On a warm late September day they had staked out a spot in front of the Shinjuku Station A8 exit. He ate while she seemed to monitor their surroundings and the passersby, like she were guarding him so he could eat undisturbed. Their bags and overall appearances gave the impression that they weren’t just another couple out shopping. The step they sat upon was their cold stone home for the day, and they’d probably be moving on when Tokyo cooled down in the evening.
(Shinjuku, Tokyo 2013)
She was tagging along while her dad walked his dog along Palou Avenue in Hunters Point in San Francisco. Dad and the dog are on the left. On the sidewalk nearby there was trash, discarded clothing, and a dead raccoon. Hunters Point can be that kind of neighborhood. But that didn’t keep her from skipping, giggling, hugging dad’s dog, and being the cutest thing lighting up the street that day…
(Hunters Point, San Francisco 2016)
At the Spring Open Studios in the Hunters Point Shipyard, purple balloons were de rigueur for the day as markers for signs and chairs in the parking lot…
(Hunters Point, San Francisco 2016)
Just a Tokyo kid being a kid, on a rainy day when a frog slicker and a superhero mask made perfect sense within the context of the ever-changing job descriptions that children constantly write for themselves…
(Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo, April 2012)
While running errands today, I stopped at Brisbane’s laundromat and grocery story respectively. This town loves dogs, and I’ve been shooting and compiling pictures of people with their dogs for a themed book I want to do. Here are two pictures I took today for that project…
Mike and Sassy at the laundromat.
Letitia and Romeo at the grocery store.
(Brisbane, California, April 2016)
My cheekbones feel like
Hollywood marbles to me.
You’ve never been on
skid row in Tokyo so
similes or metaphors, or whatever the fuck,
are likely totally lost on you.
We like them.
Food is a simile for food, and
food is a metaphor for eat.
And we’re about to do that.
The Christians are making paella,
with lots of hot dogs,
and we’re gonna feast our asses off
and be okay.
(Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo, September 2013)
Physically handicapped, or afflicted with cancer, or merely very intoxicated, I didn’t have the chance to discretely ask why this man was in this wheelchair on a Tokyo skid row shōtengai. His friends in the background didn’t want me around him, but I shot this photograph anyway with my camera under my armpit while his guardians were briefly distracted. And I left quickly after taking it. Ethically this is a questionable picture, and I’ve never been entirely comfortable that I shot it. I’ve debated myself as to whether this photograph stole some of this man’s dignity, an issue of justifiable importance among photojournalists and street photographers concerning the destitute and the homeless.
I’ve concluded that this man, in the circumstances in which I encountered him, really didn’t have much dignity in the first place. That does not necessarily justify this photograph’s existence, and I still argue with myself about it. But what this picture shows about a dark side of Tokyo life is inherently important, the kind of thing people wish to ignore but need to see. So I may forever have problems with this photograph, and you may really dislike it, but I stand by it.
(Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo, October 2013)
His name is Michael and he was sitting in his car on Dubuque Avenue in South San Francisco, separated by a K-rail barrier from the spot on Highway 101 where his cousin Odalys was killed. He visits the spot from time to time, smoking cheap, fragrant cigars and staring through his exhaled smoke at the passing traffic while wondering how his cousin ended up on foot on the 101 where a car hit her and took her life. He says the cops still don’t know; after three and a half years the case is still open. Michael thinks foul play may have been involved. He misses Odalys very much and just wants to know why she died.
Michael got out of his car for this photograph, and to graciously give a summary of his story…
(South San Francisco, California, April 2016)
The neighborhood story is the old man who lives in this house is a millionaire widower whose wife died 25 years ago. She was a beautician, the story goes, and the man keeps the old-fashioned hair drying machine on the porch to preserve her memory. He comes out at least once a day and sits in the hair dryer, watching the world go by but never speaking to anyone.
(Hollister, California, April 2016)