Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Giant steps

SOMEONE ASKED ME IF I'D WRITE A POST talking about major moments or shifts in my career. At first I was reluctant - it's the kind of thing I was saving for a summing up, near the end of this whole project of excavating my old work. Then I looked at what I have scheduled to post here and realized that I am very nearly approaching the home stretch, and decided that now is as good a time as any.

I was able to pin down quite a few photos that sum up these milestones. At first they were significant points on the steep learning curve that began when I bought my first real camera in 1985. It has to be understood that photography was very much in  a mature phase when I began shooting seriously - film and camera technology were only seeing the most minor advances, and whatever big steps forward I was taking had to do with mastering basic skills and not adapting to big changes in the medium and the industry.

The changes would come much later, and they would be massive.

John Waters, Toronto, 1987

I shot John Waters for the first time when he came to Toronto for a signing at a bookstore at the end of my street. He was still an underground icon at the time, and I did the shoot without a client, strictly as a fan. I had been taking pictures of people to go with my interviews for many months, but this is really the first portrait I ever shot - an attempt to capture something about the subject's persona and not just a record of how they looked that day.

It was shot on a Mamiya C330, my first medium format camera, and a sign that I was becoming serious about this photography thing. The lighting could not have been more basic - a flash held just off to the left while I triggered the shutter with my right hand. I had spent the day thinking about what I would do if Waters agreed to sit for a picture, and ended up taking the little rubber puppet face home from the toy shop where I worked, on a whim. I remember my amazement when the photo came up in the darkroom tray - it looked like something that actually belonged in a magazine somewhere. Did I actually take that?

Anton Corbijn, Toronto, 1988

I was a big fan of Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, and when we discovered that he would be in town, Chris Buck and I cornered him outside a Tom Waits concert and convinced him to let us interview/photograph him for Nerve magazine. We did the shoot in his room at a downtown motel, and when we we'd finished the interview and were scoping the room for a place to shoot him, he suggested that we move away from the big windows by the door and further into the room. Corbijn sat down on the edge of the bed; I picked up my Pentax Spotmatic and looked through the viewfinder and a light went on in my head.

He was showing us the sort of light he preferred to use in his own work - the sort of shadowless light you get on an overcast day, which can be made dramatic and more richly textured when you boost the contrast in printing. I had always been anxious about exposure, and inevitably placed my subjects near the strongest light source I could find; Corbijn taught us that light has a range of qualities, and that you could change the mood of a shot by choosing carefully. It's more of an homage than a portrait, really, but this photo is a record of a eureka moment in my career.

Henry Rollins, Toronto, 1988

The success of my John Waters portrait made me ambitious, and within a year I had put together a portable studio that I carried around with me - my Mamiya, a flash, umbrella and light stand, and a big white painter's tarp in a gym bag with a roll of gaffer tape to fix it to walls. I was learning about light and composition and trying to gain more control over my portraits by trying not to rely on available light sources.

That single flash bounced into an umbrella could change the look of a photo depending on simple adjustments of a few inches either up, down, near or far from the subject. Without a modeling light or a way to make Polaroid tests I was always shooting blind with this set-up, and watching the contact sheets come up in the developer was an anxious moment.

The Rollins portrait was clearly a product of my love of Irving Penn and Richard Avedon's work in the '50s and '60s - the anxiety of influence would linger for years - but it was clean and simple and captured something about its subject. Taken just a few months before Nerve magazine finally folded, it's also a record of the moment when I decided to make photography and not writing the focus of my energies.

Roses, Parkdale, 1991

By the turn of the '90s I had moved into a big loft space in Parkdale, and had bought my first serious gear, which included a Zenza Bronica SQ-a medium format camera and a kit of Profoto strobe lights. I could take Polaroids and work with modeling lights and had far more control over my images than I could have imagined with the Mamiya and the darkroom in the bathroom of my bachelorette apartment.

These roses were delivered to the space one day, and on a Sunday morning I began setting up my white backdrop and the lights. I had been playing around with still lifes but hadn't done anything really worthwhile; I'm not sure if I even knew to call this a "high key" lighting setup at the time, but I'd seen this sort of thing before, had striven to get the effect in my portraits, and decided to work all day until I got something that looked like what I had in my mind.

After countless Polaroid tests I finally hit somewhere near the mark and began shooting slide film for cross-processing, to wring as much contrast from the shot as I could. After much fumbling and failing, I'd climbed up the first rung of still-life photography, and a bit more confident about calling myself a professional.

James Tenney, Parkdale, 1991

In the days before Photoshop, making really big changes to the look of a photo began in the camera, and cross-processing colour film - slide film developed in negative chemistry or vice versa - was one way of really pulling away from a realistic, technically "correct" image. It was also a big risk that required lots of testing and careful records of darkroom enlarger settings to compensate for the wild colour shifts from this experimental process.

I'd been playing around with cross-processing privately, but when I was assigned to shoot avant-garde classical composer James Tenney for the cover of a New York music magazine, I wanted to take a big risk and see what I got in the studio with bright colour gels on my strobes. Cross-processing would turn out to be a creative dead end after many years, but the strong colours and deep contrast of portraits like this one helped me realize that photography could be a graphic art as much as anything else, and taught me that colour balance itself is mostly arbitrary.

Pure, Toronto, 1990

After the first big hurdles of my learning curve were over, it required more work to push forward and make progress - technical and artistic - in my work. I was no longer worried about poor exposure whenever I developed a roll of film, though there was always some aesthetic effect that seemed just out of my reach. By now I was working for NOW magazine and shooting a lot of live music.

Concert photography has never been a focus of my work, but I did a lot of it for many years, and it took real effort to keep it interesting. I ran into Kevin, a guitarist I'd known since the Nerve years, and he invited me to see his new band - an industrial metal outfit that put quite a bit of care into their live show, going so far as to have a regular lighting guy to deal with strobes and smoke machines. I ended up working with them quite a lot over the next couple of years - they loved to strike iconic poses onstage and, frankly, looked fantastic through my lens.

There were a lot of conventions with shooting live photography, where a long lens and a fast shutter speed were key to getting usable shots. I decided to go in the other direction, and shot the band with my medium format Rolleiflex, hand held at low shutter speeds. The smoke would fill in the shadows onstage and the strobe lights provided bursts of sharp action, often in multiple exposures. Every frame was a wild card, but it felt fantastically exciting to shoot, even if no one besides me and the band ever saw most of these shots.

Tilda Swinton, Toronto, 1992

By the early '90s I'd settled into a comfortable method for shooting portraits outside of the studio. I carried two Rolleis in a small case and a compact tripod but no flash or strobes, relying on available light and either a steady hand or a locked-off camera and shutter release. The technology I was using was decades old - my Rolleis were built in the '50s and the Sekonic light meter I relied on hadn't changed it's design since then. In the whole of the first two decades of shooting professionally, the only really new technology I used was my autofocus Canon SLR.

This portrait of actress Tilda Swinton was probably among the best examples of this first "mature" period of my portrait work. With my camera on a tripod and the shutter set to a half second or less, I had to be able to coax my subjects into a calm, quiet space to avoid movement; I had to manifest some brief authority to take control of the shoot. At some point I started wearing suits. The negatives would often look a bit plain and underwhelming, so most of the real work took place in the darkroom.

Forest Whitaker, Toronto, 2005

A decade later I was back shooting celebrities in hotel rooms, but everything had changed. "Luxurious" ten or fifteen minute shoots had been cut down to five minutes, then two minutes, then less. Film photography had given way to digital after the briefest transition, and every new generation of camera saw an improvement in chip technology and image size. My darkroom was replaced by Photoshop - the only change for which I was grateful right from the start.

Shooting for the free national daily, I would plead with the writer for as much time as I could get at the end of our interview slots, but publicists would still pull subjects out of the room after just a couple of dozen frames. (Or less. My Heath Ledger shoot lasted precisely five frames.)

The luxury of a couple of setups had vanished, and I had to find the sweet spot of light in the hotel room fast and shoot as quickly as I could. Most of the time I was back to the start of my career, taking photos of what celebrities looked like on that day instead of real portraits, but sometimes a subject like Forest Whitaker would respond to the occasion and give something like a performance for my camera.

Harbourfront, Toronto, 2011

When I started shooting digitally, I assumed that I was just using any other camera, slapped my old Canon lenses on the new bodies the paper provided for me and worked accordingly. It would take a few years before I understood that a jpeg or RAW file was different than a film negative, and that light hitting a sensor worked in subtly different ways than it did when it hit film in the back of a camera.

The hurlyburly of work at the free national daily - writing several columns a week in addition to shooting - never gave me enough time to appreciate this, but when I was laid off and forced to return to freelance work (in a very different and much harsher economic climate than before) I had time to really think about the peculiar nature of digital photography and the quality of a pixel.

Most of my work in the first year or two after I lost my job was for blogTO, a website devoted to city news and lifestyle reporting with a big visual component. Just before noon on a dim autumn day I was downtown near the lake shooting a story when I came upon this scene - a bunch of boats turned turtle under a low sun that barely burned through the thick clouds.

I had been trying to shoot cityscapes and landscapes on my own for years and falling short of an idea I had in my head, but this photo was where the strangeness I always saw in the world around me finally came into sharp focus in a picture. It was a moment of real inspiration, and without it I don't think that any of the travel work I've done in the last few years would have been possible.

Patti Smith, Toronto, 1995

Photoshop was seven years old when I took this portrait of Patti Smith in a hotel room in the mid-'90s, but almost no photographer I knew used it. Intrigued by what I'd heard about digital image manipulation, I priced out a basic Mac system around this time; it would have cost about as much as a used BMW in really good condition. I wouldn't switch from darkrooms to computers till the end of 2001, when I took a job as the photo editor at the free national daily.

I was never satisfied with these Patti Smith portraits back in the days of film. When Patti asked me what I was trying to do, I mentioned Nadar and the pictorialists working a century earlier, but shooting with a Rollei and modern film, I was never able to achieve the look or feel I was imagining at that time. I probably could have come close with a view camera, but even with a whole fifteen minutes worth of shooting time, I probably wouldn't have provided my editor with more than a handful of frames to choose from, and that would have been irresponsible.

The 75mm/3.5 lens on the Rollei was simply too sharp and the depth of field too deep to get the look I wanted, and it wasn't until I learned to unlock layers and selective focus in Photoshop with my portraits of Spalding Gray and Bjork that I was able to revisit my Patti Smith shoot and complete the job the way I imagined it in my head, twenty years earlier.

Kinky Friedman, Toronto, 2015

I don't know that there's any money to be made doing it any more, but my first love will always be portraits. After years of exploring the peculiarities of digital photography with cityscapes and news photography, I made a tentative return to portrait work with this portrait of Texas country singer and writer Kinky Friedman.

The setup was simple - diffused window light coming from behind me on the landing of a set of stairs in a club, with a collapsible white reflector for a backdrop - and the camera was my new Fujifilm X30, the first digital camera I'd enjoyed using as much as my beloved Rolleis. I was boiling down the setup from the Henry Rollins shoot nearly thirty years earlier to its essence, in the hope that I would be able to reconnect with the photographer I used to be, eager once again to make decent portraits.

I haven't a clue about where photography is going, or if what I'm doing is still a career. I know that my last fifteen years of serious shooting have seen more changes to the technology and market than the first fifteen. The way people take and consume photos is still transforming convulsively, and camera technology like this could prove to be a major game-changer. I don't feel in control of my role as a photographer - I probably never was, but there's no illusions any more, at least. At least I still feel like I'm moving forward, but where this is all going, as either art or business, is anyone's guess.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot, Toronto, July 1992

ONE MORNING IN THE SPRING OF 1992 I WAS LYING IN BED in my Parkdale loft thinking about how lonely and broke I was. The phone rang. It was a man who said his name was Barry Harvey; he was Gordon Lightfoot's manager and he wondered if I was available to do some album cover shots. For almost a minute I treated the whole thing as a joke, and tried to figure out which one of my friends was pulling a prank on me.

It soon became obvious, however, that Mr. Harvey was serious, and that I had come recommended by a publicist at WEA Canada. We briefly discussed fees (still imagining the whole thing might be a joke I quoted my full day rate, which almost no one had ever paid up till that point) and availability (I was very available, at any time.) By the time the call ended, my head was swimming. Did this really happen?

I'm not sure how long it was until Barry called me back with a day and a time. I was to show up precisely at 10am at Gord's house in Rosedale with my cameras. There would be a contract giving Gord and Early Morning Productions exclusive rights to the photos, in exchange for my full day rate plus expenses. I arrived at the house early, walked up and down the block a few times to kill time, then rang the doorbell. Gordon Lightfoot answered, shook my hand, then told me to wait in the big sun room, which was filled with guitars and cases.

Gordon Lightfoot, Toronto, July 1992

I looked around for a good spot to shoot, but when Gord came back I asked if there was somewhere outside he found comfortable. He mentioned a spot down in the ravine behind the house, and after he made coffee, I found myself walking a path through the woods behind a guitar-carrying Gordon Lightfoot. It was the most utterly Canadian moment of my life thus far.

If you didn't grow up in Canada in the '70s it's hard to describe the importance of Gordon Lightfoot. His music was literally everywhere, a string of hits ("Early Morning Rain," "Bitter Green," "If You Could Read My Mind," "Summer Side of Life," "Sundown," "Carefree Highway," "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald") that were constantly on the radio, soundtracking the decade with a subtle but persistent melancholy and a peculiarly northern romanticism that was tentative but intense and fully anticipatory of regret and heartbreak.

Did I want to try and capture all of that with my photos in that ravine on a pleasant weekday morning? I'd like to hope that I was that ambitious, somewhere beneath my nervousness. Mostly I wanted to get a really flattering cover shot for a man who'd made seventeen records already and had sat for countless photo shoots. It all felt quite momentous - a few years earlier I was a punk kid shooting hardcore bands in dingy shithole clubs, and now I was doing album photos for a Canadian musical icon.

Gordon Lightfoot, Toronto, July 1992

I mostly shot with my Rolleiflex, trying to frame potential album covers with each shot in the square viewfinder as I worked. Gord seemed relaxed enough, and sang Ramblin' Jack Elliott songs while I snapped. After a while his wife Elizabeth and young son Miles came down and joined us, and Gord started playing and joking around for them.

I'd brought my Canon SLR with me, and took another quick roll near the end of the shoot for insurance. Typically, it was one of these frames that ended up on the cover of the record, Waiting For You, when it came out a year later, while one of the Rollei shots ended up on the back of the CD package.

When we were packing up, just before Gord gave me a ride to the subway station in one of his big '70s Cadillacs, he asked if I thought I had everything I needed. I told him that I might have, but if he was willing, I wanted to do another shoot in my studio to get something different, a bit more formal, for variety. To my surprise he agreed, and a week or two later he showed up with guitar and suit bag at my Parkdale loft, commenting on the colourful street life outside.

I'd stripped the furniture away from by the windows of my studio/bedroom and set up two lights, one bounced into the ceiling for ambient fill, another in a big softbox just to Gord's left. I wanted to bring the daylight outside down to a cool twilight blue, and shot with cross-processed slide film to increase the saturation. I don't know if I played anything on the stereo while I shot, but Gord happily sat and picked while I worked. One of the shots ended up inside the booklet of the record, so I felt like I'd given Gord value for his money.

Gordon Lightfoot, Parkdale, July 1992

A footnote: When Gord arrived, I asked him if he wanted to hear an interesting cover of one of his songs. I pulled out the first album by Clawhammer, a California group I quite liked, and cued up their version of "Sundown." He was visibly amused by the album cover, and listened to their raucous take on his song all the way through. When it was over, he handed the record back to me and said, grinning wryly, "Not bad, not bad. Some tough changes in there."

It would be another four years before I heard from Gord or Barry Harvey again. Once again the phone rang, and Barry asked if I was available to shoot some live photos at Gord's annual concerts at Massey Hall. They were thinking of doing a songbook and needed some fresh live shots.

Of course I agreed, but made one request: I could skulk around at the lip of the stage and get the same sorts of pictures any newspaper photographer on assignment might get, but if they'd let me wander the wings and edge of the stage, I might get some shots with a different perspective. I'd dress in black and try to be as inconspicuous as possible, of course. To my surprise, Barry agreed.

Gordon Lightfoot, Massey Hall, Toronto, Nov. 1996

I began by showing up for the soundcheck, where I tried to get candid shots of Gord and his longtime band - Terry Clements, Rick Haynes, Barry Keane and Mike Heffernan. I was given free access to the stage and the backstage area, and shot roll after roll of mostly black and white before the show, my mind focused on getting something like the work of Columbia Records staff photographer Don Hunstein back in the '60s.

I switched to colour negative film for the show, and did most of my shooting around and behind the band, occasionally darting forward to get shots of Gord as he knelt and shuffled through the fan gifts and song requests that had been left by his mike stand during the show.

Gordon Lightfoot, Massey Hall, Toronto, Nov. 1996

I was quite pleased with what I got, and handed in the contact sheets to Barry, but I don't know if the songbook ever happened and ultimately I was never asked to print up any of the shots. That would have been the last I ever heard from Barry or Gord, in any case. Barry Harvey died suddenly before Christmas almost ten years ago, just after Gord had a couple of serious health scares.

Since recovering, Gord has spent long months of every year on the road with his band, playing what amounts to the sort of endless tour that his friend and peer, Bob Dylan, has been doing for over a decade. I would love to get another chance to photograph Gord again, but while asking for permission from his management to post these photos, my request for a quick shoot was turned down. No matter - I had my chance to contribute to the image of a musical icon, and had an altogether happy experience doing it, making for a highlight in the heyday of my professional career.

(Photos reproduced by permission of Early Morning Productions.)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

Christmas lights, Los Angeles, Nov. 2016

I'D LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE WHO'S FOLLOWED THIS BLOG and wish them a very Happy Christmas or Chag Sameach or whatever seasonal greeting fits your bill. The year has turned out very differently than I imagined it would around Christmas last year, when I was haunting my hometown's hydro corridors with my camera. I've been to a lot of places with my cameras that I didn't imagine I'd ever visit, and even managed a tentative return to portrait photography. I've also met a lot of great people on my travels. It's been fun.

Christmas lights, Los Angeles, Nov. 2016

Here are a couple of shots taken in the Riviera neighbourhood of Los Angeles, just after sunset and just north of Sunset Boulevard, a month before Christmas. I was going to say that Christmas in L.A. feels very odd for someone from Canada, but on reflection it's really no stranger than anything else in L.A. I'm looking forward to more travel and more portraits, but before that I have a post devoted to a Canadian legend, and a little bit of looking back to start the new year. In the meantime, all the best to all of you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

James Chance

James Chance. Toronto, Dec. 2016

SINCE STARTING THIS BLOG I'VE BEEN REMINDED ABOUT HOW TIME HAS PASSED, and how quickly time is passing. With this in mind, I've become preoccupied with unfinished business, and trying to get portraits of people I've always hoped would end up in front of my camera. Last week I had just such an opportunity.

James Chance has a new record out, and was booked by local music promoting legend Gary Topp to play a show here - once in the early fall, then later in December after that show was postponed. I was a fan of Chance and his bands - the Contortions, James White & the Blacks, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks - long before I ever owned a camera, though he never seemed to pass through town when I was shooting seriously.

I had copies of Chance's records Buy and Off White when I was a lonely misfit high school punk. When most of my schoolmates were into Rush or Springsteen, I was in the basement listening to Chance's punk rock take on funk and free jazz, which sounded like boiled essence of late '70s New York City soundtracking Chance's alternately needy and spiteful vocals. I even went so far as to buy a white dinner jacket and acquire a broken alto saxophone, which I never learned how to play. I didn't make a lot of friends in high school, but I did wear the jacket to the prom.

I can thank Chance for not only giving me an appropriate soundtrack for my slightly retro-oriented teenage angst, but for being my gateway drug to the "challenging" jazz I'd end up listening to a decade later - people like Defunkt, Ornette Coleman, James Blood Ulmer, Last Exit and David Murray, who was briefly Chance's sax teacher. Chance also provided a teasing primer for the American Songbook tunes that would obsess me in the '90s when I (pseudonymously) wrote a column on old jazz for a local weekly.

James Chance live, Rivoli Club, Toronto, Dec. 2016

I arrived early at the club, hoping to get Chance to sit for a quick portrait after soundcheck. It turned out that he didn't do the soundcheck, but Gary talked me up to his guitarist, Tomás Doncker, and I was assured that he'd probably be willing to sit for a portrait after the show. I broke down my studio in a bag again, stuffed it under the soundboard and met some friends for the show.

It was a great gig. Chance has always led a tight band, and I shot a bit from the front of the stage while they did a couple of old Contortions songs, material from his new record, a Gil Scott Heron tune, and encored with James Brown's "I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)." With the show over, I collected my gear and waited for a green light from Chance to do a shoot. With some reluctance, he agreed.

James Chance. Toronto, Dec. 2016

I set up on the stage after the gear had been cleared away - my little white folding backdrop and two LED lights bounced into umbrellas. I waited for James to sign CDs and do some business with Gary before he made his way back to the stage and my little studio. He was obviously suffering from some serious back pain, so I got it over as quickly as possible.

For almost half of the frames, Chance has his eyes closed; he seemed to be marshalling what energy he could after a strenuous night. Luckily I really like taking pictures of people with their eyes closed. But when he opened them and fixed his gaze on my lens I was startled at how huge his eyes are, and how fiercely they seemed to look through the camera at me. The shot above is very far from the most intense of the photos I took at the Rivoli that night.

Not wanting to tax Chance further or take up more of his time, I shook his hand and thanked him for the opportunity to take his portrait.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Los Angeles

Downtown L.A. from the Loew's Hollywood helipad, Nov. 2016

THERE'S NO OTHER CITY LIKE LOS ANGELES. I can't think of a more unique set of circumstances where a city like this could exist. Hugging the sides of mountains on an earthquake fault; home to a world-straddling entertainment industry; lacking a single discernible downtown and, in fact, having several of them; containing not only infamous traffic-clogged freeways but several massive parks.

I used to hate Los Angeles, like most people from the other coast. That was partly L.A.'s own fault - the movie industry has been telling nasty stories about itself and its hometown since the silent era. I fell for the bad press and the sinister myths - until I actually started going there. That's when I learned that the myths were almost all true, but that there was so much more to the place. Mostly, though, I learned that you can't take a bad picture of L.A.

Hollywood hills, Los Angeles, Nov. 2016
House in the hills above Malibu, Los Angeles, Dec. 2016

My return to L.A. after an eight year break began at the top - the helipad of my hotel, to be specific, and its view to the old "downtown" under a cloudless sky. My room looked out at the mansions running down the side of the Hollywood hills, where you couldn't help but wonder if the people living there, looking out of their windows, knew that other eyes were looking back. Looking seems to be a major activity in L.A., where a view is a status symbol, and half the population seems to be doing its best to be seen.

My previous trips to the city had been fleeting, involving buses and taxis and hotel rooms and movie theatres, and I was lucky if I got a chance to get more than a couple hours' time on foot. This trip was different; being on foot in Los Angeles was the whole point, and after the helipad, it began the next morning at that most iconic of locations: The Hollywood Sign.

Beneath the Hollywood sign, Los Angeles, Nov. 2016

After making my way to just under the sign, I wandered down the streets below the big letters and the radio tower, fascinated by the homes on the slopes of Mount Lee. I'd imagine there's an enormous metaphorical weight to living beneath the Hollywood sign, and if I were susceptible to that sort of symbolic baggage it might be a huge burden to live with, depending on your circumstances.

It's impossible, of course, to be in L.A. and not have movie scenes flit in and out of your mind. L.A. is not only a backdrop but a character in so much of Hollywood's self-perception, so it's not surprising that so much of the city - an artificial creation, as they've reminded us so many times in films like Chinatown - looks like a set, with its painted stucco walls and careful plantings of desert fauna chosen to withstand drought. And then there's film noir - the darkest corner of the city's myth, which makes you wonder what could be going on in every prosperous home off Sunset Boulevard.

Hollywood hills, Topanga Canyon, Riviera and Malibu, Los Angeles, Nov.-Dec. 2016

After starting in the hills, I ended up, appropriately, by the sea. Malibu, to be precise, right by the pier, on the Pacific Coast Highway. Another place that I'd imagined in my mind thanks to countless movies and songs before I even saw it. Which is the strangest thing about L.A. - you think you'll know what it looks like, only to arrive and discover that it's either a lot bigger or a lot smaller, but definitely a lot stranger than what you expected.

My little bit of spare time in Los Angeles was given over to meeting with two friends I'd never met - men I knew through friends or long online acquaintance. As I get older it seems more imperative to make these virtual friendships actual, and it was a great pleasure to spend time with Tom and Robert, talking about photography and music and movies and culture - and the city where they both chose to live, having been born and raised far to the east and north.

Tom Rogers, photographer, Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, Nov. 2016
Robert Avrech, screenwriter, Los Angeles, Dec. 2016

It occurred to me later that both Tom and Robert are men with discerning visual taste, and that making their way independently to this very peculiar city probably wasn't an accident. I'm looking forward to talking with them again, the next time chance sends me to their adopted hometown, with its unprecedented circumstances and endless opportunities to take photos and look.