The 1980s marked the period of my life when I spent much time and cash on photography. In the back of my mind, I harbored the fantasy of becoming a professional photographer. I enjoyed picture taking that much.
There was a psychological obstruction that I didn’t have the strength to overcome, at the time. Nobody gave a hoot about my photography. There was zero encouragement from the photography magazines I submitted images to, nor from family and friends.
By the end of the decade, I pretty much retired my tripod and cameras to a corner of my den where they gathered only dust. To this day, I only take pictures for utilitarian purposes and to augment a few blog posts here and there.
Last year, my friend Jorge stopped by the house while I was straightening up my storage closet. He spied my stack of Kodak Carousel boxes and begged me to show him a couple of trays. So, I reluctantly dragged out my old slide projector and told Jorge to randomly choose a couple of carousels.
For the first time in my life, I heard genuine, enthusiastic encouragement about my images. Jorge insisted that I needed to publish them on my blog. I argued that I don’t have any comparable contemporary images to augment my old work. He opined that I don’t have to present my work the same way most people do. Since the main body of my images were created decades ago, all of them should be shown as a retrospective of sorts.
After I thought about Jorge’s very positive encouragement, I made a resolution to maybe follow through on his advice. Then, a couple of weeks ago, my friend asked if I was ever going to put some of my images online. He reminded me about my promise to myself to do so. So, today’s very small sample of images is my first installment of a personal retrospective.
Jorge suggested I begin with the pictures I shot during a vacation car trip in the summer of 1987. It was a bittersweet journey with the express purpose being to visit my close friend and former room mate Felix. He had been diagnosed with AIDS. I wanted to see him and show him personal support and reaffirm our friendship.
I invited my pal, Sean, to come along as my “co-pilot” because he had never stepped foot anywhere west of Nebraska. I had my Datsun 310 checked over and serviced; Sean’s wardrobe stuffed into the back of the car; and the two of us took off for points west. My camera bag contained a Canon AE-1, a couple of lenses, and several rolls of Ektachrome ISO 200 film. For good measure, I squeezed my trusty tripod between a couple of Sean’s duffle bags.
As I viewed the Carousel of slides in order to select some for this post, a strong wave of nostalgia washed over me. The decisions about which images to show you became ever more difficult. These few images are a greatly condensed representation of two weeks in August 1987.
Sean fell in love with New Mexico and I saw it with new eyes.
There was much to see and do. Sean is such a natural ham. Whenever I framed him in a shot of scenery, he assumed “fashion model” poses for the camera. At White Sands, he pulled it off quite well.
Overnights, we both preferred the funky ambience of independent, mom and pop motels instead of the major chains. There was much to love about the old motels, including flashy neon signs out front.
We planned a day to spend at The Grand Canyon in Arizona. The park is a haven for scenic photographers with endless possibilities for art photos.
When we reached Los Angeles, Sean begged that we visit the ocean. We made our way through heavy, infamous traffic jams to Malibu Beach. Pictures of Sean’s first ever views of the Pacific Ocean needed to be shot. For once, he did not strike up a “model pose”.
After we freshened up at a motel, it was time to visit Felix. He was a gracious host with a variety of places he planned to guide us for Sean’s first trip to California. During some quiet time at Felix’s West Hollywood apartment, I captured a few shots of my friend in his own habitat. They were the last images of him I ever shot.