Several years ago, I began taking pictures of “Forensic Files” with the intent of publishing a book. I’ve seen every episode numerous times, and never tire of the show, which I’ve watched for eight years. I avoid corpses and gory scenes, with exceptions for narrative purposes.
It’s not a book about a TV show, but a work made with TV images. Japanese street photographer Daido Moriyama would say I’m making copies of copies. What interests me the most is the show’s blend of suspense, shock, mystery and documentary, its defining features. The images are a response to its eccentricities.
This February I celebrated my birthday in Puerto Rico. It had been five years since I had seen my family. I stayed with a close friend who made me feel at home. She lives near Calle Loiza, in Santurce, a working-class district, and I walked up and down that street every day, looking for new angles and things I may have overlooked. We went to Old San Juan, too, but stayed in Santurce most of the time. It’s a street photographer’s dream.
It was liberating to get away from the routine back home: going to the same places and yet not quite getting it right but tired of those places and going anyways.
I still think poetry surrounds us wherever we go, and if we’re poets, we’ll decipher it.
To capture it is another thing.
I took these images during a recent trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. These were in Calle Loiza, Santurce.
This is my first post in a year. My passion for typewriters, books and fly-fishing hasn’t abated, but I have focused my energies on photography projects. Since my last post I have published five photography books: “300 X 200,” “Feeling My Way Toward The Door,” “Urban Poems,” “The Open-Air Bookstore” and “Fragments,” my latest collection, available on Blurb. I consider them attempts to capture the poetry of the mundane, the song of the commonplace. “300 X 200” takes place in a small parking lot and “The Open-Air Bookstore” in a recycling center, and the others are in large part street photography. In that genre are the images in “Fragments,” taken 12 years apart and shot primarily in the Southern California cities of Oceanside and Escondido. They are explorations of San Diego’s urbanscape. Here are some excerpts.
I’ll let you decide on my definition of poetry. The premise is that beauty, or at least traces of it, surrounds us in urbanscapes. Among concrete, asphalt and the fumes of cars, roots take hold as they are uprooted, recomposing our ways of seeing through their tenacity. What stays with us is redefined.
These were taken in a parking lot at the office building where I work. The restricted setting forced me to look at my surroundings in different ways.
Brooks Jensen, former editor of LensWork magazine, writes that the working photographer must keep his head in the game despite time constraints. One focuses on surroundings usually not of one’s choosing, instead of more obvious photo opportunities.
Upcoming are essays on trees in urban landscapes and a preview of a project on Forensic Files, the crime show.
I learned about the Rosicrucians after my girlfriend visited the grounds in the hills of Oceanside, CA, in December. The eeriness of the place struck us: it seemed abandoned, but one felt eyes peering from the dilapidated buildings. Although there is housing for the needy, I saw almost no people and cars while photographing the temple grounds from December to March.
I tried to capture these feeling of Kafkaesque unease, and initially planned to structure the essay that way, but that wouldn’t have been true to how I came to feel about the place. I find solace there when I need to get away, and it has been giving and comforting. It has become a silent friend, an oasis brimming with poems and nuanced gestures.
These 12 pictures were intended at first to only be in color for the sake of uniformity, but that would have sharply limited my choices: I usually use black-and-white film. They were taken with 35mm- and medium-format cameras.
This is the first in a series of photo essays.
It started as a lark: go to the swap meet in Oceanside, California, just to check it out and maybe find some cheap cameras. I had told a good friend about a project involving an alternate take on downtown Oceanside, and she suggested a narrower focus. The project became a reality after a few trips. Doing a maquette for publishers is hundreds of photos and edits away, but the pictures so far have kept me coming back. There is a social aspect to it: most of the vendors are Mexican, and there’s a high level of distrust of cameras in what is essentially a microcosm of the immigrant world. That hasn’t deterred me so far, despite the angry looks (I’ve been confronted several times by people asking why the hell I’m taking pictures), though I’ve settled on a cheap film camera that won’t be a big loss if smashed. I also like the graininess of the images, all of which will be high-contrast black-and-white.
I haven’t posted in months: I’ve been busy with correspondence and, recently, new and old photo projects. Photography is an integral part of my artistic career: I started shooting in my boyhood with a Polaroid camera. Before I put aside “Urban Poems & Other Explorations” (a series of urbanscapes in California) eight years ago, I experimented with both digital and film, especially toy cameras such as the Holga and Diana. I resumed film, usually shooting with a Leica M5 and Zeiss Contaflex, and took up medium format, which has been the most rewarding: I save it for my most ambitious shots, though I also plan to shoot with a 4 X5 Graphlex. I also shoot digital, too, but it won’t replace my love of film and all things analog. If you would like to see more pictures, search Edwin Feliu at Flickr.