Archive for the 'Photography' Category



Honolulu, Black and White and Back in Time

Faces stare out from a two-dimensional black and white. They are laughing, posing, cast in shadows and cut-and-pasted beside lush palm trees, neon hummingbirds, tan thatching and pinkened skies. Sometimes they smile; other times they gaze off, someplace beyond the camera, looking out from thin layer of time and plastic. And I am completely obsessed.

It’s my weirdest and raddest score from the Bay Area’s rummage event of year. The annual Oakland Museum’s White Elephant Sale is a cult event local collectors, scavengers, cheapskates and lovers of vintage live for. The Oakland Museum benefit is held out in a Jingletown warehouse, and hosted by the spunky white-haired ladies of the Women’s Board. Donations are collected throughout the year, culminating in the kitschy bonanza of bargains. The event takes over the neighborhood, complete with taco trucks and a free shuttle to the BART station.

While the main event is a two-day affair held on the first weekend in March, this last Sunday was the special preview—when the die-hards shell out $10-15 months in advance to get first pickings. A friend finagled us onto the guest list; we traipsed down across the train tracks, through the sour estuary smell and into the warehouse bustling with bodies digging for treasure.

Inside the warehouse

There was a little of everything: antique furniture, vintage suits, old Polaroid cameras, $1 LPs, 80s action figures that brought me back to my childhood—even a box of expired condoms. The prices put any flea market to shame, and everyone was in a good mood. The staff was sweet and grandparently. An old dude with a vest full of buttons from previous years’ sales stood by a Thomas Edison record player, explaining to whoever passed how it worked and the history behind it. Some staff dressed up—I saw a Napoleon look-alike—which added to the festive atmosphere and reconfirmed my aspiration to be a cool old volunteer/docent person when I retire (like I’ll ever be able to…). A truly awesome moment came when, rifling through old records, a tween boy with shoulder-length blond hair picked up a Van Halen LP and let out a long, “Yessssss.”

I scored a couple cool vintage-y household items, but by far the coolest thing I came across was a 20″ x 16″ photo collage. It’s cheaply framed, cost $1 and is full of the kind of mystery that gets my wheels turning, my imagination shooting sparks.

The artfully executed collage of photos is from a group of young people’s vacation to Honolulu. The handwritten note on the cardboard back guesses the year to either be 1939, or 1940-43, World War II. Beneath that, four names appear: Virginia Matthiesen, Cole McFarland, Bud Matthiesen and “Sailor Friend.” Those are the only tangibles I have to cling to, the only ones I want. In the grey photos of shorelines and hotel rooms, a garden and a roadside, I have all the fodder for fantasy I need.

The group is young, mid-20s I’d guess. They have the eyes and expressions of old-school rebels, a kind of pre-Beatnik vibe, something carefree and a little wild in their smiles and poses. One has a Neal Cassady look; a girl has sharp cheekbones and piercing eyes; another stares off from above bare shoulders and a shell necklace. In a different photo, Neal Cassady is wearing the shell necklace, leaning in towards the girl as she looks away. The light has caught her blouse, making it blaze with a whiteness that obscures her face.

There’s an impossible number of stories inside the collage, silent and lost like a dream you can’t remember. Whoever made it set it in a border of tiki-style thatch print, then pasted a couple cut-outs of palm trees, to add color and a tropical vibe. It’s visually cool and kitschy enough to be hip. But really, it’s the faces that make me love the collage.

Of course, I’m projecting all of this—maybe they’re not artsy rebels at all. But that’s the fun of it, imagining a trip like that, then: how long it must have taken to get to Hawaii, how rustic and undeveloped it looked, how more pointed and romantic everything looks in black and white. And the timelessness of getting into adventures on the road. I haven’t found the perfect place for it yet; one of my roommates loves it, the other thinks it’s creepy. For now, it’s leaning against my bedroom wall, where I can stare and dream.

At the center of the collage, pasted on a pastel sunset, is a solo shot of the sharp-cheeked woman. She’s looking back, over her shoulder, holding a straw hat down against what might be wind, what might be the passage of time. I like to think she’s looking back at me, out from a moment that’s long passed, a place that isn’t the same, a youth that is gone. Probably, she was looking back at one of the boys in the collage. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

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Havana in Pictures

To end my series of Cuba posts, I’m bringing you photos from my brother’s trip to the forbidden island. Aside from being a far better photographer than me, my brother traveled with a Cuban-American friend and his family, so he had even cooler adventures (cooler than wrecking plumbing? I know, it’s hard for me to believe too). All photos are from Havana. Enjoy, and  thanks for all the comments and feedback throughout the series.

Well, Isn´t This Handy? Moroccan Photos by Someone Else!

Here it is: my best Moroccan photo. Now go look at the other ones...

Here it is: my best Moroccan photo. Now go look at the other ones...

I have a confession to make: I am a terrible photographer.

Not that you´d know, seeing as though I left my camera cord at home and all my posts from the road have been woefully without visual accompaniment. But despite the fact you can´t see any what fills my memory card, I have been making a concerted effort to take more photos on this trip. Photos enhance articles, and most publications dole out additional sums for good pictures. The only problem is, I suck.

It´s not just that I lack the technical ability to address lighting and angles and perspective. I´m a timid photographer, not intrepid enough to shove my camera lens in at the moments that would create good photos. I´ve come home from previous multiple-month sojourns with less than 200 pictures. But I actually love photography, and see plenty of good pictures all around me—it´s just that, by the time I´ve dug my camera out of my bag, turned it on and focused, the moment has passed. And I find I´ve wasted the moment not enjoying it, sucking it in, but instead trying to photograph it.

I´ve decided that, since I´m a much better writer than I am photographer, I´m going to take pictures with words. When I see an insanely beautiful or mesmorizing or unusual image, I study it, memorize it, savor it—then scribble as fast as my fingers will let me, trying to get it all down. It works—when I flip through my notebook, the scraps of phrases bring back everything my haphazard and poorly focused photos don´t.

But a good pictures is still a good picture, and I wistfully reflect on all the excellent moments in time that are only captured in my mind. So you can imagine my delight when one of my favorite travel forces, Matador, published a photo essay on Morocco today.

The photographer, Paul Sullivan, has a killer eye and enough credentials to make you cry. Most of the photos are from Marrakesh, where I spent my ill-fated last day; I think photo 10 of Djemaa El Fna totally captures the spirit of the food stalls.

I like this system, someone doing my dirty work for me without even knowing it. I fantasize about one day setting out on a trip with a photographer, tag-teaming some destination with a dynamic duo of artistic ability. Until I get a grant or find a glossy magazine still willing to send people out on stories old-school style, this will have to do.

(PS—If you´re licking your chops for more kick-ass travel photography, check out my homeboy Peter´s photo blog, stolen goods.)


Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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