San Diego Edition
While it continues to grow and expand, as far back as I can remember, San Diego has always had a small town feel for being the US’s 8th most populated city. And just as when I was a kid running around Imperial Beach with my camera, it continues to bring inspiration to me.
In this volume of Follow Friday Five, I look at five other photographers that find inspiration from San Diego in one form or another. Make sure you follow them, and of course you can follow me @williambahiabay.
*All Photos Copyright of the respective artists.
The photo to the left is the first image I saw of Jens’ work, and I was floored. The night time scenes of our So Cal sprawl are so captivating, and very much where I see some of my own work going. As I scrolled through more of his work, a big grin came over my face! YES. All the Yes’s.
Jens’ feed consists of So Cal Americana, his work is reminiscent of a minimalist William Eggleston but with less people, and often at night. The urban still lifes are fantastic exercises in composition, shape and light. Photos of Target loading docks, and the intricate play of shadow on Sassafras St. under the 5 freeway, excite.
He also explores the highly unique details on Caddies, Chevies, and other old cars from the 50s, 60s and 70s, examining the long fins, and the intricate light lenses, and fitting the car bodies into context of the street or parking lot environment.
I met Grant recently at the Medium Festival for Photography, he was one of this year’s presenters, and discussed his career photographing skateboarding that has spanned 40 years. If you’ve seen Dogtown and Z-Boys, Grant came up with the next wave of skaters, just after Peralta, and Alba, and those guys. While the epicenter for the Z-Boys was Venice, the epicenter for that next wave was Del Mar Skate Ranch, where Grant happened to work as a concession stand attendant. Del Mar is where Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, Mike McGill, and all the greats from the 80s were being born, and Grant was right there learning his own chops as a photographer.
I’m sure I gazed over a few of his spreads while flipping through Transworld back then. From 5th grade through 8th grade, I was one of the biggest skate nerds. However by that time, in the late 80s, Tony Hawk, et al, had reached legend status, and the Skate Ranch had been bull dozed. It was too far north for us Imperial Beach rats anyways, so me buddies crossed the border in search of the mysterious Skapistas skate park. We would still get our amp on checking out Grant’s photos of our heroes.
Even if you’re not a skater, you’ll find that Grant’s work always improved and evolved. If for no other reason than to be better than other skate photographers. His work never got stale, and at times ushered in new photographic styles for the sport, and at the same time transcended the moniker “Skate Photographer.” His work is deserving of being seen amongst fine art photographers.
Moving from skating to surfing… In life, that’s actually how it happened for me. My freshman year of high school, I dropped skateboarding, and picked up surfing, and photography, and never looked back.
While both have always been part of my life, I never set out to do what Todd Glaser does. I grew up with all the mags… Surfer (who Todd shoots for), Surfing, Surfer’s Journal, all carpeted my room as a grom, I’ve drooled over the photos that come out of those magazines. But I’ve never had the drive or desire to grab a 500mm lens, or a water housing.
BUT! What Todd does with his water housing is absolutely ridiculous! Not just that, but his work above water is compelling, artful and stunning. His recently released book Proximity takes you on four separate journeys with eight different surfers, and by the time you’ve flipped through them, you feel as if you took those journeys. I feel like I was with Stephanie Gilmore and Dave Rastovich in Baja, or Kelly, and John John in Indo. Todd doesn’t just get the moves, but creates a world for you to immerse yourself in.
We step outside San Diego to find Betsy Erickson McCue. Currently she’s in Morroco. Scratch that, she’s in Berlin… Nope she’s in London. Well, she’s somewhere, and she’s shooting. Betsy left San Diego on her journey in the summer of 2017. It’s a spiritual quest, having lost Jeff, her husband the year before. Her photos are often reflective of her grieving process, but knowing Betsy, her humor and love for life always makes its presence felt. The Vida in VidaPassport comes from the business her and Jeff ran called La Vida Creations. They named their company after Life itself!
Mixing her candid discovery of new cultures and observations, with her introspective and poetic “Good Grief” moments, with selfies of her sand-boarding in the Sahara, Betsy’s photos aren’t the cliché pics of Millennials on a “hey, look where I’ve been” tour of the planet, but the documentation of a great and magnificent journey into a world of unknowns. At her going away party, I think she even said this was her first passport!
When you visit San Diego, it behooves you to pop across the border into Tijuana and experience San Diego’s Spanish speaking sister city. Perhaps while you’re getting some adobada tacos at a street-side vendor, you’ll find Gabriela out photographing the shadows cast from the border fence at Playas de Tijuana. Gabriela’s work is frenetic, and exciting. She explores topics with vigor and passion, and moves on to something new with that same drive. Always with a strong eye of the bold.
The strength in her photography is reminiscent of Man Ray or fellow paisano, Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Often injecting herself into her compositions, she looks to shadow, reflection, patterns that define, or shape a narrative. They’re intellectual puzzles of light, texture and emotion.
She revisits the border fence as a subject often. She photographs it as if it’s a big middle finger to her and the Mexican people. It’s personal. It’s powerful.
Also published on Medium.