Bus stop, Miami Beach, Florida, 2013
This street shot is all about comparisons and contrasts. Two men wait for a bus, yet each waits in his own way. They wear clothing that defines their personalities and preferences. The man casually leaning on the signage in the foreground stares intently at the street, possibly searching for signs of his bus. His body language reveals a relaxed stance contrasted to an impatient stare. He seems to enjoy the cool morning air -- his clothing is light and purely recreational. The man in the background uses the ledge of a building for support, as well to hold his large bag. He wears a zipped hooded sweatshirt, even while standing in the morning sun. He chooses to recede into the background, while the other figure dominates the foreground. I link the figures by spacing them between a series of vertical thrusts – the background windows, a lamppost and its shadow, and the signage column at the bus stop itself. The scene becomes a symbolic theatre, with the street itself as a horizontal apron, a battered horizontal curb as a riser, the rust colored horizontal sidewalk as the stage, and the lamp, sign, and building as the set.
Processions, Little Havana, Miami, Florida, 2013
Instead of standing across the street to catch this man unobserved as he walked past this huge mural in the heart of Miami’s Cuban neighborhood, I walked across the street to catch his attention. I wanted him to react to my camera, so I could compare his response to the solemn young women in the mural, walking with flowers in a procession. As he approached, I saw that he was enjoying an ice cream cone, which became the key to this image. He looked up at me and grinned just as I made this photograph. He seems to be enjoying his own procession with great pleasure, a striking contrast to the larger figures on the wall proceeding along side of him with great solemnity. His blue clothing strengthened the relationship, meshing smoothly with the blue theme of the mural. (After I made this picture, he stopped to ask me what kind of camera I was using. We talked photography for a bit, and I shared this image with him. He seemed to enjoy my idea almost as much as his ice cream cone.)
Freedom, Little Havana, Miami, Florida, 2013
Street photography can express the symbolic mood of a street as much as its activity, as it does here. Among the residents of this neighborhood in Miami are refugees that fled Castro’s Cuba and settled here more than 50 years ago. Little Havana has become the best-known neighborhood for Cuban exiles in the world. Today, these Cuban refugees and their descendants make up about 60 per cent of Little Havana’s population. The other 40 percent have migrated from Nicaragua, Honduras and other Central American countries. Many know little of US history, and this “Cafeteria” uses its wall to display the historical origins of political freedom in the United States. The late afternoon light brings out the vivid colors of the building itself, the blue stools set up for outdoor dining, and the colorful folk art illustrations that accompany these history lessons. I waited for a man to cross my path -- he is not the subject of the picture, but does provide an important foreground figure to draw the eye into this layered image.
Alterations, Coral Gables, Florida, 2013
I made this image through the open window of a car, while stopped at a red light. Street advertising is often a staple of street photography. How stores and businesses attract customers is a function of the street itself. This image juxtaposes the advertising of two different businesses at this Coral Gables street corner. The huge alterations sign (spelled as “alteraciones” in Spanish) dominates the scene, and its diagonal thrust is also repeated in the window of the neighboring business that could be a barbershop. However the most colorful point in the image will draw the most interest – the mannequin wearing the red dress and yellow wig leans to the right, while the sign behind it leans to the left. The vivid red primary color repeats across the image, appearing in the dress, the signage, and in the neon sign at left.
Bejeweled, Beverly Hills, California, 2012
Even the walls are covered with jewels on Rodeo Drive, perhaps the most upscale shopping street in the Los Angeles area. The incongruously oversized rings, bracelets and necklaces painted on the side of a jewelry store, dwarf a pair of pedestrians pushing a baby carriage and another couple standing on the street corner waiting for their friends or perhaps considering their next purchase. The contrast between the people and the scale of the jewelry depicted on the wall is deliberately shocking and lavish. Every urban street marches to its own beat – on Rodeo Drive, that pulse is measured in dollars and cents. I feast on richly displayed primary colors, and every one of them and more are featured in this image.
Pay phone, Hollywood, California, 2012
A well-worn pay phone enclosure serves multiple purposes in this photograph. It functions as a trash receptacle, a promotional venue for a electronic dance music web site, and most incongruously, a final resting place for a carefully wrapped but uneaten chocolate covered donut. I move in close to stress the incongruity of these oddly related items at rest together in a place where none of them belong. The promotional sticker, paper bag, and chocolate donut are urban detritus, while the pay phone is a symbolic artifact of another time. Together they made an expressive street photograph, even though no people or streets are included in the frame.
No sushi for them, Hollywood, California, 2012
The incongruous abstract close-up of a woman eating sushi, filling a row of doors at the entrance to a bright red building, provides a huge contrast in scale when played against the two small boys standing before it. The red building seems to be a sushi restaurant – silver shafts of oversized bamboo tubing complete the décor here. When one of the boys pointed to something in the distance, it was obvious that they are not on Hollywood Boulevard for the sushi. Yet his pointing arm still echoes the horizontal thrust of the black chopsticks feeding sushi into those huge red lips. The two silver railings echo the color of the bamboo decorations, and also repeat the horizontal rhythms of the arm and the chopsticks. The boys wear yellow and blue clothing, adding two additional primary colors to the red in the lips and building. These vivid colors, huge scale contrasts, and rhythmic repetitions, as well as the incongruous nature of the photo on the restaurant door, combine here to make this an expressive street photograph. We are left to wonder what these children must think of this scene, and what seems to be beckoning them from afar.
“You are the Star,” Hollywood, California, 2012
One of the most photographed pieces of street art in Hollywood is Thomas Suriya’s 1995 “You are the Star” mural at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue. Many street photographers enjoy making a descriptive image of the mural, which is intended to put the viewer into the position of an on-stage performer, and reverses roles by making the numerous movie stars into the audience. I decided alter the concept of the mural by integrating traffic on both the street and the sidewalk into the mural, making it seem as if the likes of Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and their famous friends were observing the incongruous flow of city life passing before them. Instead of portraying a flat, two-dimensional scene, this image offers four layers of activity – a bright red car and its steadfast driver entering the frame in the foreground layer, a black car leaving the frame and a pedestrian passing before a dispassionate Bogart in the middle layer, and finally the audience of oversized movie stars in the background layer.
Lifestyle, Hollywood, California, 2012
Street photography often focuses on the nature of a time and a place, and those who may inhabit both. This example of street photography offers a fleeting glimpse of Hollywood lifestyle in 2012. The flamboyant script nameplate of a trendy Hollywood club offers an appropriate backdrop for a pedestrian who seems quite at home with the local lifestyle. Clad in blacks and greys, with stylish blonde hair cascading over back, and clutching the mandatory electronics in her hand, she represents the glitz and glamour of this place as she seems to glide through space through a zone that is all her own.
Holy Hollywood, Hollywood, California, 2012
The box office, popcorn stand, and projectors have departed the historic Warner Brothers Theatre, which opened in 1928. Its marquee now advertises worship instead of pleasures. I was drawn to the scene by the primary colors of blue, red, and yellow, and the play of mid-day light on the scene. Shooting from across the street, I waited for these three pedestrians to pass through my frame, all of them dressed in various shades of blue. They provide scale to the image and work perfectly with the color scheme here. These pedestrians walk on Hollywood Boulevard, home of the “Walk of Fame” – 2,500 red and gold stars saluting many of the same people whose images once flickered on this screen. (One of the stars embedded in the sidewalk under this marquee honors the actress Carol Burnett, who asked that it be placed in front of this very theatre. She had worked as an usher there in the 50s, and had been summarily fired by the theatre manager. Revenge is sweet!)
In the 60s, the theatre became known as the Hollywood Pacific Theatre, and it is now the Ecclesia Hollywood Church, open only Sundays. As I made this image, the building was shuttered, along with its neighbor, a souvenir shop, “welcoming us to Hollywood.” On its blue shutter is an image of a movie star, one of many such images displayed on similar shutters along Hollywood Boulevard. In this street image, I express how entertainment, religion, and the nature of economics blend to form the nature of present-day Hollywood.
Compression, Valletta, Malta, 2011
I use a 400mm telephoto lens to optically shorten the long uphill slope of Merchants Street that rises towards Valletta’s 16th century Fort of St. James Cavalier. By compressing many blocks into one, I make the crowds that throng the streets upscale shops seem even larger than they are. I add three additional contextual dimensions to this image – a large clock advertising a fashion designer, a mass of metal holiday decorations, and a statue of Paul Boffa, Malta’s first prime minister following its independence from Britain. Such context speaks of the nature of the street, the season, and the country.
By Mandraki Harbor, Rhodes, Greece, 2011
Mandraki Harbor was the main harbor of Rhodes for almost 2,500 years. Its entrance, which once could be blocked by chains, is flanked by statues of a male and female deer – symbols of the island. Some believe that the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, also stood here. The huge 100 foot tall bronze statue honored Apollo, the patron god of Rhodes. An earthquake destroyed it in 226 BC. Flash forward 2,237 years: same spot, different cast of characters. A pair of pedestrians repeats the pairing of the deer rising behind them, as well as echoing the pair of shields flanking the door of a nearby church. A maintenance man cleaning the door of the church watches the pedestrians pass. They never noticed him. It is not only the person-to-person interplay that makes this example of street photography work – it also requires the interplay of people and their environment.