If you're going to San Fransisco...

A work trip to a client in Palo Alto for three days of fairly intense meetings keeps me away from the studio. Luckily it is preceded by a whistle stop tour of San Francisco, with the trusty pinhole SLR along for the ride. As exciting as the day is (it is a simply amazing city and I vow to go back to fully experience it), there is little opportunity for photography, partly due to the speed at which we whip around the cities sights, but primarily because I am beginning to understand the narrative I want to create with my photography.

I realise I am beginning to shy away from the recognisable, objects and shapes and motifs that place a building or landscape in a specific place and time. There are so many elements and visuals that fascinate and excite me in the American urban landscape, such a familiarity and foreignness, born of our cultural submersion in the America aesthetic, and the pinhole camera does capture this in a series of images of downtown and the suburbs of Palo Alto where our AirBnB is based. But at the same time, I know there is something missing from these images. I hope to bring the same Hopper-esque painterliness to these images that seemed so effortless with the Icelandic landscapes, but there is no emptiness here, no sense of other. Only nostalgia and an immediate sense of place that is not what I am looking for, as captivating as it is.

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Eventually, visiting Rockaway Beach, with its timelessly 1950’s surf aesthetic – completely unforced and utterly out of time, I find an images and angles that I am fascinated by, but which the pinhole lens brings nothing too.

In retrospect I realise that it is exactly this sense of place and time that means these images don’t work, they have no sense of the accidental, no element sense of the remove of Ruscha’s everyman. They’re also not terribly good photographs as it goes…

The few images that do work are taken in the most rushed and accidental fashion possible – literally running after my work colleagues taking in the last of the city as dusk falls. With the ISO forced to it’s highest setting, on 5, 10, event 15 second exposures, I capture the only images that truly excite me from the whole trip, including the painted lady that will become one of the most significant images of the entire MA for me.

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