strangers, intimate portraits

This past Sunday it was sunny & balmy, a typically beautiful, perfect day in southern California.  I spent about 45 minutes out and about in Long Beach approaching strangers & asking them if i might photograph them for my blog.   Everyone I spoke with allowed me to take their picture.  Because I like to use the macro setting on my camera I asked if they’d mind if I got up close to them & to a person they all agreed.

This man had beautiful shoulder length hair, but I was fascinated by the way his girlfriend so casually kept track of him (& of the time.)

She took my direction to stand facing toward the sun & in profile & calmly waited while I fiddled with the settings on my camera; I love the various textures & the little river of hair that’s escaped down the back of her neck, a telling detail that reminded me of a flirtatious, but shy young woman just discovering her beauty & sway over the opposite sex.

When I came across this young father (as tall as I, but strapping) I was afraid that he wouldn’t allow me access, but his wife (just to his right) beamed a yes & he gently lifted his brand-new baby in one hand while I stood just a foot away.   Life is fragile.

By the time I got to this gentleman, I’d thought it might be entertaining to match these photos up with paintings by known artists & right away thought of him as an aged Van Gogh (what if he had lived?) with his straw hat & the paintings he might have created.  The Van Gogh painting that I had in mind looks like this:

Yes, yes, I realize it’s a stretch, but it’s my blog & I’ll imagine it as I wish.  But I believe that behind the sunglasses were eyes as wildly intense and visionary as Van Gogh’s.  He was the only one of my subjects who asked me for my blog’s address.  I hope he visits!

This young man was with a group of five or six twenty-somethings & when I asked him if I could take a photograph of his tattoos, his friends (as one) said:  “People always ask to take pictures of your tattoos!” with much giggling & good-natured ribbing.   Actually, I was jealous of his skinny jeans, ’cause I’m past the age to wear them now, but I know I would’ve rocked a pair, what with my long legs & sassy attitude.

Not everyone can wear harvest gold.   Oh, & tattoo sleeves.

May I just say that the hat perfectly fit the man.  His nose was turned up just like the brim & it was so striking I had to stop him.

A young couple were holding hands & when I asked if I could photograph their interlocked hands, she blushed (which completely endeared me to them.)  It wasn’t until I got home & was editing the photos that I noticed the Barbie Doll Case & realized that it added just the right symbolic note (every little girl’s dream of a perfect love & a perfect life.)

These girls were so beautiful & (so young) & I was worried that they’d think I was some creepy old man, but when I spoke with them and said “I know you’re young, so if you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with me photographing you, I’d completely understand…” and they just giggled and said “how do you want us?”  Are teenagers more mature these days or has the digital age superseded the need for discretion?

It’s hard to imagine why anyone smokes these days (full disclosure: I smoked beginning in 1973 & started quitting in 1991 & it took me until 2002 to finally break free of its awful grip.  I’d quit for a year or two & then start up again & smoke for another year, then quit, then start, yecchh.)  But I saw the diamond ring & the burning cigarette & the stubby, oddly shaped  fingers & thought that it perfectly represented the ‘glamor’ and the ‘heartbreak’ of smoking, allegories abound if you look for them.

I so had these glasses in the summer of 1978!  I wore them day or night, no matter the light (glamorous at night, necessary during the day to hide the hangover.)  Somewhere in a drawer or in a box there’s a polaroid of me at a party dancing with them on (I’d crashed the party with a friend of mine, we weren’t their ‘kind’ of people, or we may’ve been, but had angered them with some smart-ass, ice-queen remark.  Regardless, it was a fantastic party!)

I had no doubt that he would grant me permission, I was, however, surprised that he didn’t know who Brueghel the Elder was.


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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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