Los Angeles, 2015. Leica M240. 35mm Summicron.
Though I Walk
I walked through Skid Row, not because I wanted to steal anyone’s soul, but because I never had. And I don’t like things to be off limits, though I understand it. The tendency is to say, fine, it’s the Dark Forest. Kids, you can’t ever go East of Main Street. And then you have to ask yourself, who’s the jailor and who’s the jailed?
And I wouldn’t even attempt to go in Wyatt Earp style. Like, “dammit, catch me if you can.” It’s not me. That’s the funny thing about this guy up above. This is S. Broadway, of course. Two blocks away. It still looks kinda tough, but it’s changed. You can walk free there. And the light is great. Grab it while you can. Mark my words, you can’t take this picture in two years, there’ll be logos everywhere. But head east and it’s Spring, then Main, like a reverse season change you’re in a perpetual Los Angeles winter. Sure, it’s hot. But the territory is frozen in many other ways. Here on Broadway, though, this is the quintessential Los Angeles moment of this moment because usually you have to drive to see the contrast. Right now, there’s chocolate and peanut butter all over the streets. Scandinavian furniture, jewelry marts, cheap wedding dresses, Guisados tacos, bicycle-churned ice cream. Youngigenarian. Fatshionistas. You can walk among it all. But two blocks away.
“Did you take a picture of me without my permission??!!!”
I turned and walked west. Fast. You really have no idea how intense it is on Skid Row. You can walk through, but I wouldn’t recommend taking pictures, like I was. It’s an invitation to conflict. Two people yelled at me and I never get yelled at. I’m just a kind of guy you don’t mind having your picture taken by. Something about me. I look as curious as I am. But this isn’t just about light and shadow anymore. You have to be aware of the social issues you’re walking in on. I’m not doing a documentary, I just want to capture life. But some life is just too wild. And I’m not a missionary.
You have to decide what kind of photographer you want to be. One way to figure it out is to walk the valleys. Not to convert others, but to find yourself. It’s always been true. The steel caging of cars and the boundaries you set for yourself on where you’ll walk and where you won’t - they limit your knowledge of yourself.
“Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.”
Fall off your horse every once in a while.
The light sounds sometimes like rusted brakes and a drunk looking for a gunfight.
That’s when you find yourself.