Going through the archives. Shot sometime in 2004. I think.
Linds is one of my best friends and I love her look and her style, full of so many contrasts, so strikingly different. She is not comfortable in front of the camera but I still shot her whenever I could over the years. None of the photos captured what I wanted, none of them conveyed the emotion or mood I wanted. I shot candids of her when we were hanging out, driving, getting coffee, watching TV. I did more formal shoots with her, set the place, directed her. None of it was working.
I kept shooting. The proof sheets were accumulating and she was getting more and more used to me shooting but the shot that I desired, that I knew was possible was not appearing. There were images that were well composed, maybe cool looking, maybe capturing important moments in her life, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.
On one set shoot, I had her like in her tub in her apartment off of Pico Blvd. I shot her with a Leica M6 with Agfa APX and Fuji NPZ 800. I also shot her with a Holga and those two films. When I got the proof sheets back, I saw it, that little square on the contact, leaping out of me, a vignetted window into a moment of mood, a peek maybe even into someone’s soul. That was the shot. I had gotten it.
Five years. That is how long I shot Linds. It reminds me of the anecdote Diane Arbus tells of shooting Eddie Carmel, the subject of the photo “Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents in the Bronx, NY, 1970”. She had been photographing him for years, looking for that iconic image she knew she could create of him, when one night in the darkroom, she saw the image appear in the tray and knew it was it. She called her friend from the darkroom and told her that she finally had her image.
Nothing so dramatic or important for me, but I also had this moment and a sense of closure. I have only photographed Linds a few times in the years since.
I always say that I see in black & white. Then non-photographers think that I mean that I am color blind. Or other photographers think that I am being a pretentious, arty B&W snob. I should instead say that I see in Black & White film.
It doesn’t always happen or the results are not always an exact match for what I thought I saw in the moment, but there are many moments where I can see exactly how the darkroom print will look.
This shot is a great example. I had been shooting this series of Clubracers in California and I entered the Pirelli truck and saw this moment. I metered quickly off the floor at the feet of this man to get the proper exposure of the floor, which I knew would make him a silhouette and would blow out the background. One frame.
When I got the proof sheet back, this tiny image popped. It was exactly as I envisioned it.
Doesn’t always happen, but it is a nice moment when it does.
In 2005, me and a friend started checking out general casting calls. She was a freelance programmer and, as a photographer, we were both a little slow at the time. I am not an actor and never wanted to be one, but if you live in Los Angeles, these opportunities are always out there and my friend, who is Japanese, thought it would be fun.
We attended an open call for Memoirs of a Geisha and were both immediately cast as background actors. We were both in different eras and scenes of the movie, she as a Fifties modern dressed prostitute and myself as a 1930’s Japanese general. Which was too bad because our intention had been to do this together but it meant that we would have different shooting days.
The life of an extra is bizarre and worthy of the articles and TV shows that have been created about it. I won’t go too long here but suffice to say that we were treated as just above set decorations yet occasionally were called upon to act. A lot of aspiring actors were in the mix, many having done numerous shows and films. There were hundreds of extras in my scenes of the army invading a village and sumo wrestling scene.
These were long eighteen hour days, getting paid very little, sitting around in costume and make up for hours, the boredom broken up only with the meal calls and the herding of us to set. The costuming was incredible for this film and I must say it was cool to sit around with a bunch of attractive geishas all day. And for the smokers in the crowd, some of the period set props were Camel unfiltered cigarettes. I smoked way too much over those days.
Since I was a shooter, I carried my Leica with me everywhere, including that set. I was, however, extremely conscious of the sensitivity of shooting unapproved on set since I had done production work before. But one day, I broke it out to shoot this girl because the light in the soundstage was just perfect. Soon, we all broke out our cameras and were taking group shots.
The next day, they issued a memo, instructing us to not take photos.
And yes, my shots were cut and my friend’s elbow was the only thing that made it into a scene.
But I did get the chance to be near Gong Li and that alone was worth the price of admission.