The 100 Day Project – 100 Days of Hollywood, Day 4

GQ2A4012-Edit-2

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.

The 100 Day Project – 100 Days of Hollywood, Day 3

GQ2A3893-Edit-2

We lost another legend today.

A memory from my teens. It’s around 1980, I am 17 years old. Prince was on a late night show TV show. I thought it was Saturday Night Live, but I’m not so sure about that. I remember him in what I called “lingerie” which was probably a corset, bikini panties and boots. I think he is performing Dirty Mind which is catchy and a little dirty and sexy as hell. I am with my friends, other girls and boys of around my age. They laugh at him and call him a fag. They say his songs are bad and he is a terrible musician. My friends like Led Zeppelin and Bad Company and the Rolling Stones and The Who and Aerosmith. I like those bands, too.  I live in the suburbs and all my male friends have long hair and wear puka shell chokers and wear Nike sneakers and flare jeans. Any guy in a corset is clearly a fag, unless it’s Dr. Franken Furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show, and still, even he is clearly a homo. But I am intrigued by Prince. He’s like no one I have seen before. He sounds different. What he’s doing on TV seems risky and dangerous and exciting. I defend him to my friends and they laugh at me. That guy is a total fag, what are you thinking?

Around the same time I got a job in a record store and started listening to the most unusual bands. One of my managers went to new wave shows in Seattle and played the records in the store. XTC, X, The GoGo’s, Duran Duran, Talking Heads, The Ramones, and the Tom Tom Club. I start going to the shows with him and bringing home the records. I play them for my friends. They laugh at me and tell me how horrible the music is. I get my hair cut super short and bleach it platinum blonde. I have some weird shoes with clear plastic heels. My brother asks me what the hell is wrong with me.

A year later and I have moved out of my mother’s house and left those friends behind me. I go to shows in Seattle, I hang out with other people that look like I do. When I go home to the suburbs to see my mom, I sometimes have things thrown at me from moving cars if I walk to the store. People spit or call me names. Even my mom tells me I “look like a lesbian” and cries when I come home with super buzzcut hair, a vintage army jacket and black cat eye eyeliner. She wants me to grow my hair and wear pretty dresses. I don’t think I can do that anymore.

To say that Prince had an effect on my life would be an understatement, but it wasn’t just him. The new wave and punk bands of the early 80’s called to me and pushed me out of my suburban life. I have always said punk rock saved my life, and it’s true. Over the years I have occasionally touched base with some of my friends from that time and I am always painfully aware that they never left that area, that they married young, had kids and settled down to work jobs in retail or some type of service or manufacturing. They rarely traveled unless it was their yearly family vacation to Disneyland or Hawaii. They never went on to college. They never experimented with anything outside their comfort zone. And people like Prince were still, and always would be, fags.

That wasn’t my path.

Today’s shoot wasn’t easy. I bet you didn’t know that Prince does NOT have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Normally when a celebrity dies, that’s where people go to mourn and pay tribute. Donald Trump has a star (that people regularly deface) but not the Purple One. So I didn’t exactly know where to go in Hollywood to find a tribute to him to shoot. Of all the legendary clubs on the Sunset Strip, the Whisky was the only one to honor him on their marquee.

The 100 Day Project – 100 Days of Hollywood, Day 2

GQ2A3883-Edit

“We live in a state where everyone’s mad for answers. Burning Man, yoga retreats, unpaid internships, digital detoxes, 24-7 access to a boundless high speed cyber world of free porn and encyclopedias. Sometimes the best answer is just showing up. Not caring how long it takes to go or get there. Just knowing you had it in you to leave in the first place. ”  – Kate O’Connor Morris, writer, 21 Days Under The Sky.

Even though I was fully aware about what I was taking on when I started this project, I have to admit I was not prepared for it. Being creative every single day is hard work. I requires that you show up even when you don’t want to. Look, I have no shortage of work that I could post online and pass off as current, and believe me, tonight I was tempted. I had a morning at the doctor’s with x-rays and other stuff, a drive to Santa Monica that took about three hours round trip and a scouting expedition for an ingredient for a recipe that took me to two Whole Foods, Sprouts and Target, and I came home empty handed. It was hot and I was exhausted and my feet hurt. Seriously, I just wanted to put on my fat pants and eat ice cream in front of the TV. But the 100 Day Project is not about throwing something up on my Instagram with a hashtag. It’s about developing a creative habit so that it becomes part of your life. It’s about pushing yourself to do it no matter what the outcome.

Today’s photo was last minute. I didn’t have a specific plan for what I was going to shoot for Day Two…there is a building I thought I might get out to it. But as we walked the dogs and I could see the light disappearing and I still hadn’t even eaten dinner, I realized I needed to do something close to home that would take no more than 30 minutes. This view of Highland Avenue is something I see everyday as I walk my dogs around our neighborhood. The cars come flying off the 101 or Cahuenga and sometimes I am terrified they are going to crash or run off onto to the sidewalk. It’s an extremely busy street. The Hollywood Bowl sits one block to my back where I stood to take this photo. It’s almost always packed with cars. The intersection is 1.5 blocks from Hollywood Blvd and it’s biggest, most popular attractions. The billboards stay lit till midnight, but currently they are on later after the recent daylight savings change. It’s an area of Hollywood that everyone knows, but can’t tell you what the streets are. And right now it’s home. I shot the photo with a 70-200 and the Legion sign you see to the right is part of an actual structure, it’s just very hard to tell. I do not like to use a lot of Lightroom and Photoshop on my photos – I make basic adjustments and leave them be. I’m a photographer, not an illustrator.

The 100 Day Project – 100 Days of Hollywood

Frank Lloyd Wright's Samuel Freeman House
It’s Day One of the 100 Day Project, and for the next 100 days I will be posting at least one image a day on Instagram. The purpose of the project is to essentially give you a goal to do something creative every day.  We all make excuses about why we don’t live creative lives. My excuses are reasonable ones – I essentially burnt out on photography after shooting freelance for a living for about eight years. I shot arts, culture and tech events, photojournalism, and editorial photography for a variety of different Bay Area magazines and papers. It was fun, but it was exhausting. Then I found out I had cancer. In 2012 I essentially quit work to deal with that. Four years later I am cancer free, but I had still not returned to photography. When a friend posted something on Facebook a few weeks ago about the 100 Day Project, I decided to join in. I needed a little something to light a fire under my butt. And I hope it pushes me to get outside every day and create.

Part of the 100 Day Project is choosing a theme. Some people decide to draw everyday. Others dance, or sing or build apps. I chose to shoot, and I chose to shoot my neighborhood of Hollywood. I have been living in Los Angeles since October 2015 and live in the Hollywood Hills. There is so much going on around me that I don’t think I will come up short of subject matter in the next three months. And I think it will give me a great opportunity to explore my own backyard and learn the history of the area.

My first post really is in my backyard. I live very close to the Samuel Freeman House, a Frank Lloyd Wright built in 1923. It has fallen into decay over the years, and some of the neighbors think it’s an eyesore while others like myself kind of dig that it’s like a silent Mayan Temple sitting on the top of the hill, presiding over one of the busiest streets in Hollywood. Visitors and resident guests included Edward Weston, Martha Graham, Galka Sheyer, Jean Negulesco, Richard Neutra, Xavier Cugat, and Clark Gable. I pass it each day when I walk my dogs and I can’t see it without humming Simon and Garfunkel’s “So long, Frank Lloyd Wright.” It seems fitting I would choose his work as the start of my 100 days of creativity.

“Architects may come and
Architects may go and
Never change your point of view.
When I run dry
I stop awhile and think of you.”