The Challenge of Photography in Southern California

March 22, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

On March 1st, I read a post by Daniel Milnor on his blog site, ‘SMOGRANCH.’  Mr. Milnor is ‘Photographer at Large’ for Blurb Inc., a creative publishing and marketing firm that allows artists and photographers the ability to easily create and print their own books, a ‘print on demand’ type of service which has revolutionized the industry and allowed people the opportunity to share with the world their personal vision. He also works on long term thematic projects that he then turns into books. He has worked as a photo journalist and commercial photographer, conducts traveling workshops to distant countries and has taught photography at Art Center in Pasadena, CA.  He is an interesting guy, and I enjoy following his posts and looking at his work.  Daniel Milnor's work in documentary photography is a far more intensely focused endeavor than what I do, which is basically photograph most everything, and I have no doubt that his documentary work presents many more challenges.

This particular post was entitled, “Trying to find Southern California.”  Mr. Milnor expressed his frustration at trying to photograph in Southern California.  In it, he described So. Cal. as “just too normal, too sterile, and organized.”  I have to agree with him.  After living in Southern California my entire life, I too find it difficult to find new subject matter for my photography. There are days when I cannot make a decision on where to go because I think I’ve seen it all.

It is a fact that many communities that once contained historical town centers, architecturally significant structures and atmosphere, have simply been mowed down and replaced with strip malls, massive apartment/condo blocks, and cookie cutter suburban housing developments that march endlessly up and down the foothills.  A friend of mine once commented about traveling around So. Cal.  He said: “Wherever you go, you could be anywhere.”  Simply stated, it was all looking the same, everywhere, and rather bland too.

I spend many hours in my truck looking for that special combination of place, light, and time.  Sometimes my camera never leaves the bag. It can be very frustrating. It really helps to get yourself out of your vehicle and get moving on your feet.  Walking changes your perspective, allows you to really connect with your surroundings that a car tends to insulate you from.  Ironically, we need those vehicles in Southern California in order to seek out those places that may revitalize our vision.

I recently picked up the photo book, ‘Provence:  Lasting Impressions’ by Joel Myerowitz.  The land is very beautiful and the photographs by Mr. Myerowitz are stunning.  For me, it’s a rare glimpse at a place that echoes what we may have once had here in Southern California.  At least that’s the conclusion I arrive at when I come across photos of Southern California from the late 19th and early 20th century.  I cannot afford an extended journey to Provence or any other place like it at this time.  For those of you who are like me, I believe we are tasked to try and find Provence right here in our own backyard.

My wife and I took a drive last night after she returned home from work.  We drove north on the I-5 to Tejon Ranch, Gorman, and the west end of the Antelope Valley just looking for some nice landscapes, a no brainer, something simple.  Hey, guess I was lucky this time.  You can see them in my 'Scenic' gallery.

David


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