Tag Archives: SUMMER

A SUMMER IN BLACK AND WHITE

May 25, 2018

Known as Muscle Beach: his steroid-induced presence is both impressive and so what. (photo by Anthony Poon)

Over two decades ago, I arrived into a Los Angeles summer. Between my job at a Melrose studio working on a building in Zurich, and designing one of my first independent projects, a café in West Los Angeles, I grasped tightly my 35 mm Nikon FE2, never putting it down. This summer was an authentic and faithful period of history that preceded iPhones  and the obsessive posting of self-indulgent photos.

Like many amateur photographers, I shot with a single lens reflex camera loaded with black and white Kodak Plus-X 125 film. Each outing was strictly limited to 32 photos. Sorry, no overshooting and over curation, and no dishonest post-production filters and tools of laziness. None of this.

Rather, simply see something with your eyes, react quickly and shoot once, maybe twice. And move on with your existence.

I apprehended my blistering Southern California summer in dozens of shots—nothing fancy, just honing in on life as it passed in front of me. Below, I introduce you to three chapters: Venice Beach, Downtown and Melrose Avenue. (All photographs by Anthony Poon. Past gallery exhibitions at TwoPart, Los Angeles, California, and Gund Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.)

 

VENICE BEACH

above left: The exhuberance of a street performer barely noticed by a relaxing crowd, his reluctant audience. The ocean wind blasts the background palms as the skater stays deftly afloat.

above center: The formality and discomfort of a policeman’s black wool outfit of decorum is shunned by a beach goer’s short shorts and athletic socks pulled up too high.

above right: The perplexed listener scratches her head as the accommodating fortune teller predicts, “Someone special will be entering your life very soon.” The standard-issue, muscle-bound bloke has no concerns in the world.

The card shark deceives his unknowing victim taking all his hard earned cash. The worldly young girl, years beyond her age, has figured out the scam.

 

DOWNTOWN

The predictable striped ties against the background of striped architecture.

above left: The city is about motion, going places, leaving places, never sitting still. The car, the vessel of choice. The freeway, the path of choice.

above right: Coming and going, with no place in particular to depart or to land.

White shirts, dark ties, hands on waist—the professionals anxiously watch their lunch time getaway sadly tick away. Their windowless, beige cubicles await.

World-famous burgers consumed with no guilt at the Original Tommy’s.

 

MELROSE

An aggressive bike and two club chicks ready to be acknowledged for their non-conformance.

above left: The folksy guitarist warms up for his impromptu show and he calls to himself, “Break a leg!”

above center: A California cowboy in dark black cowboy garb noticed by a porcelain Asian in a summer dress and roman sandals.

above right: It’s okay. Don’t lose your head.

Kerouac-inspired nomad On the Road muses: Will I ever be as free as my bold bird friend?

GRANITE STONES BEGIN TO SWEAT, PART 1 OF 4

October 23, 2015

Heatwave scene from Do the Right Thing, 1989

The humidity is dense and impenetrable. A moist blistering force undermines this city’s spirit.

On the street, people struggle to stay conscious in this staggering fire of late August. Like a city trapped in a huge plastic bag, even breathing becomes an effort. A warm stickiness seeps into all things. The granite stones begin to sweat. Yes, even the cobblestones begin to bleed the perspiration of summer. Late 80’s, my first New York City summer.

Heat and humidity give all things weight. All things are immobilized by the oppressive hand of some invisible senseless burden. A scene of slow-motion where the actors have been dipped in molasses, I watch and wonder why time ticks so slowly, if it is ticking at all. I throw my kitchen clock against the wall, scattering all its precious pieces across the floor of my apartment. This way, I ease the frustration of watching real time being challenged by this laggard timelessness of summer.

Central Park in August, New York, New York (photo by jetsetter.com)
Central Park in August, New York, New York (photo from jetsetter.com)

All windows open, I let some merciful breeze blow through, hoping to find relief. No use. Things inside my studio, like the city outside, start to sweat. My white walls, my chairs, my piano, my toaster, as well as my imagination and my ambitions—these things sweat too.

In this afternoon scorch of summer, warm thunderstorms attack out of nowhere, as if the sky accidentally spilled a God-sized bucket of water on this town.

With heavy downpours, the rains hammer hard. Sky goes blue to white, from gray to black. 2 PM and pitch black skies. A crack of lightning, a crash of thunder, and a city that was dry only moments ago, is now immersed in Mother Nature’s tears—each tear the size of a swimming pool.

Thunderstorm, Midtown Manhattan, New York (Photo by Adrees Latif)
Thunderstorm, Midtown Manhattan, New York (photo by Adrees Latif)

Manhattan appears to sink. The inhabitants of the summer streets scurry for shelter, hiding as if this rain will burn their souls. Some courageous city dwellers stand their ground exclaiming that it is “just water.” No need for the Ark yet. These brave ones grip their drenched stances while watching a city wash away—one thin layer of stone at a time. Rain thrashes a city sore, as lightning blinds my eyes, as thunder echoes deep in the empty chasms of my mind.

No epic scene of Moses will part the waters for salvation. Are the waters a small token of apocalyptic purging? The world here is being justifiably cleansed.

Then. Silence.

Summer haze, New York, New York (photo by Kaylin Pound)
Summer haze, New York, New York (photo by Kaylin Pound)

All the Olympic rains end. In a flicker of an eyelash, the floods stop. The lighting flashes no more. And the thunder seems to have never existed, its echo reverberating no longer in my head.

It takes mere seconds for the August heat wave to dry the surfaces of New York. And all is still as before.

Whereas moments ago, people fled the thunderstorms that threatened to sweep all existence to sea, these same people now choose not the move at all. They fear the slightest physical movement will bring discomfort in this hellish humidity. As they ran desperately from the rains, they now hide like cowards from their own sweat.

© Poon Design Inc.