Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 63

Today I’d like to encourage readers to take a break from their phones, and to take a respite from the news, in order to devote some time to their own personal well-being.

For myself, that means walking, as far as I can go, to enjoy the fresh Spring air and the violet blue jacaranda leaves all across Los Angeles.

For you, if it feels like there might not be anywhere in particular to go, you can give yourself a random task that requires you to step outside.

This Tuesday morning, for example, I took some old black & white film rolls to nearby D & J Digital Imaging, which sits just a couple of blocks away from home, and which opened its doors again just the day before.

When I got to the store, however, Mr. D & J explained to me that his shop only develops color film, not black & white, and that my best bet from there would be the Freestyle Photoshop on Sunset boulevard, a little over a mile out. I thought then that maybe I could walk the few blocks back home to get the car and then hightail it onto Sunset, but quickly decided against it. I was already outside, and all I needed to do was keep heading west. I knew exactly which intersections I needed to cross to get to the Freestyle shop.

What I didn’t know was whether Freestyle would be open, but I figured that if Mr. D & J was reopening his doors, then surely his counterparts were also getting back in the motions as well.

Moreover, even if the shop wasn’t open, I’d enjoy some time apart from my desk and away from my phone’s screen. And while I had a familiar intersection in mind to get to my destination, at the last minute I decided to take a slightly different route, crisscrossing through a street I’d definitely driven past before, but which I’d never actually walked through. What struck me then most of all were the luminescent trees hanging over the block, dividing the light from above into what seemed like fractals over the nestle of single-story homes and apartment buildings along.

Then, along one of the homes, outside, a sparrow arrived as I walked past to dip its beak into a water-bowl set up for it. The bird seemed to celebrate the whole of the environment each time it raised its wet beak, only to dip it in again for another dab of freshness. Even if I might have walked a thousand blocks just like it before then, it felt like I had never seen a street quite like it.

When I got to Freestyle, it was open after all, though with the usual new stipulations as everywhere else. The attendant also informed me that while they were still accepting film, there was also a new process: before dropping my film into the bins set up outside for them, I needed to go online to set up the appointment and fill out a form. Then I needed to print out the form and drop it off with my film for a turn-around of about seven business days. Although my old film would have to wait a little longer then, I told the attendant it’d be just fine; I’d make another task of it. It was time for lunch then. My walk could continue, and Thai food it was.

J.T.

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Los Angeles Has Photographers

In the age of the smartphone it would seem that the world has no more secrets, but actually dispersed through the world are many gems still awaiting our ‘discovery’. Last night my eyes had the fortune to intersect with precisely such gems, and en masse, at the opening reception of a Master Photographer’s exhibit in Los Angeles. Held at The Lodge, in none other than my native ‘East Hollywood’ area, the work of fellow L.A. native George Rodriguez envelops audiences in a stunning blast through the past.

‘Stunning’ might also be understating the effect of the blast. For me personally, as a millennial twenty-something, there is hardly such a thing as the past before the new millennium to begin with, but I also live in a city where an endless wave of real estate developments and its chic new markets strive to place the ole pueblo at the edge of the future, or at least far away from ‘what [it] was‘. These factors together only make the past, in the historic sense, an even stranger figment to conceptualize, if not an outright absurd one.

Yet in George Rodriguez’s Double Vision, the past in historic terms is not only still with us, but roaring with a life-force so vivid that it matters little whether I know how to appreciate it or not; each photograph takes its place as a monumental reality to ‘contend’ with that any observer will have to reckon for themselves.

From the trepidation winding out like a terrible mist in a picture of Marilyn Monroe seated next to her Mexican boyfriend at a night out at the Hollywood Bowl, to the unmistakable charm and intelligence beaming from the mind of Eric Lynn Wright or ‘Eazy-E’ in a portrait of him, and much more, each of George’s photographs carry a magical sense of ‘time’, and just how precious it may actually be to be inside of that time.

The radiance beaming through each photograph is of course due in no small part to the photographer’s whimsical and indefatigable talent, but for the student of photography, it should be noted that the exhibit also benefits from the print quality of each picture.

Remember: as the exhibit features pictures from as early as 1962, absolutely none of the photographs hail from DSLRS, or digital cameras or photoshop; every photograph is from film, the ‘process’ and development of which can make for fine arts themselves.

Marc Valesella, French-American professor of Black and White photography at Santa Monica college, printed each and all of the photographs for Mr. Rodriguez’s exhibit, at grades more than justifying his title as professor. Chatting with Marc for a moment, the professor told me how each picture is a balancing act of punctuating exposure, or the light captured in the photograph, at just the right angles in just the right sections.

The professor’s passion for the work could be heard as much in his tone as it could be seen in the prints. It was a combination of forces. Marc was born in 1955. George, 1937.

Then, as if the exhibit were not enough of a treasure cove for yours truly, Professor Valesella encouraged me to go and talk with George Rodriguez himself for a moment. I replied that Mr. Rodriguez looked busy enough, what with the book signing and all, but the professor insisted, and accompanied me to walk over to where George was seated.

Standing before George and the table decorated with the books of his work, I had no choice but to cease the moment. I gestured towards him for a handshake, which he returned kindly, and on grasping his hand, introduced myself. George curbed his ear towards me to hear me more clearly–there were troves of people chattering through his exhibit–and I quickly registered the warmth of this reception. I then regaled George not only with congratulations on the exhibit, but on what was obviously a wonderful ride through the ages for him.

The Master Photographer thanked me, and then asked me about my own work. The rest was history, yet again in all its indispensable timeliness, as I proceeded to tell George Rodriguez of my writing and photography at JIMBO TIMES. A true discovery indeed.

J.T.