Is it enough to just show up?
Yesterday after hearing about the tragic death of Prince, I wanted to make my Day 3 photo to honor him. Several years ago when Michael Jackson died, I traveled all the way to Hollywood from the Bay Area to shoot the madness of the Hollywood Walk of Fame as people lined up for hours to walk past his star and lay flowers or a stuffed animal. It was craziness that night, everywhere you went on Hollywood Boulevard you could hear Michael Jackson songs and everyone from professional impersonators to fans doing impromptu dance performances. It was fun and sweet and it wasn’t hard to make photographs that conveyed that emotion. In fact, I even recorded sound and did a short video of my shots to go along with it.
But Prince didn’t have a star on the Walk of Fame. I guess someone has to apply for them and pay for them and their upkeep. I don’t understand that. Seems like with the amount of money tourism brings to the area with people coming to see the stars and hoping to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, you’d think the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce or whoever decides these things would be honoring anyone who has achieved a certain level of fame.
So I really had no idea where to go to find fans celebrating the life and music of Prince. The only place I could think of was the Whisky a Go Go as I remembered when Scott Weiland of the Stone Temple Pilots died recently they put up a tribute to him on the marquee. So I headed over there and that was my Day 3 photo. It wasn’t the photo I wanted to take, but it was all I had.
When I decided to take part in the 100 Day Project, I chose Hollywood because it’s where I live and there is a ton going on here. But a few days into it and in some ways I think I bit off more than I wanted to chew. Hollywood has to be one of the most photographed tourist places in America, along with New York’s Time’s Square, or the Golden Gate Bridge. How do you make at least 100 photos that don’t look like any old tourist’s snapshots?
Today I went down to shop at a store on Hollywood Blvd and as I was coming out of the store, there was a group of transgendered women having an awareness demonstration. They were holding up signs offering people to hug a transgendered. I spoke to a few of them, took some iPhone photos and gave them a hug. And I thought maybe those would be my photos for today.
But the hours passed and as the sun went down and we had dinner and I chatted a bit with my neighbor, I kept feeling like I was cheating. I take iPhone photos everyday. The point of the 100 Day Project is for the participant to take on the challenge to be creative every day for 100 days. It’s not meant to be your best work or become a complete work, although there’s no reason it couldn’t be. But the main point is to push yourself to do it everyday. Taking a snap with my iPhone of something that was happening while I was shopping was cheating. I decided to not use the photos.
Instead I decided to experiment with my camera and do a multiple exposure in camera. I probably shot about an hour, experimenting with different exposures and techniques. I learned that the more exposures I layered, the more underexposed the individual shots needed to be, otherwise it just turned into a mess of white light. I zoomed in while doing 30 second exposures, I timed things with traffic, I knocked the focus out on some shots to get colored balls of light, and discovered my sweet spot was three exposures total. And while I have tried the double exposure feature on my camera before, I think now I actually know how to use it.
So I showed up and it was enough. But I want to keep pushing for better photos and find a way for my style to come through in telling the story of Hollywood in at least 100 frames. I’m not shooting for anyone but me. This is not a popularity contest, I am not doing this for likes on Instagram. I’m doing this to remember what I loved about photography. I’m doing this to push myself out of a slump. I totally have faith that I can create a body of work in the next 96 days that will look different from anyone else’s vision of Hollywood. I am thinking, questioning, finding my groove. There will be missteps…I wish I could say that everyday I will be hitting home runs, but that’s impossible and to expect that of myself sets the bar so high that it would be easy to not even bother trying at all.