In my life as a street photographer, I have returned to certain locations so many times that I have lost count. I have gravitated to Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood not just because of their countless visual opportunities, but because they are home to memories and experiences of growing up Angeleno.
It is a familiarity that was born from more than just having lived here. It has been informed and shaped by decades of carefully examining the city through a camera's viewfinder. It has provided me with a unique way of examining a city for whom the distinction between reality and myth is often blurred. The camera has been my way of defining what it means it means to live in Los Angeles.
Part of that experience is my constant reexamination of street corners, storefronts, theaters, restaurants, beaches, freeways and back alleys. I have had to resist the temptation to disregard a place, merely because I have walked or driven past it a thousand or hundreds of thousands of times. It is especially important to resist that way of thinking when I have previously made a photograph there. I can't make the mistake of thinking that because I have seen and photographed there before that I have seen all that was there to see.
Familiarity can and does breed lazy seeing, an inattentive way of looking at the world that robs me of the rich opportunities offered each and every time I venture out with a camera. The streets are fluid, chaotic and unpredictable and it is easy to lose sight of that when certain buildings, landmarks or objects remain fixed in my memory. It is easy to assume that because some of those things have not changed, that little else has. That is a mistake that can cost me an opportunity for a wonderful image.
This scene in Downtown LA is a spot where I have photographed before. The previous images have included those white blocks of paint against a blue wall. At first, I wanted to walk past it, remembering that I had made photographs here. Yet, I resisted the temptation to move on. I wondered what else I could make here.
At first, I fell back on my tried and true method of just allowing people to walk past the scene and strategically place them in certain areas of the frame. I grew increasingly frustrated that I was not creating anything new or interesting. I was simply repeating myself and not in an interesting way at that. I wanted to give up.
Yet, something whispered in my ear to stay put and remain patient. In a few moments, a flock of pigeons flew through the scene, leaving me to capture a single frame where one of the birds is just about to exit the frame.
It was a moment that surprised me. When I had stopped to begin making photographs in this location, I had not thought of creating an image that would have looked like this. I was thinking of the many images that I had made before, which included people walking up and down the street. This was a different moment, but a moment that was as much part of the story of that location as anything I had seen or created before.
As much as I had imagined that I knew of how to see and photograph this place, I was reminded yet again that there is so much more available to me than I could have imagined.