The Most Heavenly Body

Somehow, somewhere along the line, our beautiful star the Sun became associated with Apollo, a son of Zeus. In Hellenic culture, to be Apollonian is to be rational, disciplined, orderly. He was, in fact, a symbol of patriarchy and control.  The sun emerges Apollonian in literature, painting, sculpture... it's the great cleanser, a bringer of knowledge, of security. And even today the sun is thought masculine and Apollonian as a literary and cultural emblem.


The moon, on the other hand, is supposed to be Dionysian, meaning sensual, spontaneous, emotional. She's fickle and perhaps dangerously unreliable, and what light she can reflect is only what radiates from the sun. The Greeks thought the moon was Artemis, goddess of the hunt and sister of Apollo. Romans associated the moon with Diana, who like many things Roman is a copy of the Greek, but still a huntress, wild, emotional, untamed.


One can imagine how ancient ontological simplicity and the semiotically arbitrary grammatical genders given to nouns in Classical tongues could have perpetuated this scheme: The sun is a man, the moon a woman. Perhaps the lunar cycle, waxing and waning from full to lapsed to full yet again every 28 days gives the feminine connection some heft. The sciolistic cosmologies of ancient cultures took strange and remarkable turns, but it is to the Greek and Roman that we owe our most primal emblems here in the West.


Perhaps, then, I am turning my back on 3,000 or more years of ancestral Western dogma when I declare the sun is definitely a woman. I know her, recognize the essential truth of her, and I love her deeply, as she loves me. This is agápē in the Hellenistic sense, at once primal and maternal; I know in my bones that I am made from her, that I and all other matter in this solar system literally emerged from her, and it's only from her that all Earthly fecundity emerges. She can be severe, even savage, but she is always compelling, lovely beyond reckoning, and strange without compare.


I hope some of you will be able to see the solar eclipse in North America this August. You'll see a facet of the sun few people get to see; it will be astonishing and beautiful, unsettling and transformative. You'll never forget what you see.


The point of this little hagiography? Here are a few pictures I've taken of her over the years. You can see that male or female, the sun is not stoic and rational. The sun is very much an emotional thing.

An Evening at the Port of Los Angeles

While waiting at the docks for a performance to begin and after it had finished, I managed to take a few personal shots.

This antique warehouse with the lonely police cruiser parked beside it seemed full of feeling for a building, and told me a complicated story. I simplified the composition as much as I could, and elected not to correct the perspective to preserve the sense of scale. By the way, the cop got irritated with me after awhile and left.

This was a bit of a shoot and scoot. There was a malignant vibe in this parking lot, with a few unsavory characters shuffling around like zombies. I decided not to spend too long looking for the exact right shot. The blue lights on the left are the WWII destroyer USS Iowa.

Sometimes, you need a friend. After taking this shot a dozen times with no one in it, I put Stephanie in. I placed her head about where the perspective lines merged, hoping to pull the eye here. I asked her to stand sideways, as if she were waiting on the dock, and look at the camera. Her put-upon expression was transitory... she was actually delighted to be there. But of the shots I took, I thought it fit the mood best. She gets bonus points for dressing in pure white in such a grimy place. I love contrasts like that. 

The first shot I took. I loved the textures and colors of these warehouse doors. There's a little story here, too, about access and history and utility.

Beyond the Waterfront

What you you get when you combine modern dance and opera, set to a complicated and lovely piece of specially commissioned music, and you stage the entire performance on two tall ships moored at the Port of Los Angeles? You get Heidi Duckler's Beyond the Waterfront. "A dance opera story of sirens and sailors on the ships and the wharf, Beyond the Waterfront pays homage to the late Leonard Bernstein with a multi-sensory work that tackles themes of collaboration, sustainability, and the influence of humanity on environment." 

It felt magical sitting on the wharf, with all the nautical and industrial sights, smells and sounds all around us as the blue hour transitionied into night, while at the same time Heidi's performers danced on the ships in front of us and members of the L.A. Opera sang. I can understand why the sirens gave Odysseus such a hard time leaving.

http://www.heididuckler.org/beyond-the-waterfront/

Here are some shots.

Real Estate

Last weekend I got the opportunity to do a little real estate photography in a new development in Pasadena. The lighting was mixed halogen, tungsten, flash, and daylight. I'm not averse to the multiple white balances in these shots, but were I to do it again, I'd return later in the day to get a little warmer outside light, which would have helped the overall balance. In this case, I shot when I was able to be there, on a clinically bright, hot summer day..

Road Trip with the Northrups

We recently returned from our second not-long-enough road trip with Tony and Chelsea Northrup (and their producer Justin Eckhert!), helping them put together another season of Wanderlust. I think... we were helping, right? It's hard to say. We had so much fun, were so busy enjoying everything, that I often neglected to get serious with the cameras. But I did remember to stay out of the way most of the time.

We adore the Northrups! They're an absolute delight.. having connected with them is serendipity being amazing and ineffable again. They've been instrumental in thwarting my encroaching curmudgeonliness, if I may speak plainly*, and I'm heartened that people like Tony and Chelsea and Justin exist.

The new Wanderlust episodes are probably on the way-- I don't ask my friends about such things because it's not my jam, it's theirs -- but for now, here are some of the shots I took during our road trip up California's Central Coast region. I hope you enjoy the shots at least an infinitesimal fraction as much as I enjoyed making them.

*I know, I can't speak plainly, I know

 

LASHP

I'm working on documenting the beginning moment of a brand new California State Park, the Los Angeles State Historic Park. It's been a labor of love, as my wife Stephanie works there, and I began shooting it for a friend and co worker of hers, the architect behind the beautiful park buildings. But it seems to be growing into a larger story. Stay tuned for that... I'll deliver the story to the people who commissioned it and then post more about it here afterward. But for now, here's a teaser. I hope you can see from these images what a lovely and interesting open space this park is, sitting as it does in the middle of one of the largest urban sprawls in the world.

Salvation Mountain and Slab City

Out California's Sonoran Desert lies a place called Salvation Mountain. It is a monumental work of outsider art, born of ecstatic spiritual convictions and built over many years by the late Leonard Knight. Since Mr. Knight's passing, volunteers have been working to preserve the site.

Adjacent to Salvation Mountain lies Slab City. Named for the ubiquitous concrete foundations left by the US Army when they abandoned the area, it's now a squatter's paradise. Everyone in this village lives here for free, and a vibrant offbeat community of artists, outsiders, street philosophers, snow birds, and burnouts commingle here

The Mojave After Rain

The smell of wet creosote bush is in the air, and vast and ephemeral lakes dot the land. This is the first serious flight of Mojave Morning's new drone, The Beagle.