Sunday, February 07, 2016

Big Trouble In Paradise

When Los Angeles projected the cost of dealing with the nation’s largest unsheltered population at a whopping $2 billion over the next decade it was recognizing a problem that has been unmanaged for years. As LA's homeless population grew from 39,000 in 2008 to 44,000 in 2014 funding to deal with the crisis plummeted from $108 million to $26 million. 44,000, by the way, is the size of Burlington, Vermont.

Makeshift encampments have sprung up on downtown streets and suburban boulevards. People live semi-permanently on city sidewalks, beneath freeway underpasses and along the strand at Venice Beach. The tragedy unfolding cannot be ignored nor can the need to provide solutions. With just 6,600 beds for 44,000 homeless L.A. has been in denial for far too long.

The $2 billion is so large it will likely require a ballot initiative with approval of a supermajority of the city’s voters for a bond or tax increase of that magnitude. And there’s a big difference between an effort to help someone and improving infrastructure. “Usually the selling point for a bond or tax is that you’re going to get something from it, not that you’re doing the right thing for someone who is not you.” Says Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.

Former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky adds that “The elected officials are going to have to appeal to the better angels of the middle-class voters who tend to be the swing voters on these issues. It’s not going to be easy.”

No one is sure what the solution is. Is it to build housing for the destitute? Some research suggests that housing is less costly than reacting randomly to the problem. Is it to erect tent villages on the outskirts of town, refugee camps in the richest country on the planet? As we saw in the recent killings in the twenty-year-old, unsanctioned “Jungle” outside Seattle that approach is fraught with risk. But is it more dangerous than smaller encampments strewn across a city the size of Delaware?

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, for one, is open to a bond or tax hike if city officials also identify other ways to fund housing for the indigent such as mandates attached to new development within the city. He expresses confidence that the voters will follow suit if the entire burden is not born by them. “Voters are going to demand that we are also doing our part and we’re not just saying, “Oh, we’ll just put it to the voters.”

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson from South Central says, “The electorate in Los Angeles has shown a willingness to invest in building the kind of society we want to live in.”

“This is the number one issue I hear about from all over my district.” reports Councilman Mike Bonin whose Westside district has one of the largest concentrations of homeless encampments in Los Angeles. “I think if we can show we a have an actual strategy, they’d be willing to invest in it.”

L.A. County transportation officials are expected to ask for a sales tax increase in 2016 to raise up to $120 billion for roads and public transportation. Tacking on a paltry $2 billion doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Los Angelenos certainly can’t say, “Not in my backyard.” It’s already there.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sky Lines

I had intended to report on write the epidemic of homelessness in Los Angeles, a tragedy made evident during a visit there two weeks ago. So serious is the problem that the City of Los Angeles is expecting to spend two billion dollars to deal with the growing crisis. Some 44,000 human beings live on the streets of the city, up from 39,000 a couple of years ago. The issue deserves more attention than a short post but, be forewarned, it’s coming soon.

This post, instead, looks up from the streets to the lofty architecture of the City of Angeles in a developing series we’ll call Sky Lines. The angles, lines and reflections of these urban skyscapes go beyond photography and into a graphical realm that approaches fantasy.

Pretty amazing what lurks in those panes of glass.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

G-strings don't cover much

Sheep crossing the Rio de Los Pinos on their way back to Colorado

And finally a potpourri of 2015. Gotta get on with the future, live in the moment, stop living on the past. These are the last glimpses of the year that was. Adieu dear friend, adieu.

School children on a field trip in Albuquerque's Old Town

Corrugated ripples at Tierra Wools in Los Ojos, New Mexico

Monumental cross near Ocate, New Mexico

Drought afflicted nut grove in California's Central Valley

Pier and surf at San Simeon Beach, California

Birds in fog near Tomales, California
The End

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Human Scale

Interspersed with the landscapes that dominated the photographic 2015 were human subjects that gave the year meaning. They are headlined by fan favorite Victor “Cuba” Hernandez and the estimable Fred Black, pilot, architect, martial artist, tango dancer and master weaver.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


One of the best moments of my photographic journey in 2015 came between Paso Robles and the Pacific as the golden sun swept undulating pastures dotted with stately oaks. I'm guessing that this bucolic glow is one of the reasons they call it the Golden State. My inviolate memory of the late forties in California is of these rolling hills that run from the coast to the Central Valley and from Orange County to Sonoma.

Equally sun kissed is this crescent of sand at Imperial Dunes just south of the Salton Sea. I would suggest that it's better seen in February than in July when temperatures soar to 120. Grab a date shake in Brawley while you're down there.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Walk on by, foolish heart

The Stride, Madrid

Street photography loomed large in 2015 and that stems from six weeks exploring cities in Spain and France. All exuded vitality and promise flecked with moments of despair as above. This juxtaposition of the resolute and the destitute is called "The Stride." It was taken from a patio chair at a Starbuck's on Madrid's Paseo del Prado in late summer. Note the shadow pointing at the invisable beggar below.

Goldilocks, Barcelona

The Big Sleep, Madrid

The French Connection, Marseille

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Finding Meaning

Cuba and his Mauser EspaƱa on December 26, 2014.

Ferreting out the best or most memorable photographs from the thousands taken in any year is a daunting pursuit at best. But then curating a show of your own work is a fool’s errand, a little like being your own lawyer. Still that’s what’s required if you want to take a short look back.

Arguably the story of the year was the sheep herder Victor Hernandez, whom you know as Cuba, and his flock of wooly critters.

For all intents, the story began a year ago Saturday, December 26, 2014 when we chanced upon Cuba on the Taos Plateau. That moment launched me into a 2015 of following the sheep from pasture to pen, from shearing and lambing and back to the plateau and the mountains. The story had enriched my life greatly and has been, along with my series on the Japanese-American Internment Camps, the most commented on subject of the last several years.

The sheep story itself is represented by thousands of images. The three I’ve selected may not be the best of the lot but have the greatest emotional heft to me.

Bottle feeding a "penco" or orphan lamb.

Patron Andrew Abeyta and an orphan sheep during lambing on a raw March day in which 26 ewes died.