Thursday, January 14, 2021

CHRISTMAS 1972

 The Gift that Changed my Life

In 1972 I was a thirteen year-old Junior High School kid living the life of a very typical suburban boy in Houston, Texas.  I was atypical in one respect because, unlike most Texas kids, I wasn’t into sports and didn’t play junior league football or little league baseball.  Sports was not my thing and I was an especially atrocious baseball player which was proven dramatically a few years prior when my parents sent me to baseball camp and I’d failed miserably.  I rode bicycles and minibikes, drew pictures, flew model rockets and read science-fiction.  I was into art and science and had a chemistry set that (like Lisa Simpson) I actually used.

My parents never really knew all that much about me.  They never really ‘got’ me or what I as about which led to them giving me some rather strange gifts at Christmastime.  I think it was the previous year, 1971, I got a .22 rifle for Christmas.  I hated that gift!  What the hell was twelve year-old going to do with a gun?  I couldn’t play with it unless I went someplace, under adult supervision, and shot it.  Ah, but this was Texas and the Texan mindset is all children need guns so I got one, like it or not.  I would have rather had some more phenolphthalein for my chemistry set, or a model rocket.   I never liked that gun, shot it once, and gave it away years later.  Yeah, Christmas got weird sometimes.  One year I got a toaster.  I can’t even begin to explain that.

That Christmas of 1972 was rather odd because I didn’t get a shitty gift.  I didn’t get a gun, or a toaster, or an itchy sweater or a sci-fi book they didn’t know I’d already read.  I got something I didn’t ask for, didn’t know about or even knew existed.  I don’t know why my parents chose it except, maybe, it was vaguely similar to the chemistry set I’d enjoyed so much.

I got a GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit.

The GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit

I tore the wrapping paper off the box fully expecting to find something that I either didn’t want or couldn’t use and was surprised.  Pleasantly surprised!  What’s this?  Something scientific?  Chemical?  And it was stuff one would use in a ‘lab.’  Anything having anything to do with a laboratory was totally cool to me.  But now that I had a Deluxe Developing Outfit I’d need film to develop.  And in order to get the film to develop I’d need to take pictures and for that I’d need a camera. 

“I need a camera!”  I said to my Dad.

Dad gave me a dirty look.  He’d apparently forgotten about that little detail, hoping instead to send me to some dark place to play with my Deluxe Developing Outfit and stay quietly out of his sight.

All the components of the GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit:  Contact-printing box, film developing tank, reel, thermometer, print development trays, measuring beaker, chemistry, photographic printing paper, film drying clips, safelights & instruction manual.

The Deluxe Developing Outfit had little powdered chemistry packets that, using the included beaker, were mixed with water to make developer, stop bath and fixer.  There was a film developing tank and an adjustable film reel for roll films like 35mm, 126, 127, 828 and 120.  There were clips for hanging processed film up to dry.  For printing there was a little contact-printer box with a white light.  Also included was a thermometer and two safelights, one yellow and one amber (OC).  Finally there was a small packet of photographic paper and three little trays for print processing.  I’d need a dark room, a darkroom, with running water to use as ‘the laboratory’ for all my cool Deluxe Developing equipment.  Unbeknownst to my father his four-bedroom, two-bath, ranch-style Texas home was about to become a ranch-style, four-bedroom house with one bath and one darkroom.  Yeah, go pee in the Master Bathroom, Dale is busy developing film.  By the time I began setting up my Deluxe Developing equipment in the former bathroom, my parents, Dad especially, were beginning to regret their Christmas gift choice for me.  Shoulda got the kid another gun. 

In the meantime my Mom scrounged-up a Kodak Super Brownie 27 camera for me to use to take pictures.  Hopping on my main mode of transportation, the Schwinn Stingray, I took off for the drugstore where I bought a roll of 127 Kodak Verichrome Pan Film.  (Black and White, the Deluxe Outfit wasn’t for color film.)  At the school library I checked-out a book about general photographic techniques and another one about black and white landscape photography by some guy named Ansel Adams.  Then I went out and took pictures.

The Kodak Super Brownie 127 Camera

Except for one notable exception in 1968 (read Chapter One of my book ‘Photographic Memories’ available from Amazon) all the photography done by me or my family was of Christmases, birthdays and special occasions only.  We were the typical Kodak Consumer Family: load a roll of film at Christmas, photograph the years’ festivities, finish the roll the next Christmas, and take it to the drugstore for processing and printing.  Then the photos were pasted into a photo-album and promptly forgotten.  Riding my bike around the neighborhood with the Instamatic Camera around my neck and looking for ‘artsy’ things to take pictures of was a distinctively different photographic activity than what I’d been exposed to previously.  It wasn’t long before I’d shot the whole 12-exposure roll and was ready to head into the darkroom.  Yes, now little Dale was ready to go to The Lab.

Carefully mixing the chemistry, I learned about stock solutions, working dilutions and that the Metric System of liquid measurement was much more useful than the stupid ounces, pints and quarts system I’d grown up with.  Under the glow of the red safelight, just like on TV and the movies, I unrolled the film from the backing paper, successfully loaded it onto the reel and developed the film.  And it didn’t ‘come out.’  The entire roll was black.  Completely overexposed.  Well damn!  This was like my previous photographic experience from four years ago; the film didn’t come out.  Back then, even though I’d made the fatal mistake, I blamed the lab; now I am the lab and I’d still failed.  Referencing the Photographic Techniques book I’d gotten from the library I finally figured out that film must be developed in total darkness and the red and amber safelights were for printing the negatives onto photographic paper.  Yes, those red-light film development scenes in movies are all fake!  (And why not?  Total darkness cinematography is really boring!)

At this point I’m sure my Dad hoped I’d give up.  After the initial failure, the GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit should have been relegated to some dusty corner of a closet but my Dad had never been more wrong.  I still had enough chemistry left to develop one more roll of film so I went back to the drugstore, bought another roll of film, shot it, and headed back to the darkroom.  This time in total darkness.

The second roll came out just fine.  I now had negatives to print!  By now I knew the printing process could be carried out under the safelight so I selected a negative, sandwiched it emulsion to emulsion with the unexposed photographic paper and made an exposure using the contact-printing box and my watch as exposure-timer.  I processed it in those three little trays of chemistry and…

…I witnessed for the very first time the most remarkable and magical thing any photographer ever sees, the image slowing forming on the paper in the developing tray!  (If you’ve ever worked in a darkroom, you know exactly what I mean.  For me, and I’m sure many others, it’s a life-altering moment.)  I’d finally taken a picture from the camera, developed the negative and made a print.  This was totally cool!  Somewhere in the ether of The Universe my future stretched out before me and I’d just gotten a glimpse of it.  I liked the artistry of the camera and the science-ness of the darkroom.  I really liked photography!  And to me, photographers were cool.  Maybe I could be one?

My Dad was none too pleased with the expense of ‘expendables’ when I begged him to take me to the camera shop for more chemistry and photographic paper, but he bought the supplies for me anyway.  After a few more darkroom sessions making tiny, negative-sized contact prints I came to realize wanted to make bigger prints, I needed an enlarger. 

Back at the library I learned about enlargers and lenses and gained a theoretical understanding of how they worked.  Then I set about finding one I could afford, because the enlarger would be the most expensive piece of equipment in my bathroom-darkroom.  Eventually I found one listed in the weekly Shopper want-ad newspaper for twenty-five dollars.  I had twenty-five dollars saved from my weekend lawn-mowing jobs (they’ve got big, green, lawns in Texas) and went to buy the enlarger.  The enlarger-seller was a guy about twenty years old and was really sad to sell it.  He’d just been drafted to serve in the waning days of the Vietnam War and needed to get rid of stuff before he shipped-off.  Poor schmuck!  With less than three years left in the war, his number finally came up.  I never heard what happened to the guy but I hope he never got deployed and I hope he’s still alive.

I do know what happened to his enlarger, it went to my darkroom and I used it for six more years. 

After moving the enlarger into my ‘lab’ I began making 4x5, 5x7, and giant 8x10 inch prints.  Studying the black and white photos in the book by that Ansel Adams guy I upped my printing game and started making some pretty darn nice prints.  While I was making enlargements in my darkroom, my Dad was scheming a way to somehow get his bathroom back.  Since my Dad was an above-average carpenter and woodworker we made a deal: he’d build me a darkroom in the back corner of the garage and he’d get his bathroom back.  I told him I’d move out of the bathroom and into the garage-darkroom the moment it was finished and I’d never seen my Dad work so fast!  A few weekends later I had a ‘real’ darkroom with everything I needed except running water.  Dad wasn’t a plumber so print-washing from then on involved a garden hose and a hairball grey-water system of my own design.  In case you don’t know it, photographic fixer will kill grass.

Me in my garage darkroom sometime around 1974, age 15

Now I had an actual darkroom in the garage.  And it wasn’t much of a sacrifice of garage-space because our garage had never had a car in it.  Our garage was always filled with tools and lumber and bicycles, and at one time, up to a dozen motorcycles and scooters in various states of disrepair and restoration.  The great thing for my parents was if they couldn’t find me, I wasn’t out getting into trouble, I was usually in the darkroom.

The gift of the GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit was mostly a success for my parents because it achieved their goal of getting me out of the way and keeping me busy.  At first they didn’t care for the on-going cost of buying more film, paper and chemistry but my weekend lawn-mowing money covered most of the camera-shop expenses.  After about a year I was a pretty good darkroom technician but I needed another piece of equipment that was out of my reach, cost-wise.  I needed a better camera.  I begged and sniveled and cried that I really, really, needed a 35 millimeter camera.  After an inordinate amount of early-teen begging and whining my Mom finally realized I was serious and gifted me an actual 35mm camera.  She gave me her 1950s-era Argus A-Four rangefinder camera.  It was way better than the Super Brownie I’d been using but it wasn’t a great camera.  It had a fixed, 44 millimeter f 3.5 lens, no light meter, a manual-focus lens (requiring me to learn about depth-of-field to get anything in focus), a shutter that required manual re-cocking after each shot, and a wonky film-advance knob that took an inordinate amount of time to advance the film.  But it was 35 millimeter and it would do.

The Argus A-Four 35mm Camera
 
Because of the camera’s shortcomings, and there were many, I learned that that at f16 depth-of-field would get me anything between four feet and infinity in focus.  I learned a lot from reading the instructions that came in the box of film.  (There was a surprising amount of information on those little sheets, if you read them.)  I learned the ‘sunny 16’ rule of exposure and never used a light-meter because I didn’t have one.  For the rest of my time in Junior High School I read a lot of photography books about technique, composition and history.  Eventually I learned that that Ansel Adams guy was pretty much a Major Dude in photography. 

While I was shooting a lot of photos, and spending many hours in the darkroom between 1972 and 1974 my younger brother was busy doing his thing –which was playing little-league baseball, the very thing my parents could never get me to do.

As mentioned, my own baseball skills were, and remain, aggressively awful, however my brother was a decent player and I started going to his games.  At first attending little-league games was little more than an excuse to drink sodas, eat Frito-pies and laugh at Texas parents making asses of themselves, but I had my trusty Argus A-Four camera with me and I shot photos of the players.  I mainly shot ‘action photos’ of the runners and batters but I also shot a few informal portraits in the dugout.  I worked on my action ‘panning’ techniques and learned to anticipate the ‘peak of action.’  I’d take my Tri-X negatives of little-leaguers, make prints of the best shots and then take the prints to the next ballgame where I’d show them to the players’ parents.  Then something happened I didn’t anticipate.  While I was fishing for compliments on my incredible photographic artistry, the parents were buying my pictures!  Whoa!  I can make money doing this!?  As it turned out, for the entirety of my brother’s little-league baseball career, I’d developed a nice little side-business selling photos of little baseball players to their Moms and Dads –and it paid better than mowing lawns!  I made enough money to finally get rid of that wonky Argus A-Four and got a ‘real’ SLR, a Canon FTb complete with three lenses.  Baseball was good for me, but not as a player.

Within two years of receiving the Christmas gift of the GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit I’d become a good enough photographer to join my High School yearbook and newspaper staff as a freshman, something you usually couldn’t do until you were a junior.  I shot for my school until I graduated in 1977.  I got a part-time job working in the portrait studio of a local department store.  At the same time I shot photos for numerous local weekly newspapers including a publication devoted to the local motocross scene (dirtbikes were everywhere in the 1970s and I had one too).  I shot portraits and made photos for publication in small companies’ brochures.  I even shot my school’s Junior Prom when I was a sophomore when the ‘professional’ photographer didn’t show up!  I made more money that night than I’d ever made before!  I joined camera clubs and got to hang out in great big photo labs and cool photo-studios.  I met all sorts of photographers, designers, lab-techs, printers, models and, in an odd twist of fate, I met Ansel Adams himself in 1976.

That’s the story of the GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit.  I’m pretty sure it was a ‘throwaway’ gift that my parents thought I’d use once and forget about.  They, nor I, had any idea it would ultimately lead to a photography degree and a fifty-year career.  My choice to become a photographer, and work in the arts, never set well with my Dad and he actually hated my career-choice.  He must have really regretted giving me that GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit!  My Mom, on the other hand, must have thought it was pretty cool.  Shortly after graduating college in 1982 I did a photo-shoot of two nude models.  When we wrapped the shoot we shot a portrait of the three of us.  I gave a print to my Mom.  My Mom looked at the 4x6 inch print of me, fully dressed wearing a Wall of Voodoo T-shirt, standing between two beautiful, naked women.  “Can I keep this?” She asked.  “Sure, but why do you want it?” I asked her.  “Oh, I want to show it to some friends at the beauty parlor.”

My Mom was a typical Texas woman who had a standing appointment every Thursday at the beauty parlor to get her hair back-combed and made bigger, higher, taller, and more Texan –big hair!  I can imagine her, chatting with her friends and impressing each other with what brilliant careers their kids had.  I can also imagine her responding with the typical Texan expression of, “Isn’t that special,” when some other woman tried to her impress her with whatever her kid was doing, then whipping that print of me and the models out of her purse and saying, “That’s my boy in the middle!”  I’m sure it made my Mom laugh when it freaked-out the other Texas ladies.

When my Mom died in 2012 she still had that print.  I found it in her purse, bent and dog-eared, obviously shown-off to her friends.  I have it now.

Me & the models, 1982.  Women's faces obscured because I don't know if a 40 year-old Model Release is still valid.  Photo retrieved from my Mother's purse after her death in 2012.

And, thanks to eBay, I just bought another GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit from 1972.  New in box, 49 years old.  Nostalgia! 

I think I’m going to create a personal time-capsule.  I’m going to put my new/old GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit and the Argus A-Four camera (which I still have) in a sealed box with a note for someone in the future to find after I die.  The note will read:  To whomever finds this, before you download Adobe Photoshop Version 95 (or whatever) give this a try, it just might change your life.  It certainly changed mine!

I found this 1974 calendar with the previous owner's development notes in the box containing the GAF Deluxe Developing Outfit I purchased on eBay in 2021.
 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

THE UNARMED MAN

 THE UNARMED MAN

BACKGROUND 

Like many young photographers starting out I shot for the newspapers.  (I will be using the term ‘shot’ when I mean ‘photographed’ because that’s the term we used when I started out in the 1970s using film.  The modern, digital-era term used today is ‘captured’ which is a stupid term.  On the job, the only time I avoid the term ‘shot’ is when photographing Presidents or dignitaries with bodyguards and when among 2nd amendment ‘enthusiasts’ who are armed.)  I shot for my high school newspaper which led to shooting for local/regional weeklies.  Later I shot for my college paper and was a stringer for the wire services.  I shot everything from sports to features.  Eventually I shot for the magazines.

In college I was exposed (pun intended) to many other types of photography and eventually gravitated to the more set-up and controlled style of shooting prevalent in advertising.  In photojournalism photo-manipulation is verboten so transitioning to advertising and fine-art allowed me to manipulate images in post-production without any negative ethical ramifications. 

Since ‘turning pro’ I haven’t done much photojournalistic photography and I’ve only worked on two documentary projects and both featured inanimate subjects.  I’m not a people-shooter, although I do it when necessary. 

The world of 1974-1984, when I worked as a photojournalist, was very different from today, 2020.  Photographers used to get a modicum of respect, people would get out of our way when shooting, and nobody called us ‘fake news.’  Today things are much more polarized, aggressive, cynical, and some of our subjects are much less cooperative than they once were.  I had to consider these things, as well as my own personal safety, when briefly re-entering the world of photojournalism in September of 2020.  I can’t run as fast at 60 as I could at 20.

THE MOTIVATION

Here in the United States, in September of 2020, it is a truly horrible time.  We have an aggressively incompetent and racist President in Donald Trump.  Most of the West Coast forests are on fire, police murder unarmed black men with impunity, and there’s the Covid-19 viral pandemic --which has been made worse by Presidential and Republican Party incompetence and malfeasance. 

The small town where I live, Prescott, Arizona, is a majority Republican place.  In 2020 ‘Republican’ is synonymous with ‘racist’ and this is where the trouble starts.  Add racism to the mix of rabid 2nd amendment gun-nut types and it gets even uglier. 

I’m told there are less than 200 African-Americans living in Prescott, Arizona.  The place is so white that in my 25 years of living here I know exactly one Black family.  There really aren’t that many Mexicans or other ethnicities living here either.  Prescott is really, really white –and old!

It is weird going out to lunch and seeing elderly people carrying Pro-Trump, anti-Liberal signs.  Trump is President and the liberals are out of power, so I don’t really know what’s to protest when you’ve won.  Mainly, they just want to ‘stick it to the liberals,’ they hate them that much.  Every time I see these silly elderly activists I think I should shoot them (with a camera) but I just don’t seem to ever get around to it.  Until the shit hit the small-town fan one weekend….

THE EVENT

Checking FaceBook on the morning of Saturday September 5th I see a cel-phone video shot by a friend’s wife.  She’s narrating, in tears, a very disturbing video.  She’s a good, modern Mom who does her best to expose her children to diversity and various points-of-view and took her two girls to spectate a Black Lives Matter march.  Again, around here a Black person is like a unicorn and there have been no incidents of White cops killing any Black men –yet.  So, a BLM march in a mostly White community is more a show of Solidarity than a rally, riot or other conflagration.  It was all peaceful until the Republican Racists showed up, then it got ugly.  Her daughters were grabbed, spit on, and screamed at by Trump-supporting men (many of whom were drunk).  They were verbally accosted and physically assaulted.  Some men brandished weapons.  In the end she and her daughters fled, shocked and frightened by fellow Americans who’d decided they were some kind of enemy (children!). 

Prescott is advertised as “everybody’s hometown” but they were made to feel very unwelcome in their own hometown by belligerent, militant men who did not know them.  Grown men, screaming at children they don’t know at an event showing support for black victims of police-violence.  This is nothing more than an expression of ignorance and hatred taken to the extreme.  It’s beyond stupid to watch an adult man stick his middle finger in a kid’s face and scream “fuck you, loser!”  Why does he think that’s a good idea and what does he think it accomplishes?

I commented on her video:  “Maybe you should reconsider taking children to potentially violent events?”  And she replied by informing me that it was a peaceful event that only turned ugly when the angry white Republicans showed up.  Typical.  Violent opportunists looking for an excuse for violence.  ‘The Right’ is very angry, very hateful, and in your face.  ‘The Right’ doesn’t want a conversation, they just want to yell.

I wish I’d been there with a camera.  The camera (and the photograph) is a weapon for social change.

The next thing I did was to join a local FaceBook group dedicated to political activism.  This way I could find out about these ‘marches’ and things before they happened and think about ‘covering’ them with a camera.  Within 24 hours the FaceBook group began warning people about a ‘hoax on Friday’ and ‘don’t go to the town square on Friday, armed counter protesters will be there.’  Seems the word was out that the BLM people would be out again, marching on Friday 9/11.

9/11 – the ‘sacred’ day of celebration of death and failure. 

No, BLM would not be out on the town square.  They never had any plans to.

But the ‘counter protesters,’ the so-called ‘patriots’ didn’t care, they were going to co-opt the 9/11 ‘celebration’ with an armed ‘show of force.’  Somehow, with their guns, they were going to protect some Americans from other Americans.

BECOMING A PHOTOJOURNALIST AGAIN

So, come Friday, the gun-nut ‘patriots’ were going to be out on the town square, armed to the max, ready to ‘protect’ …something.  Now that I knew about this in advance, I planned to shoot it –which displeased my wife immensely!  Since the Covid-19 pandemic is just as virulent in September as it was in April I wore a mask.  I know that the Trumpers/Republicans believe Covid is a hoax and few, if any, would be wearing masks and the mask might label me as a liberal/enemy, but no picture is worth endangering my health and I had other reasons to mask-up that I’ll get to later.  I dressed neutrally.  Blue jeans, blue shirt, no hat, no logos and plain.  I’m a civilized person and I do not carry a weapon.  I decided I’d carry one of my less expensive cameras in case I got attacked and lost the camera.  The camera used to be a protective ‘shield’ that said ‘don’t harm the photographer’ but those days are long in the past; now ‘the Media’ is the enemy of the right-wing.  Usually for these type of ‘events’ I carry two cameras; one with a telephoto zoom lens and a second camera with a wide-angle zoom lens.  I opted to leave the wide-angle at home so I would not be tempted to get too close to people who are potentially violent.  I would shoot the event safely from the periphery with long lens.  I planned on parking a few blocks away and enter the event from an alley which would allow a hasty escape if things took a turn for the truly dangerous.

None of these precautions allayed my wife’s fears.

I arrived at the ‘gun rally’ at about 3:00 pm.  From the sidewalk, with the alley behind me for quick escape, I saw… nothing.  Further observation showed a very large police and sheriff presence, those guys were ready for… something.  I decided to walk up the block, scope out the situation, and if it looked safe, cross over to the courthouse square.  As I walked southbound up Montezuma Street (AKA, Whiskey Row) I saw some closed businesses and some with inventory moved away from the glass windows.  Looter-prep from the look of it (there has been no looting here, ever).  When I crossed to the Courthouse lawn all I saw was one homeless Veteran with a sign and a whole lot of cops standing around.  I stopped to talk to an elderly Jewish woman who was very talkative and appalled at the goings-on in an otherwise peaceful small town.  “It’s shit like this that made me move out of New York.”  She said.

The gun-guys were gathered on the Northeast corner of the lawn.  Many were wearing cammo, but I could still see them.  The BLM people were nowhere to be found because they did not come!  It seemed the gun-guys came for a war but found no counter-combatants.  There were a lot of American flags, Trump flags and other anti-Democrat banners.  Yes, Democrats, AKA Americans, are the perceived enemy of the modern Trumper/Republican!

WHAT I SAW & PHOTOGRAPHED

In the middle of the gathering of gun-guys was a 9/11 celebration/memorial.  Someone was making a speech which was mostly drowned out but the chattering of the gun-guys.  The gun-gathering had co-opted the 9/11 thing except they had no enemies to ‘protect’ us from.  It devolved into a group of a hundred or so overweight men, all dressed-up like cosplay soldiers, carrying rifles, handguns and knives.  I’m told by those who know, that most of their guns are cheap-shit Chinese and Russian knockoffs.  Yep, the ‘patriots’ don’t even carry American weapons! 

I slipped into Harry Callahan stealth mode and walked around and shot about 1100 photos.  I saw one Black man in the crowd.  He was unarmed.  I don’t know if he is the bravest man in town, or the dumbest; but I know the crowd would have turned on him if provoked.

I didn’t talk to anyone (except a couple of other photographers) and I did not ask anyone permission to photograph them since they were all in a public space.  I mostly kept my distance shooting with the 90-400mm lens (equivalent).  I witnessed no crime.  I saw no harassment.  The heavily-armed Bubbas were mostly behaving themselves –despite their display of scary weapons.  Since there were no BLM or Liberal ‘enemies’ present the whole darn thing was really kind of sad and pointless.  It reminded me of some of the camera shows I’ve been to with ‘equipment fiends’ wearing their big-glass 500mm lenses like an expensive necklace.  Equipment geeks.  I doubt that any of the fat-assed ‘patriots’ could chase down a ‘terrorist.’  And I wonder about their marksmanship (how accurate are those stamped-metal Russian firearms anyway?).  Oddly, I felt no fear or trepidation from any of them.  They didn’t scare me at all.  I know they meant to intimidate but their abject silliness exceeded any fear they meant to project. 

I heard the buzzing of a drone circling the courthouse.  There was a Sheriff’s Deputy nearby so I asked him:  “Is that one of yours, or the police.”  He sort of chuckled and said, “That’s ours.”  As if the Prescott Police couldn’t afford drones.  Then I asked, “You running facial recognition tech on that?”  “No,” he answered, “just an eye in the sky.”  His facial recognition denial probably means they are using the tech in some manner, either creating a database or running comparisons.  When the drone came back over I pointed my 400mm zoom lens at it and it stopped and hovered.  Yep, I thought, it’s probably trying to ID me.  But I was wearing my Covid mask (which defeats facial recognition tech) and I had a black camera covering the rest of my face.  All they learned about me is that I was using an Olympus OM-D camera and have a bald spot!  Rest assured, the next generation of law-enforcement drones will be weaponized.

I saw no conflicts, no clashes or discord, and after a few hours I left.  I got the photos I’d come for, dumb Bubbas, and a few Mrs. Bubbas, with guns and, thankfully, did not have to document any fights or murders.  I did post three, one-minute, videos from the scene on FaceBook and got a lot of “you be careful” comments.

THE ONLINE BACKLASH

Having no client for my pictures I did the ‘citizen journalist’ thing and posted some photos on social-media, meaning FaceBook.  The day after the ‘wacky gun party’ I edited the take and then edited the edit down to three groups of six pictures to post online.  I shared the first six photos on Saturday, the day after I shot them.  Most all the comments were in the vein of “whoa, that’s some crazy shit” and other humorous remarks.  I posted six more photos the next day and that’s when the trolls, conservatives, and other assholes began commenting.  They made things ugly in a hurry.  I got the usual insults, general meanness, and a couple of threats of physical violence.  I spent a lot of time unfriending, blocking and reporting people.  My ‘blocked’ list of FaceBook is as long as your arm!  Then I deleted all the negative and threatening comments.  Aside from a few snarky comments I merely shared photos of the gun-people doing with gun-people do.  The gun-people don’t like that.

Ironically, one of the major gripes of the gun-people is when you mis-identify their guns.  Oh boy!  If you mistakenly call a weapon ‘large-caliber’ and they don’t think it is, they let you know in the most insulting way possible.  Same thing if you use the word ‘automatic’ when you should have written ‘semi-automatic.’  This is the realm of ‘specialized knowledge.’  If you don’t know guns all you really know is to be afraid if one is pointed at you (and that is the point).  I suspect this nomenclature hair-splitting is because they’re treading a fine line between legal and illegal with their weaponry.  I’ll also bet some of them have illegal guns in their personal arsenals.

So if you’re going to call me a dumbass libtard because I can’t identify an automatic from a semi-automatic at a distance, then I’m going to call you a dumbass trumptard if you don’t know the difference between an APS-C camera and an M4/3.  Yeah, fuck you, Billy-Bob and your nine millimeter penis!

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SOCIETY?

The gun-boys are much braver online than in-person.  Ah, yes, the safe anonymity of the internet!  They were quite nasty, insulting, threatening and confrontational online but out there on the town square among them no one bothered me.  On online troll sarcastically asked me, “Why are you afraid of the 2nd amendment?”  Of course the second amendment is simply an idea, a concept, and is not a thing to ‘fear.’  What I do fear are angry mental-dwarves like the troll thinking that it’s a good idea to murder me for some reason that only makes sense to him and his right-wing buddies.  I’m not his enemy and I’m not a threat to him.  I’m the unarmed man, what’s he afraid of?

Nobody needs a military-style weapon while walking around a small-town courthouse square.  These men are pussies.  They’re too fat and frightened to join the actual military so they hide behind the questionable legality of the second amendment to carry around Russian-made penis extenders in an attempt to intimidate the fellow Americans they’ve decided are their enemies. 

Remember, the original Black Lives Matter march was peaceful until the right-wing-nuts arrived.  Also remember that BLM is not an organization but a movement.  It’s people protesting the all-too-frequent murder of unarmed Black Men by racist White police.  To break it down for the truly stupid:  If you have a problem with people who want to protect the lives of innocent Black men from murderous cops, then you’re the problem and you’re the racist.  If you say, “All lives matter,” then it shows you have a problem with the word ‘black.’

Ah, but ‘protecting property from looters,’ is their quasi-legal excuse.  Of course that’s a false claim because there has been no looting here.  And since when has property been more valuable than human life?  See where the conservative values lie?

And ‘Antifa’ isn’t a thing either.  There are no ‘Antifa Terrorists.’  They don’t exist.  And again, if you’re against Anti-Fascism that means you’re Pro-Fascism, and an asshole and a moron.

So it’s just a lame, and legal, excuse to pretend to be a ‘tough guy.’  A fake ‘military man’ out with his gun, intimidating citizens under the false-flag of ‘protection.’  They call themselves ‘Patriots’ when they’re simply gun-fetishists.  None of their silly weaponized activities is helpful. 

PHOTOGRAPHY

This is a photography blog so I’ll bring this back around to photography.  Since I don’t work for any wire-service or news outlet, I didn’t have a client to publish my photos.  But this is the age of ‘citizen journalism’ (made possible by the hi-res still and video cameras built into the cel-phones we all carry) so I posted my photos on FaceBook with encouragement for viewers to share.  Forty-eight hours later I was sorry I did considering I received actual threats to my person from the ‘patriots.’  I don’t think I’ll do this again, the right-wing is so angry and intolerant I won’t take the risk.  The 2nd amendment people have taken away my 1st amendment with threats of violence to me and my family.  If I should publish again I will only do so under the ‘protection’ of a news-media client.

That we now have a ‘president’ (quotes and no caps) who decrees that the media is fake news and an “enemy of the people” it puts me in danger.  This has not happened since Nazi Germany of the 1930s.  I’m going to leave the photojournalism to full-time, paid, photojournalists.  I’m too old for this shit!

If I’d taken that wide-angle lens camera I’d of used it, so I’m glad I left it at the studio.  Getting ‘in the thick of things’ is for younger, braver, photographers.  The 90-400mm lens I used (the only one I had with me) kept me out of the crowd and away from potential danger.  And my new Olympus OM-D mirrorless camera was perfect for the job.  Small, lightweight, stealthy, with a fast motordrive and speedy processor made my job easy.  With its fold-out live-view screen I could act like I was fooling around with the camera while actually shooting people looking directly at me.

CONCLUSION

I have a greater appreciation for photojournalists now more than ever.  I want to witness history (and all its horrors) but I doubt I’ll do this again.

Hate has a loud voice, even more so online.

It’s backwards, but the people with guns seem very fearful of the people without guns.

If you live in a predominantly White town, you don’t need to march for Black Lives Matter because….

…there’s no Black folk around.  Most of your neighbors are racists.  And they’re packin’.

Black Lives Matter is a movement not an organization.  If BLM is a problem for you then you’re OK with police killing unarmed Black men, and you’re a racist.

Antifa is not a thing.  It is not an organization.  Antifa means, Anti-Fascism.  If you have a problem with that then you’re pro-fascism.

There is no looting here.  We’ve had no riots.  No violence has come from the Left.  We don’t need ‘protection’ from 2nd amendment fetishists. 

All the Hate I’ve seen has come from the Right.

The police are not your friends.  The FBI says most police departments have been infiltrated by right-wing racists.  Keep this in mind to keep yourself alive (especially if you’re not white).

The cops are now using drones.  Wear a Covid mask to defeat facial-recognition tech.  Beware that the drones will likely soon be weaponized.

The ‘right’ always needs an enemy and if you’re a Democrat, Liberal, Progressive, etc. YOU are their enemy.  They cannot be reasoned with, facts don’t matter to them, and they are fake Christians and consumed with hate for you. 

September 11, 2020

THESE ARE YOUR NEIGHBORS, CO-WORKERS, PARISHIONERS, ETC.