Sunday, March 10, 2013

The I.D. is A.O.K.

I had an appointment at 2PM near the International District, so I decided to get there a couple hours earlier for lunch and to pick up a few things.
The International District (aka the I.D.) really is more of a Chinatown (or Asiatown could be closer to the truth?).
There is this literally fishy store where we buy our fish food.  It's in a back alley, it is cramped and dark with tons of aquarium tanks.  A really sweet older guy with a great smile runs the place.  It looks like the whole thing could have been part of the movie Existenz.  So I stopped there first for my $7.00 mega bulk bag of fish flakes that will last into the next decade.
As I walked from there, I crossed paths with a 'Free Tibet' protest.

Free Tibet

After they moved passionately on their way, I trudged on past chinese herbal shops, bubble tea hangouts and on to Fu-Lin, a tasty Guangdong province restaurant that serves tasty Chinese bento boxes, complete with hot & sour soup and tea:

Fu-Lin hot & sour soup

Fu-Lin Chinese bento

Fu-Lin buddha

I got the bean curd with vegetables.  The mushrooms, bamboo shoot and black fungus are so yummy in that dish.  And they have these little teeny samosa-type things that add the perfect unhealthy counterpoint to the rest of the veggie-filled box.

From there I went to Ten-Ren, my favorite Chinese tea shop.  The woman there is super-nice. I walked in just to pick up some tea, but I got invited to sit down with a group of ladies and drink tea with them. 

Tea shop

I have no idea who they were, but they were so welcoming.  We tasted and talked about the merits of each tea.  I left at 20 till so I wouldn't be late for my appointment. 

Tea shop

There is always something to discover in the I.D., and this day was no exception.  Sigh.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Curing writer's block with imagery - Lynda Barry's 'What It Is'

What It Is - by Lynda Barry
 I recently read Lynda Barry's book 'What It Is' - a book that is part memoir, part visual journal, and part creative block-eradicator.
This book completely blew my mind.  I'm more comfortable with creativity via words than painting/drawing, but in reading her book, it unlocked something, a core truth about how we humans can unearth some amazing things using imagery.  This can then get transferred into words, but it first must be pulled from that almost guttural, pre-verbal part of ourselves.  Good writers and artists probably do this instinctively, but lesser mortals (such as myself) need to see it laid out for them.  This book does that nicely.

What It Is - by Lynda Barry
Her pages are exploratory, open, questioning.  The statement is: We don't have to have all the answers, but we do need to be full of wonder.
Where before my journal entries could tend to the heavy, diatribe-laden events of the day, this book teaches that journaling can be something more.  Magically elevated even while digging around in the muck.

I'm not the greatest at drawing, so I'm doing a combo of stick figures, magazine clippings and the written word.
I've started combing through old magazines and cutting out phrases and images that speak to me.  Old National Geographics, Vogue, Martha Stewart - it's all excellent fodder.
Then I just glue stick some stuff into a cheapo composition book and let the ideas flow.  An excerpt from a recent journal entry:

Friday, March 01, 2013

I'm not the next Vivian Maier... least, not yet.

A while back my friend Sam shared this cool NY Times article about an unknown street photographer who took thousands of photos in her lifetime of street scenes.  No one in her life knew that she did this.  It was only discovered after her passing.  And the pictures were incredible.  Gorgeous shots taken in the moment - no posing, most of the time people didn't even know she was taking the picture. 

I'm not sure if it's what I'm reading into it, but she also seems to have a point of view, at times a compassionate gaze, or even a sense of humor.

I recently read one of her books, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, and got super-inspired to do some street photography of my own.  The neighborhood of White Center is super-colorful and has, ahem, interesting characters there.  So I thought next time I was driving through I'd stop by and go on walkabout with my Canon 5D. 
But there is something about street photography that is difficult.  There is a feeling of pushing through people's boundaries.  You're literally taking their picture without them knowing it, or if they do know it, there's a defensiveness there.  I might be too polite for this business.  Most of the shots I took ended up being of the place, and not the people.  I was hesitant to just go for it.
Also, Vivian had an older camera, one that took pictures from the chest.  So people didn't always know what you were doing.  With my big ole digital SLR, people see me from a mile away.  And I have this slightly pained expression where I'm trying to not bug them so I look all sheepish and weird.  As obtrusive as it gets.

Here are some pics from my attempt at Street Photography:

White Center ruffians
With this photo, I was way too freaked out to get any closer.  I'm a wimp, I'll admit it.  But those dudes looked scary.

Burien Goodwill
I meant to just get the tv's, then I got the guy picking his nose as well.  I guess I can only get candid shots when I don't mean to. :-)

White Center
Dude carrying laundry basket down street.

White Center produce stand
Women at produce stand

Lessons learned from my first street photography outing:
  1. Go to a place where the people don't scare you. 
  2. Find a location with lots of people, too.  So that they're not immediately aware of you as the only other person on the sidewalk, creepily snapping pictures of just them.
  3. Try to exude an aura of open, calm friendliness, instead of sheepishness, so that people don't feel weirded out.
  4. Go during golden hour, so the pictures have that rich instant-nostalgia feel.  Not mid-day when lighting is flat.
  5. Take lots of pictures.   Lots.  And be willing to edit.  Or stockpile them in a virtual attic, Vivian Maier-style, until someone discovers them 50 years from now.  :-)

Here is a link to more pics from that day, including ones without people, which highlight the eclectic quality of White Center: