When I first came across the Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken, I didn’t know what to make of him. I’d been a great admirer (like countless others) of Cartier Bresson’s work, which I considered a kind of poetic realism. You always know what you’re looking at in a Cartier Bresson shot. He stands back, shows you the reality he sees. Does it with grace and an uncanny sense of harmony. If that’s what you’re used to and like, though, van der Elsken can throw you. He couldn’t be more different. He
I’m starting to think of the beach towns near my home as a dreamscape. Maybe that comes of shooting for hours in the dazzling light. So that what you think you see changes. Your eyes in a way change. Now when you look at a crowd outside a restaurant towards evening (actually late afternoon) you see excitement mixed with frenzy, pleasantness mixed with something else. Something disorienting. In a dream, things make sense and also don’t. They have a logic but also are often cockeyed. I like this
It’s a curious thing, the street. You almost can’t say what it is. For sure it’s more than the pavement on which folks walk. Or the blacktop surface on which cars drive. The street really is the coming together of many things. It’s the packed-in tenements or apartment houses in a big city. It’s even the rooftops of those houses. Because folks go up on the rooftops at night to escape the heat of summer. It’s the fire hydrant or Johnny pump turned on, on those hot summer days. It’s the grocery
In downtown LA there’s a section called the Santee Alley. It’s technically part of LA’s fashion district. But there’s nothing ritzy or chic about the Santee Alley. It’s not a fashion center in that way. It’s a simple, down-to-earth, discount center—a long, winding alleyway with large, over-size umbrellas and countless stalls and food carts. And it has a distinct, working-class Hispanic feeling to it. All day, up and down the Alley, folks walk, shopping, people-watching. You hear Hispanic music.
You can tell a lot about William Klein just from the title of his 1956 book of photos. "Life is Good and Good for You in New York" is like no other title. And the book really is like no other book. His title of course is ironic. He's mocking advertising jargon. But a great mocker like Klein always has something else up his sleeve. In spite of the biting irony, you can't help but feel — after seeing the photos in the book — that Klein believes his title. He does think life is good and good in New
I didn't pick up a camera till a few years ago. I'd just moved to California. But right away I wanted to shoot the street. Except, strange as it may sound, I didn't know where the street was. I'm an ex-New Yorker. I'd grown up in an intense, immigrant Italian neighborhood in New York. It had defined what the street was for me. And Marina del Rey, where I now lived, didn't look anything like that. It took me a while to realize that the street world here in California where I was living really was