Through the Thick of It
Mrs. Nicholson, an art teacher in her late thirties with wispy, thick, blonde hair and thin lips always moist with a fire engine-red lipstick, assigned to all the new seventh graders of The Montgomery High School an art project at the beginning of school that entailed large format poster painting. She mentioned that some of the posters would cover the ceiling panels in the cafeteria.
Montgomery High School enrolls thousands of students from seventh grade through the twelveth grade, and the incoming seventh graders resembled an army of ants. I was intimidated at first, but having two close friends of mine and friends of my older sister's around helped shape me as a happy school girl. And, just about a month after school started, my poster of an angel hung on one of the center panels in the lunchroom. Angel's halo was just as big as her smile.
I had never known that this Angel would come back to me so picturesque and powerful, but Angels come and go.
I am now as old as Mrs. Nicholson was way back when she taught me in the seventh grade. I am a photographer and filmer in Los Angeles, California. I shoot whatever I fancy, and I will things into existence; often capturing surreal moments. Sometimes I get caught in the muck of networking the 'ins' for special events or programs cause Annie Liebowitz is already there for coverage .... There are many facades of photography, and I'm working on breaking through to get in the photographs.... Sometimes its' like putting yourself out on a limb.... Things happen unexpectedly. This can be a wonderful shooting experience or a bad thing for a photographer. Say, for instance, you decide to photograph clouds and you're out there shooting when the white puffy clouds look like racing elephants or Snoopy in the sky. You may also get nothing more than a gray picture of the skyline .... There's plenty of everything out there for the photographer, and being open to it all is a must .... Skills and knowledge help too. It's taken me a lot of pictures and shooting experiences to call myself a professional. But, the work has paid off, and I'll never stop photographing unless I go blind.
Where shall I go next? What about taking pictures of celebrities. I have had a hey day of it recently.... I got back from providing photo package deals all summer long with soccer campers, and plunked back into my routine as a photographer for two small newspapers here on the west side in Los Angeles about four weeks ago. These paper jobs keep me on my toes and in touch with the community, but I have to find other work to pay the bills.... Yes, the womens World Cup is going on now in the U.S., and I am credentialed to cover the matches though I have hardly any decent payments coming through with the great work. A sad reality. And, never mind the closure of the womens' pro league and the folding of "Sports Illustrated For Women." Ansel Adams, you were smart to go out and master the landscape. I may be following your f-stops....
Regardless of some of the hardships which comes with being a photographer, I have determined that being a photographer and filmer evolves mysteriously into dreamworks.... Let me further explain on this phenomenon that has unravelled in the last week.
About a week ago, I went into Burbank and came across a commercial shoot outside the NBC studio. I had time to spare so I decided to look into this shoot. I had my camera because this is what photographers carry with them. I found parking, and I took my camera bag to the site where all the crew stood besides dressed actors, props, and cameras.... There was a big draw because a lot of people were getting ready to attend one of Jay Leno's shows. I approached the guarded area, and was told by some fat bodyguard not to take any pictures. PANG. The pang is something I have to deal with. And, in doing so, I do not break rules nor get ignorant, but I find other paths for break throughs. Photography can be sporty. Forward play and having a bit of Tom Sawyer in me is helpful in my craft. So, my brain is spinning with all sorts of ideas.... A young guy watching the commercial tells me that he can see Jay Leno's convertible Bentley. I immediately go to see about taking a photograph of Jay Leno and his car in the lot.... So, I go around the brick building in the swelting heat of the day, and I venture through two glass doors to find another fat guard. I ask the guard how to make a request to photograph Jay Leno. I am told that I need a contact. I exit into the parking lot where there are all sorts of cars. I see a man in a business suit pull up, and I decide I'm going to see if he'd be a contact for me.... He remains in his Lexus for some time as he is reading the paper.... When the driver got out of his car and approached me by the curb, I said, "Hey, this may seem odd, but here's what's up. I'm a photographer, and I would like to take 5 minutes out of Jay Leno's schedule to snap a pic or two outside in the lot by his convertible, but I need a contact, and I thought...."
The man interrupts, "Good luck." (I can't stand this phrase. It's fine to use when gambling, but tactless elsewhere....)
I decided that I had nothing to lose by writing a note on my business card for Jay Leno and leave a note on the guy's windshield to pass it onto Jay. So, I scribble on the card to Jay, 'I believe many things can happen even though they may seem out of the norm.... I would like to take 5 minutes out your day in the studio to take your photo outside by your car.' I left the note with my card for Jay to read under the windshield of the Lexus. I prayed that the man I had briefly met in the lot would help out by playing-out Hermes and somehow get my business card off to Jay. I hadn't heard anything from NBC studios, and I forgot about Jay Leno even though something was going on upstairs with the plan .... Angels come and go. SCCCWWWIIIINNGGG.
In less than a week, I am watching the Larry King show with Paul McCartney's preganant wife, Heather Mills McCartney. She is doing a lot of work with stopping explosive land mines, and she has a new book out about her involvement with this atrocious activity.... I hear then that Paul McCartney and James Taylor (JT) will be performing at the Beverly Hilton in a fund raiser for putting an end to land mines. I couldn't believe that one of my favorite musicians, James Taylor, was joining in on the benefit with Paul McCartney. I even used one of JT's quotes on my Senior page in the yearbook that coorelates to the core of activism. It goes like this:
"When are people going to see that nothing ain't never going to change unless someone finally makes up his mind to stand up and fight. (This is a quote from a song called 'Stand Up and Fight' off of the Flag release.)
I made some calls to get a press/photo pass to cover the event that evening via the internet, but I didn't give enough notice. I missed the boat once more. If my name were Annie Liebowitz maybe not.... I get the PANG. Again, it's all about the 'ins' and networking that makes my work hard. Future planning is hard at times cause so much goes on. Take a look at the papers and magazines each day and compare.... Angel will probaly come out and do her thing sooner or later.... Rest assured, Van Gogh, got his credit eventually for all his great work. (It didn't come easy either.) Anyways, back to the cosmic story....
The next day I ran film and taped all day the club soccer games I covered during the weekend in my studio. When I was through, I decided to go on down to the fund raising event. I felt as though I had to go. Yes, that Angel swept me off my feet with my camera in bag to the Beverly Hilton. It was easy for me to make my entrance because I felt strongly about being there.... The forces were there; intuition was abound. I wore a cotton black and white hounds tooth suit with black heels. I threw on the fire-engine red lip stick. Mrs. Nicholson was laughing in her grave.
I did not have the audacity to enter through the big reception room as there were many body guards at the door checking passes, and I do have etiquette. I will always have it cause this comes from pride. So, I flop into some huge chair in the lobby with my camera on my lap, and just then I noticed Larry King heading out for a bit of fresh air. I told him that if it weren't for his talk show I'd never have shown and gotten 'hooked' on the movement. All quieted down a lot as the crowd disappeared into the concert hall. I remained quite calm and poised in the big chair for around ten minutes til I got a bit restless so I ventured down a hallway into an empty room where I sat on a chair by a side door to the show and listened to the speakers. I wanted to hear more about the ongoings of Heather McCartney's activities and to find out 'what to do to prevent explosive land mines.' A door slowly opened to the program and there were no fat body guards so I entered. I felt that my presence was fine. It wasn't as though I was blocking someone's view or took someone's seat. I had reason to believe in being there even though I could hardly afford a $500.00 ticket. I did have a twenty dollar bill in my pocket to donate, but there were no donation boxes of the sort nor literature on the movement that I could find .... The movie unrolled, and I was learning all about the great efforts of a real trooper and activist, Heather Mills McCartney, and company. Then one of the security dudes asked to see my wrist band. I told him I was educating myself. He kicked me out. The muse inside me was going silly. Do people not get what is at root of our world-wide problems? Education rules. PANG. What was wrong with the picture? A lot, but I was wishing that some miracle could have occurred like for James Taylor and Paul McCartney to have been there to 'sandwich' this guy. I realize the importance of security, but I had wished there could have been more support (kinfolk) within the organizing committee that evening for those who came even though they had nothing but mere interest in pursuit to do something for the movement in the long run. I do not mean to sound like a hothead here, but there needs to be more people 'recognized' out there who are willing to make efforts for the movement even if they have nothing more than twenty bucks to donate.
Anyways, I joined the paparazzo outside the back stage at the Hotel. I am not, by the way, paparazzo. Never will be. I am probably one of the very few photographers out there who pays most respect to the subjects. I send out pictures to them for their keeps and to get rights to use them with no intent to sell.... Afterall, if it weren't for them, I'd probably be lost in the Sierras following Ansel's footsteps. So, I waited and waited for the celebrities to filter out the back door since I wanted to get something more out of this fund raiser other than 5 minutes of a documentary on the land mining explosives.... I wanted to catch a hot shot or two.... After noticing a Beatles' fan gone from a crouching position by a guitar case, I sang outloud, 'There goes Sneakin' Sally through the Alley,' and all the guards went swooshing after her down past the Ryder truck. I would never have remembered what came ripping off my tongue, but last Friday we lost an incredibly talented music man, Robert Palmer, who wrote and sang that song and the shocking news brought back that bizarre memory late in the evening at the hotel .... Angels come and go.... (Robert Palmer- God Bless your sweet rocking soul!!) Anyways, I had no idea what was about to unfold there in that back entrance. And, I would have lost some faith in the cosmos had not some of these hot shots appeared for me to take a few pictures and get a whirl of the excitement. After standing on the sidewalk for a good hour, a few famous people came through the door and walked down the stairway into their limos and cars. Then one of the schmoozers told me that Jay Leno would appear because his car was parked ten feet away from us. PING! I love the way things just happen as I imagine. Ooh la-la! Just a few minutes later, Jay came walking through the doors and down the stairs to his car only ten feet away from where I stood with camera and zoom in hand. He even struck a few poses which I captured. Angel spread her wings so high!
I thought Elvis was next. Nope, then Paul came out the door, and he waved a hello. Before I knew it, he was out of the picture, but not for long....
I realized the next day in seeing the pictures of Paul, Jay, and a Beatles fan that I've made some tremendous progress over the last few years as a photographer. My timing was on, and I captured some surreal moments that evening in the back parking lot. I think, this is the ultimate reward of being a photographer, and its rewards are immeasureable. For example, in one of the few photos I was able to get of Paul, there's the word, no, glowing in neon red below him. I see a deep meaning in this photo, and it's here on the table to remind people that a lot of things can happen .... No to land mines!
I would like to do something more than donate twenty dollars. I would be willing to DO something to help this movement of cleaning-up the land mines. I have a background working with dogs, and I would be willing to work with some german shepherds and terriers to sniff-out the planted bombs in the fields to protect the innocent lives of others and make this place we call Earth more sane just as long as the methods in doing so are 100% secure and all my travel is covered. If there's no way to guarantee safety out there in the fields of land mines, I can not do anything right away other than throw a dinner gala here on 11/6/03 even though I've got a 'barbie-doll' kitchen.... I can swing it though because I'll make the special gathering a pot luck dinner. I'll send all the monies donated and a short movie, an edited VHS piece, of the gala to the headquarters. I will have a media room too, and all will be welcome for sharing and questioning .... An editor, Mitch Chortkoff, who I have worked with for years, lost his leg to cancer this summer and had to go through prosthesis. He will be a special guest at the dinner. I'm sure there will be a good blend of stories and voices to be heard throughout the evening. Maybe Jay Leno can help host it? Ooh la-la.... I am not goiong there on that idea .... Anyways, if any of the material is worthy for documentating for Heather Mills McCartney's productions, I will have signed releases for the use of my film. I'd like to see a 'chunk of monies' from the dinner donated to the dog trainers and dogs though I trust where it goes.... I have another great fund raising idea once I get through the dinner and fund raiser, and I don't want to elaborate on it until after I get through with this upcoming dinner gala.
This world is full of plenty of problems, and most importantly I want to express my gratitude for the McCartney's in helping sort one out, land mines. I APPRECIATE all their efforts for making our world more sane. I only wanted to add a little piece of my mind which is all true.