Thursday, June 14, 2012

Night VS. Day...

To a photographer, light is everything. Though I know that to be true, there are times when I am overwhelmed, visually, by what the light reveals and I long for the night.
The night conceals the ugliness of the urban sprawl. The darkness hides away the blight of the strip-malls and cookie cutter storefronts. The darkness also distills the urban landscape and allows the rare and magnificent to be identified from what in day-light is clutter and chaos.

Bordered on all sides (literally) by ultimately forgettable storefronts and architectural clutter by day, Leonardo's in Los Angeles, CA. becomes a gem after the sun sets...

"Leonardo's" Mike Vega © 2012

There are things that seem mundane and forgettable in daylight, that only reveal the truth of their existence when they allow themselves to be seen.
Below is such a place. In 1978, Tom Waits released Blue Valentine and on this album is a track called "A Sweet Little Bullet From A Pretty Blue Gun". In that song is the lyric "now there's a place off the drag called the Gilbert Hotel, there's a couple letters burned out in the sign..."
The "drag" in his song is Hollywood Blvd., and the Gilbert Hotel is very real, and still there today. There is in fact, as of this post "a couple letters burned out in the sign" as well (I chose to shoot the side of the building that had all of the wonderful letters lit...).
For a music fan like me, seeing and photographing something like this is very special. As the darkness of this shot suggests, the hotel is off the drag, and as lonesome as the song suggests.

Gilbert Hotel Los Angeles, CA. ©Mike Vega 2012

Some things or places have an identity that, like a person, changes after nightfall. Places and things are often "invisible" to us in the bright light of day, yet late at night, they can radiate like a lighthouse and draw us in like moths to a flame...
Los Angelenos know this to be especially true with Pinks, the iconic eatery is open during the day but comes alive late at night, when the patrons of concerts, bars and clubs pour out in the streets of L.A. and search for comfort food.

Pink's Los Angeles, CA. ©Mike Vega 2012

Now that isn't to say that I am "anti-daylight", I just find that when surrounded by the ugliness of the modern urban landscape defining the interesting and unusual can be more of a chore. There are moments though...

Roadside flowers can seem ordinary, but upon closer inspection and with a little luck, the become very interesting...

©Mike Vega 2012

It's no secret that I love parking lot carnivals, day or night. Though it is often difficult to isolate images among the tightly laid out floor plan of a carnival, and the lighting is often not ideal, but when you do it can be very rewarding...

"Paratrooper" Fullerton, CA. ©Mike Vega 2012

I was at this carnival one day before it opened, it was cool and gray and quiet. The carnies were asleep in their motorhomes and except for a few seagulls, I was all alone with the rides and stands. I imagined for a moment the noise and smells and sounds that would pervade this place once they opened for business and enjoyed the quiet all that much more...

©Mike Vega 2012

So who wins? 
I guess it's the one who takes the time to find the extraordinary among the ordinary.


1 comment:

  1. You just touched on the thing that I think I love most about photography - the taking of the ordinary to extraordinary. I love finding something to remember a moment and then by simply looking at it from a different angle, framing it just so, or, my favorite, capturing something else that you weren't really focusing on. And it's only later you realize that it was this unexpected element that elevated the shot to something greater than just the sum of its parts.