Deland is a small town in central Florida which I pass through either on my way to or from Daytona when I go to “Bike Week”. I kind of like the place but I am not sure why. This is the second time I have been here and walked up and down the empty streets lines with restaurants, gift shops and such. Not much going on but I keep working at it. This time was different. I discovered when I was at “Bike Week”, that there is really nothing going on in Daytona before 3:00PM because everybody is sleeping off the activities of the night before. They go there to party and of course they party—all night long. So since I don’t sleep well in hotels, I get up early and decided to have another crack at DeLand. This time, I found a different part of town. It was an alley with a few bars and joints and this guy came out of one of them for a smoke. I love that light!
In the summer of 1968, I purchased a Triumph 650cc Trophy motorcycle and was introduced to the passion, joys, and freedom of biking. That year, hanging out with my biker friends, I came to appreciate and understand the “biker culture”. In September, I drove my bike from Montreal to Vancouver, which was my first great adventures as a young man. I later sold my bike, began to settle down, but I never forgot that glorious year I spent on the roads.
Recently I went to Daytona Beach, Florida to the annual Bike Week 2012 rally—however this time it was not as a biker but as a photographer. I was not looking for old friends but only their ghosts—the symbols and relics from my wonderful experience of 45 years ago. Bike Week is where bikers go to have fun, to shock, to misbehave, and to exhibit themselves. It is a week of butts, boobs, bellies, bikes and lots of beer. It is as American as apple pie.
Its a world that I left a long time ago but still look back on with certain nostalgia and a touch of affection.
Sunday was a kind of dull day. I had been in a golf tournament that morning and lost, downed two quick Bloody Mary’s and in a sudden spurt of inspiration fueled by alcohol, headed off down I95 to Hollywood Beach to take some photographs. Since it was a Sunday, the French Canadians were severely outnumbered by the Hispanics who flocked to this spot for their Sunday Picnics. needless to say, the joint was filled. I walked up and down the beach for an hour or so, took a picture or two, but nothing really clicked. After another pass, I felt thirsty and stopped in at one of the beach bars for a beer. I sat on the small wall separating the beach from the “boardwalk”, sipped my beer, watched the guys, girls, families stroll by. I was facing the bar ,and seated at a table across the walkway, facing me was this young attractive woman, sipping her Corona watching back. It was nice. 30 years ago, if I were single, I might have done something about it but it is 30 years later and I am not single so I was just happy, sitting on the wall, with my beer, watching this young woman do the same thing back.
After a while, she finished her beer, got up and moved on and after a few moments I did the same. As I turned toward the beach, I spotted this couple who had been sitting next to me and snapped the shot. I thought she might react so I hesitated, but persevered and as it turned out, her eyes were probably shut and she never noticed me. That’s what I love about things on days like this. it’s all about watching.
A few years ago, I was in Houston attending a portfolio review. Things were not going well at the time. Some reviewers were too honest, some were right on, others were full of shit.It was sort of depressing so I took an afternoon off and headed for a bar. I stumbled into this place, somewhere in the downtown area, picked out a stool and ordered a beer. Within a few moments I was talking to these two guys. Storm (on the right) was homeless but he got a check from somewhere every month and spent it in a bar while they let him charge his phone. I guess he added a new dimension to homelessness. Donald (on the left) worked in a shelter. He had been homeless, but settled down and now devoted his time helping people. In their spare time they both drank.
Bars are interesting places. Everybody is friendly and happy but I think down under there is something missing. Most people live very lonely lives in “quiet desperation” — without contact, without hope and without passion. They are just drifting from one woman/man to another, from one job to another and from one bar to another. They never really get passionate about things. They never feel they have to get inside anything, to understand it, to get better at it, to master it. Instead they drink.
I feel fortunate that I can get into things and try to understand them better. Although I was a fuck-up in school, I managed to get into worthwhile activities as I matured, that opened up my “curiosities”. Whether it was as a photographer, a golfer, a designer, there was always something to stir me up and I am grateful for it.
Who knows about people like Storm and Donald. Perhaps I am completely wrong about them. I hope so.
This one is for all you guys out there. Do you ever read what schmucks scrawl on the wall in front of urinals? I do. It helps pass the time but what I cannot figure out is why people stop what they came into this place to do, reach into their pockets and take out a pen to write all this shit. Of course sometimes it can be a bit funny but most of it is classified simply as the “lament of the forgotten male”. I had never been in a ladies bathroom but I can be certain they are not like this. Of course this was in a very sleazy dive in New Orleans so who knows.However, I am curious.
Probably somewhere, some place some “academic” photographer is already working on a series of theses images. When you work on a series, you are trying to tell a story, but really, there is no story here. Its only a single image and if anyone thinks that people will be interested in looking at lots (a series) of these pictures , I would simply classify you in the same space as the guys with the ballpoint pens next to their penis.
For the past few years, I have been working on a series of photographs of people drinking. happy people, lonely people, couples, gangs, solitary drinkers,—anybody who is in the process of getting pissed to some degree or another. Most of these images are taken in bars where people go to socialize or be alone.
Like most of my projects, they started by chance, happy accidents—spontaneously! In one case i was one of those people spending a quiet afternoon drinking beer in a bar in New Orleans. The guy next to me started talking, a biker next to him joined in and after a beer or two, I remembered that I had my camera with me and started taking a few pictures. Sometimes, I just set out to go to bars and shoot. I have to be careful where I go but once I find a place that I feel comfortable, I ask to take some pictures of barmaids, or patrons. On other occasions, i am just a passer-by watching people drinking in outdoor cafes, on the street or any other place they choose to do their thing.
When I ann doing it in bars, I also have learned to pace myself. I know I am going to spend some time in these places and since I am not a heavy drinker I have to pace my drinks. Usually it takes a beer or two to warm people up to what i am doing and then a few more beers to get the job done. It takes its toll on me and I can only get into it two or three times per year.
This photograph was taken last week in Delray Beach. Sharon and I had been in Miami and on our way back, we decided to stop in Delray for an “apertivo” Since it was Florida drinking outdoors is pretty common so there we were on the deck having our drinks and this scene was going on at the bar—so typical, a guy hustling a woman. What interested me was that he had no socks on—very cool a la Palm Beach so I snapped a few as I nursed my Stella (the beer not the woman.) I figure at this rate, I should be ready to share this series in a year or two but of course, who the hell knows.
Last October, we were in Croatia for a few days. Quite an interesting country. This young couple was in a restaurant having lunch and hardly spoke to each other. They seemed totally fixated on the screen on his smart phone. They were quite affectionate but they just did not speak. I think that is what is common in kids today. They type well but are totally verbally incoherent. On the other hand, its easy to make photographs of them since ether seemed to be in a far-off place. Ahhhh… passion!