Come At Me. Venice, CA. 2015. Leica M240. 35mm Summicron.
The Harsh Light.
Nobody has critics anymore, not until you’re a public figure. What happens is you develop an internal voice that second guesses everything. And that becomes your fight. You don’t need a critic because when we grew up, it was different. Even an A in school and your mom asks you, “Why not an A+?” And god forbid you get an A+, because then you have to answer to an even harsher authority - other kids. Geek. Brainiac. Wuss. Probably hard for kids today to understand what that’s like. And that’s good for them in a lot of ways. The harsh light is a terrible way to live as a kid. You just want to be loved so badly. You should just love a kid. That’s true. I have a new little kid. He can do no wrong.
I started shooting film about 13. I had a Nikkormat, 35mm and I took it everywhere I went. I shot mostly sunsets and the landmarks of my life - the beach, the racetrack, the spot where I fell of my bike, the house I got beat up in front of. The dark, muddy slew and pennies on train tracks. To be honest, I never thought about light because I didn’t have the luxury of choosing when I’d be shooting. The light was the light it was where you were when you were there. Then somebody told me about the “golden hour” and I probably spent another 30 years after that thinking that’s when you should go shoot. A certain quality of light. I don’t think that anymore.
I would go so far as to say that the golden hour is probably my third choice for light. My second choice would be at night, under a light bulb of some kind. My first choice would be the harsh light of day.
I’m drawn toward subjects and scenes that make me uncomfortable. You see surfers and skaters - the California dream. I see cliques and jerks and the guys who bullied me as a kid. You think growing up in SoCal was some kind of beautiful luxury. It had its moments. But more often than not, it was every bit as insular and brutal as a small steel town. I was a smart kid in a dumb town. And that has its own consequences.
I shoot in the harsh light of day because it’s the scariest time to shoot. You expect things to get awful at night. Nighttime and ugliness go hand-in-hand. The subject might have discord, but the photograph is harmonious. The light matches the scene. You expect to get jumped in the shadows. So, visually, that’s what you thought. But when the light doesn’t match, well, that’s a story. If you get punched in the middle of the day, That’s as harsh as it gets. At night, you can crawl away into it and disappear.
In the middle of the day you stagger away and the blood on the sidewalk is your study in contrasts.