no hard-to-get-into restaurants. nothing like that. yet.

old ford
no, it would not be california without palm trees.
i loved that you couldn't tell what year it was based on the cars!

i like old cars. they are quite photogenic. later, walking up the road, i spied this big ugly RV with a row of what appeared to be corn. i'm not sure if it is corn, or just looks like corn, but i'm calling it corn!

corn rv
um... i'm not sure if this qualifies for the "ghetto" part of "wine ghetto." but its doing a good job of fulfilling a certain.... class aspect? or novelty. i saw plenty of this corn stuff, though! so much that it made me grab the camera.

more urban corn

this is an example of what i spied through a hole in the fence next to the house pictured above. cactus and corn! we are in the southwest, its far west as the actual coastline.

i love the way the iron bar across the top of their wooden fence has rusted. the color is gorgeous. and the fence, with its charcoal grey wood, its painted white and painted red wood panels all serve to highlight the green of the cactus.

who knows if the residents of this odd place realize what a photogenic home they have.

this cactus was peeking over the same fence.

drive way

i was walking up the hill when i saw this distressed property.

the drive way 2

just on the other side of the no trespassing sign was this inviting empty drive.

another beautiful piece of rust

urban corn row

lo and behold, if you keep walking, you will find that there is more urban corn!

urban corn

Saturday, July 14, 2007

yes, we look for photo opportunites

when sid vicious died in 1979, the one who told me about his passing was stiv bators.

he and sid were friends. in fact, whenever i was in the company of the two of them, it seemed to me that although sid was a member of the more famous and more notorious sex pistols, he was still quite a big fan of stiv's and the dead boys. others who knew sid would tell you that sid was also the world's biggest sex pistols fan. sid loved rock n roll and the people who made it. i think he was always a bit surprised that he was in the sex pistols for each and every day that he was in the band. sid used to hang on to stiv's every word and move with a sort of puppy dog like devotion, the same way he admired johnny rotten in the earlier days of their relationship in the band.

stiv loved the attention and the adulation. who wouldn't? but it is for all these reasons that i suspect it was stiv who painted this tribute to sid on the billboard for the big hollywood movie, heaven can wait, starring warren beatty and julie christie.

i was sitting around at home when stiv phoned and excitedly told me that there was a spray paint tribute to sid on the prominently placed billboard on sunset blvd., near the trendy chateau marmont. this was a photo opportunity that stiv wanted in on. so, i picked him up at his tropicana bungalow and, camera in hand, fired off a roll of film.

creem used the photo (without stiv in it) as the centerpiece of their sid vicious obituary. when i finally met creem's photo editor charlie auringer in person a few months later, he told me that the combination of "heaven can wait" with the "sid vicious r.i.p." was just great photojournalism. i thank stiv everyday for his keen eye for these things.

Sex Pistols

when hanging with the two of them - stiv and sid, i was regaled with sex pistols war stories such as the time that a texas cowboy called sid a "faggot" and sid promptly stabbed himself in the palm to show just how manly he was. in reality, sid seemed to be a pretty shy guy, but he loved to tell that story to anyone who would listen. its an example of the two distinctly different sides of his personality - not quite jekyll and hyde, but definitely, one side shy and quiet, the other side outrageous and prone to violent outbursts. i remember stiv and sid talked about music they liked and bands they had seen and girls they knew in common. they talked about solo projects they wanted to do. stiv told sid about the pre-punk days of cleveland rock n roll and sid was all ears. above all else, i will always think of sid as a big music fan, much more than as a musician.

those guys were no different than the guys i always hung out with, and still hang out with.

that sid was not such a competent musician is really irrelevant and totally beside the fact that he is a great anti-hero hero. its nearly a fairy tale that a band's great fan gets to join that band. what kid brandishing a guitar in his bedroom or garage doesn't dream of the same thing? his cover of "my way" - frank sinatra's signature song - is so appropriate to sid's life, as a young man and as a punk rocker, and ultimately a youth culture icon. he did, indeed do it his regrets.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

mirror moves

i completely forgot about having taken this picture of pleasant...she and i took so many. this was taken back in 1978 when we were hanging out with the mumps as they made their "muscle boys/rock n roll this" single in los angeles.

photos in mirrors present both amazing possibilities and a load of challenges. but i think the upsides definitely outweigh the downsides.

shooting in a mirror suddenly gives the image a whole new layer of meaning, not to mention light - both reflected and refracted.

there are the up and downsides of the photographer being caught in the image. while the alfred hitchcock in each of us may find this appealing, it grounds the photograph as a photograph. on the other hand...the viewer sees the image being made, and that act is immortalized together with the vision of the photographer, and she becomes the viewed as well as the viewer.

in this photo, taken backstage at the whisky a go go, you can see not only the subjects, clem burke and john browner - but you can see my flash, you can see another photographer snapping the guy sitting next to browner, and in the mirror, above clem's head, you can see the reflection of jeffrey lee pierce.

moments later, i turned around and took a sweet portrait of him, before the trials and tribulations of being jeffrey lee pierce of the gun club kicked in. despite what all his friends and i have said about him, i do believe that particular image is the true mirror image of jeffrey lee pierce.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

shakespeare, he's in the alley

this is an alley off western avenue in the logan square - bucktown/wicker park section of chicago. i discovered the alley while i was looking for a place to park, naturally.

even in may, chicago was already hot, sticky and humid when this photo was taken in 2006.

this particular trip to chicago was to go to the final horizontal action blackout. i'd been to chicago twice previously in 2006 to visit family - both times in the winter, in january, and late february/early march. i have to wonder when exactly is the weather nice in chicago. probably like ny, there's a small window in the spring and again in the fall when its too lovely for words.

i love that there's a street called "shakespeare avenue."
western avenue, the main drag off which this part of shakespeare is found, is one of the longest streets in the united states - 23.5 miles in length. i used it as a main thoroughfare commuting between my cousins houses on either side of chicago. it also moves constantly, unlike the freeways.

chicago is a fantastic world class city; it has everything you could possibly want in a city...including so much traffic. its worse than traffic in los angeles because los angeles is such a populous city, you expect the worst traffic. regardless, chicago is one of my favorite places in the USA.

my father was born there and just about all of my relatives from his side of the family still live there.

my grandfather owned a soda fountain/candy store on the south side when it was a big european immigrant neighborhood. a couple years ago, one of my cousins took me to the house where his dad (my uncle) and my dad grew up. well, actually, its an empty double lot on the corner of wentworth and 106. these days, the food purveyors in our family are in LA and own mcdonald's. postmodern greek diner people i guess. the men to the right are the stoes, who are my late aunt maria's brother and nephews. maria was married to my uncle pete, my father's brother. gus owned johnny's snack shop since 1971. it was at the corner of milwaukee and wabansia, just north of the big triangular intersection of north, damen and milwaukee. a hip and popular part of town these days, back when gus opened, it was not so hip.

but it was on a drive on western avenue all the way from the south side suburb of oak park to johnny's snack shop in logan square that i found shakespeare avenue.

on that may visit to chicago, my first night in town, i went to see demons claws at cal's. i know my way around the downtown area where cal's is. i often take the train into chicago and stay at another cousin's greektown condo. but this time, i was staying in the 'burbs, and was given freeway driving take the 55 to the 94, etc. well, there was a baseball game going and construction on the 94 and i got all turned around. i realized that western ran all the way up and down from every part of chicago i was going to be visiting and it became my thoroughfare of choice from that late night onwards.


finally, chicago has some great manhole covers. that is perhaps a topic for another whole post for another day...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

detroit streets pictoral

detroit detroit... they'll be dancing in the streets, right? detroit is rich, rich, rich in photo opportunities on the street! this photo, "no war" was taken in the winter of 2004 - february, i'm pretty sure. i was driving by and this guy was there and now you see him.

he's sitting in front of a building with the address 1515 broadway. i worked for many years in a building also numbered 1515 broadway - in NYC. that's where the mtv networks are headquartered. that's where whether you or i like it or not, i contributed some wacky things to the popular culture. some things i produced became visual shorthand for pop culture... and other things became all too ubiquitous shortcuts for television programmers. but hey - i did my job; did it well. i left a mark, like it or not.


this is the famous kerns clock. its on woodward ave., and i don't think the kerns store has been there for years, but their clock reigns supreme, performing an important function for all in the motor city.

Detroit Clock

here's another clock, its on broadway, not far from the "no war" bum at 1515. its nothing like the kerns clock, but i was in an horological mood that day.

detroit people mover tokens small

these tokens are for detroit's people mover. its a monorail that goes in a circle around a very small area downtown that goes from the renaissance center (GM headquarters) to greektown (casinos; tourist biz) and downtown (by tiger stadium and ford field). i ride it all the time, but rarely see detroiters on it... just other visitors. i think it may be a big mistake on some mayor's legacy. i like it. its odd. its like the monorail ride at disneyland. it goes in a circle, and if you're going somewhere along that circle, well, you're in luck!

when i go to detroit, i visit mostly hamtramck, and the people mover for sure does not go there! public transportation in detroit is kind of non existent. that's pretty much why i ride the people mover. its an anomaly.

hamtramck is home to sandy kramer shaw, pictured here, dancing at the belmont lounge. she cuts my hair better than anyone has ever cut my hair. i used to be able to afford to fly to detroit from NYC on a regular basis just for a hair cut. then northwest airlines got wise and hiked the rates for a round trip flight from $139 to over $200. no can do. sandy's salon is barberella, and you should let her cut your hair too.


sandy's salon has a beautiful palette of dark wood and fuschia curtains. fuschia and dark brown are the new red & black if you ask me! the hamtramck neighborhood that surrounds barberella is filled with duplex houses, two story side-by-side duplexes, lots of chain link fences and polish restaurants and shops galore. last year, i visited hamtramck on two occasions - one coincided with mardi gras polish style - pacski day. its what they do the day before lent begins... they carbo-load on these fabulous filled donuts. people line up around stores and bakeries for their bakers dozen. eugene found the best pacskis right at the end of one local shop's day. apricot filled. mmmm. the next 2006 visit took place in early june (for 666 day - and today is coincidentally 777 day). it was a hot dog eating trip...and a photo session hell. hell michigan, that is. photo report to come....


Thursday, July 05, 2007


in my circle of friends, when you say the word "memory," they immediately reference johnny thunders and his "you can't put your arms around a memory" that probably plays at every memorial to the guy... yes. memory is intangible. that's why i'm so glad i take pictures.

i always used to tell people the reason i never wrote down phone numbers was that i'd forget them if i knew there was a written reference somewhere. i guess the same goes for photos. details i leave to the film to tell. isn't that what a photographer is supposed to do?

actually, i'm not really sure.

the mind i think tries to make a linear order of things in this non-linear chaotic world. mind you, i'm a complete subscriber to chaos theory, and i believe there is more to chaos than the effects of a butterfly fluttering its wings in china and hurricanes in the gulf of mexico. i actually think that everything is chaos, and the whole of our lives is a way to characterize it into an order that we alone comprehend.

there. i have created chaos existentialism

give me tenure in the ivy league!

that photo is of my mother and little 2-year-old me around easter, 1960 in madrid. i know the time and place because the slide is stamped APR 1960 in that inimitable kodak imprint. i know that from 1958 - 1961, we lived in madrid, so its not really a leap for me to say we're in madrid.

tk sunglasses small

of course i do not remember my father taking these photos. and i do not remember first hand the snow that fell in the winter of 1959...although it did. i know it did and i'm told it did, and somewhere, there are photos attesting to it.

so, i'm doing this book version of my photo blog, and everyone interested in it is as interested in the stories behind the photos as they are in the photos themselves.

its no problem to tell a lot of the story. i remember lots of it loud and clear. but the details sometimes morph into each other...

i was pleasantly surprised to receive an email today from the wonderful and colorful local gentleman, chuck e. weiss, whose presence in and around the tropicana and other west hollywood hangs was the kind of thing we sought to find. anyway... chuck gave me some clarity on things on which i had been fuzzy...but published anyway.

and it got me to thinking about memory and what makes it work and what role photographs play in all that.

among the things chuck and i exchanged in our emails were memories of the tropicana.

i remember vaguely spending a good few months in this bungalow with stiv bators. but they're all pretty much a blur. we took tons of photos. i think that was the purpose. there was a whole day we did photos in an homage to art kane's photos of jim morrison.

frank secich,
who is pictured in the bath tub with stiv bators has a fantastic memory. a couple years ago, an author asked me for the story behind a different photo from this particular day of shooting.

frank stiv tub

i honestly didn't remember a lot, but frank remembered everything. all i knew is that i had to deliver alot of shots to the european licensee of the record that stiv and frank were recording the day i was shooting. frank remembers everything about the day. thankfully, he contributed to the author!

don't get me wrong; i remember LOTS and i remember lots acurately... i kept a journal in journalism style - very factual stuff, and kept newspaper clippings. archivist? diarist? memoir-ist? its just that sometimes, i think it is so damn random that we create our dots to link the random things.... one thing chuck told me today is that duke's closed early - around 8 PM... yet i remember being in there during the dead of night... but chuck reminded me that it was more like 5:30 in the morning! and once he said that... memories all came flooding back. the race to get home and in bed, curtains closed before the sun actually rose... because then i would never be able to go to sleep. you know.... like a vampire.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

the extreme close up and blue tint

this legend is forged into a manhole cover on the corner of sunset blvd and fountain ave in los angeles. "city of los angeles made in mexico" is a whole critical essay in and of itself.... but i want to talk about extreme close ups and blue tint right now...

the manhole cover is a dull grey. its metal, but its been trod upon for years and lost whatever lustre it may have had. no problem. i mess around with chromatics all the time.

i stumbled upon this fantastic memento of all things LA in the winter of 2004 - december. it was both fantastically sunny and torrentially rainy in LA. which is normal.

i always like to photograph odd legends, signs, juxtapositions.

i also always like close ups.


the can of peanuts is from when i bought my first set of close-up lenses in 1973, and here are some tanks that i saw backstage at the mercury lounge in NYC, circa 2003.

tanks ECU

they're all quite beautiful to me.

thirty years in between all those photos, yet...the sentiment and motivation for taking them is the same.... plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose