I’m a professional photographer living in California. In fact, I was born in California. In that respect it was pure luck: I had interesting parents, lived in wonderful places and was exposed to amazing things so often that I took amazing things for granted. My folks worked in Hollywood and I grew up on the Coast Highway in Santa Monica. You could stop right there – but I had wonderful friends in even more wonderful places and by the time I was fourteen or fifteen I’d seen a lot of what California had to offer from Yosemtie to Zuma, as well as the once empty stretches of Baja California’s wild Pacific coast.
I was lucky enough to discover a good German camera in my parents’ closet, fall in love with photography and learn the craft of seeing long before college assignments and professional projects would forever erase the magnetic mystery of photography. The quiet cloth shutter of my dad’s Leica never really sounded like it got the shot – it wasn’t a click, but more of a swoosh: gentle, without the reciprocal clatter of a mirror to provide the classic, noisy sound of a picture being taken. My education and most of my professional experience came well before the digital revolution, when you had to get the shot – exposure, color and contrast – in one frame. Most of the photographers I loved and admired did just that.
I was also lucky enough to have experienced California before the huge freeways, before diamond lanes, toll roads and the population explosion that would forever erase the magnetic mystery of California. San Diego seemed closer in spirit to Mexico than Los Angeles and in the 1950s and 1960s Santa Barbara, Ventura, and any of the small desert towns along highway 395 were like frontier settlements – distant, isolated, each with a distinct personality. A lot of my photography and writing looks back at a time when California and Baja California were truly unusual. Now the only way to experience the way things used to be around here is to rent a copy of Orson Welles’ A Touch of Evil. There were oil wells all over the place and Orange County actually had orange trees as far as the eye could see. Century City was an enormous empty stretch of earth between Santa Monica and Beverly Hills and San Diego was a wild west town with the most beautiful beaches I’d ever seen.