This past week, NPR ran a fun story about a photographer's assignment in Cuba. David Gilkey was given one simple instruction: No car pictures. Felt to be a cliché, both he and his photo editor were looking for something fresh and new - a different spin on a country that remains, in many ways, enigmatic - certainly to many of us in the US.
What David discovered was that staying away from these cars meant steering clear of the country's culture, its philosophy, and guiding principles. In an interview about what makes these cars so special, David says:
"These cars aren't just a tourist attraction. They say something about who Cubans are at their core, their ingenuity and craftsmanship, and their will to carry on no matter what. Our visit was sprinkled with little clues of this. You go into someone's house, and the fan has lost its plastic frame, but they still make it function. A mother tells you how much monthly salary she makes, and somehow she makes that stretch to feed her family. Nothing is thrown away, everything is rejiggered to function."
Almost all of my photographs are taken around my adopted home town of Ocean Beach. There are a lot of surfers, waves, sand, sunrises, and sunsets - it's where I feel centered and - for lack of a better word - inspired. I will occasionally look for new subject matter, something different that doesn't scream "beach town" … sometimes it works, but often the images feel flat. This is my culture, in part. To focus (or not) on flowers or architecture or some other subject denies in large part what makes this place special.
Ocean Beach (or "OB") is one of the few real beach towns where folks have grown up, raised families of their own, where people have known their neighbors their whole lives (and still like them). It has a bit of a vintage vibe ... most of all, it has a sense of history and community. On weekends, most of us find it impossible to leave - even the next town over seems an insurmountable distance away. "Home" extends well beyond the walls of our house - home is our community of ocean lovers, surfers, dogs, and families.
When I first picked up the camera again in 2012, Elvis and I spent a lot of time walking all 7 square miles of OB, taking in our new 'hood. We found a lot of vintage cars - classic lines, some shiny, some rusted … all have lived here far longer than we have. We love our town - I love standing on the beach and watching the surfers judge the morning sets before going in the water. I smile every time I see the blue water layered over a cool beach on an overcast morning. Each pastel sunrise is a gift, and each warm sunset glow on the water is different from the last. These are all things from which I cannot steer clear.
I'm thinking that's probably ok.