Diggin’ the Blues

Back in the 40s South Los Angeles used to be known for its Jazz scene. Considered the West Coast’s Harlem, this neighborhood saw venues like Club Alabama (on Central Ave. & 42nd St.) feature some of the best Jazz had to offer at the time. Back then, de facto and de jure segregation shaped the city’s neighborhoods. The Central Avenue neighborhood became a scene because places like the Dunbar Hotel was one of the only locations where traveling Black musicians could find lodging during stays in Los Angeles. Yes, even when they came West for gigs in Hollywood.  Local musicians that set themselves apart in this scene include Charles Mingus, Chico Hamilton, and even Charlie Parker (for a brief period).

Despite the objects that make evident its contemporariness, I like the timelessness quality of this shot. To begin, it’s shot on film, so you get some grain and the blacks and silvers are fabulous. Add the subject’s form and energy and you get a winning combination.  I figure she’s got a little more than coffee in that mug. I love the look of outrage coming from the lady on the left. A one in a million moment of the second she decides to cut loose.

The best part of the shot is the lady to the left checking out the dancer from head to toe with a little disdain.

— JMG

Shot on Illford 400 with Canon EOS Rebel.

Romance By the Bay

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Romance by the Bay, Berkeley CA, Summer 2016.

One of the things I think photographers like Cartier-Bresson had over many American street photographers is the fact that outward displays of affection are hard to find in the U.S. Growing up in Los Angeles I know the quip “get a room” all too well because it’s the off-handed observation most make when they presence public displays of affection. This became starkly evident on trips to Mexico city, where there seems to be more of an outward expressiveness between couples– young and old. Plaza’s, restaurants, train stations, lovers seem to be

This scene revealed itself once I made it up the hill as I was trying to get closer to the kites in the background there at Cesar Chavez park in Berkeley. I had to make sure not to make them self-conscious as I waited for some folks to clear far enough to set of the foreground from the background. I did the classic look to the opposite direction and walked back to get enough space to get a wide shot. The day was extremely sunny so getting the contrast right in post was the toughest in this shot.

–JMG

Shot on Olympus OMD-EM5 / LUMIX G VARIO 14-45/ F3.5-5.6

Any Man

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Any Man, San Francisco, CA, Summer 2016.

This was an early evening shot at a Bart station in Down Town San Francisco. I was getting ready to jump on a train, eating a soft serve cone when my eyes began to see the potential of the space below come together.

At first glance my attention was drawn because the pigeons in the background were circling the courtyard en masse. I was looking to catch the action of folks walking into the station below and the ball of birds soaring above. I hovered shooting a few minutes after I took the last bite of the cone because of the action and the shadows but the lull of people trying to catch the train revealed a homeless man. I’m not sure if he was selling Street Spirit or just asking for money but it was clear he was doing one or the other after a few minutes of observation. By that time all but the bird caught on this frame flying were grounded. I think the end result says much more than the moment. Since we cannot see the detail of the figure he can stand for any man. The bird above him adds a symbol of freedom to contrast the grounded man below.

***See more of my photography at oaklandphotojournal.com***

— JMG

Shot w/ OLYMPUS OMD-EM5 DIGITAL CAMERA                                                                         Lumix G Vario 14-45 mm, f./4.0, 1/200, 200 ISO

A Series of Decisive Moments (Piñata Sequence)

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A Series of Decisive Moments (Piñata Sequence), Oakland CA, Summer 2016.

 

Blindfold or no blindfold this kid was going to smash something. You can tell it was all about delivering a kill shot on the pinãta because most kids go for the candy and this kid didn’t even think twice about it when he saw he took it down. In true Steph Curry fashion he walks off cool as ice. Tilden National Park casting a shadow on the ground and the reactions of my bestie’s engagement party guests are my favorite part of the picture.

I have been enjoying getting to know my OMD-EM5. Like any new camera it has its plus and minus side. Overall I love that I can carry it around given its size, and to be quite honest, its price. No matter how fabulously clean shots I might get from a full frame, high end DSLR, I wouldn’t fell comfortable using it as a “commuter.” That’s what I call the M5 because I take to work everyday in case inspiration strikes between the parking lot and the office. This sequence was shot withe a Lumix f.1.8 / 14-35mm, a very clean lens when optimal focus is achieved.

–JMG

Sun Kissed Hill Tops & Bay Panorama

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Sun Kissed Hill Tops and Bay Panorama, Oakland, CA, Summer 2016.  OE-M5 1/100, f.14.0, ISO 200.

I was driving home after a party at Tilden National Park when this panorama opened as I cleared a curve on the road. I had to pull over to take a few frames with my EM-5. Without a tripod in hand, I rested the camera on a guard rail stump.

The sun kissed tree tops of the Berkeley Hills are my subject, the gratuitous back ground was a bonus given how clear the day was. The photo also shows the most significant land marks of the SF Bay, including the Berkeley Hill tops.

–JMG

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Diablos Domingueros

Diablos Domingueros, Oakland, CA, Winter 2015.

Diablos Domingueros, Oakland, CA, Winter 2015

Grupo San Miguel Cuevas, Nuu Yuku from Fresno, CA doing a traditional Oxacan dance. Hand-made wooden masks with 3 feet long horns adorn their heads. They whip and lash as they dance to a banda’s “tambora”.

This group caravanned into Oakland to dance for the Alliance of California Traditional Arts and the Smithsonian Insititute’s Life Ways Recordings programs, which will air on Radio Bilingue.

 

—JMG

Lions’ Mount and Dismount

 

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Lions’ Mount and Dismount (Sequence), Oakland CA, Spring 2014

The sequence depicts precarious moments in a Chinese New Year’s Lon’s Dance practice at the Oakland Museum of California. Feet suspended in the air are the frames’ focus. These youngsters acrobatics are amazing. They reflect their teachers (in the 1st and 2nd frame) discipline and attention to detail. These shots were initially published on Flickr as singles but I always knew they should be presented in sequence.

— JMG

Zeta’s Lupe

Zeta's Lupe, Oakland, CA, Fall 2014

Zeta’s Lupe, Oakland, CA, Fall 2014

 

Unique threads out on Oakland nights. I noticed this young woman and could not get my eyes off her unique sense of style. I had to work up the courage to see if she would humor me when I asked if I could shoot some of her tattoos and unique top. She told me the top was hand made by her grandmother and was handed down to her recently. She was more than happy to let me shoot her with my HTC One (M8).

I wish I would have had my Nikon, but this worked good enough as I could not let the opportunity go by without a shot. Since she was happy to pose, I regret not asking her to give me a profile of her face with this pose.

Alas, on the pursuit of the aura on the street and dive bars of San Francisco Bay area.

Grand Entrance (Sequence)

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Grand Entrance (Sequence), Niles CA, Spring 2015

This sequence depicts an interesting ritual observed at low rider shows: the grand low and slow entrance. This Impala owner arrives at a magic hour, the time when the sun goes down and cruising into the show like a bride walking down the isle highlights the best thing of the culture. The quality time that cruising foments is often overlooked as a valuable part of this car cultura.