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San Francisco 1999 Gay Pride parade

March 13th, 2005

Among Friends
I did go to the Saint Patrick's Day parade today in San Francisco. Not sure I got much in the way of photographs, although I'll have to develop the black and white to be sure. Nothing stands out in my mind, no magic moments, but who knows? A not altogether bad Sunday: breakfast at the usual cafe, a drive downtown to park near a BART station entrance, a three hour walk through a long line of small cute curly haired children dressed in green and acting Irish. Lots of policemen and firemen and marching bag pipers, marching high schoolers, marching people in green hair, green clothes, green eyes and green jeans. Not the kind of turnout you'd expect for, say, the Gay Pride parade, but kind of funky, kind of nice with plenty of Irish accents. Cute, by the way, those Irish women.

You know something about Irish women?

I once “knew” an Irish woman well enough to know I know nothing about Irish women. If that counts.

That counts.

Yes, well, a good morning, back home by 1:00, a walk down by the lake to sit in the sun on a bench and watch the people running and walking and sweating; watch the birds, watch the people feeding the birds bread in contravention of all of the rules (the birds making no complaints, you understand), shooting a couple of pictures of people feeding the birds, walking along then through the bird shit to the Grand Lake theater area for a Coke and a cookie while listening to a jazz combo play and then a walk back home. Good stuff: the head clear, the attitude good; life in the fast lane, one might say, here in Oakland.

I promised a friend I'd post a reader's review of Tokyo Love on Amazon and so I'll also post it here:

As an amateur portrait photographer, both candid and posed, I was much taken by Tokyo Love by Nan Goldin and Nobuyoshi Araki, particularly the portraits by Araki. I'm familiar with Goldin's work through her Devil's Playground as well as a feature on the book done late last year in Aperture and I'm familiar with Araki through his books Araki by Araki and Shino.

I find Goldin's contributions consistent with her style in Devil's Playground and, I assume, in all of her work, while Araki's - and it's Araki's portraits in Tokyo Love I find so compelling - seems a departure from his usual almost numbing never ending “bad boy Araki” series of nudes.

The Araki Tokyo Love portraits have the feeling of snapshots, although they're clearly posed, if not in a studio, then against a portable background using strobe light: half of them with the subject entirely within the frame, often sitting on the floor (clothed, as it happens - unusual for Araki; Goldin is the one who finds many of her subjects in a state of undress); the other half with faces cropped tight, framed full face, staring into the lens. They look outward, not particularly trusting, poking their noses into the photographer's world, none of them professional models. All, I assume, representatives of a Japanese culture of a time and a place about which I know nothing, other than the fact I've heard it's a culture undergoing radical transformation.

Tokyo Love to some degree reminds me of the impossibly funky and fascinating Soichi Aoki's Fruits, a book depicting a cultural (radical fashion) segment of young Japanese, published in 2001, some six years after Tokyo Love. Will the “portrait” subjects in Fruits look like Araki and Goldin's “subjects” in Tokyo Love when they themselves are five or six years older? Will the age group of fashionistas found in Fruits splinter into the various factions in Tokyo Love? My own idiosyncratic reaction, of course, the reaction of the observer, but a not bad indication the photographs in Tokyo Love do elicit a reaction, a good sign something is happening.

So, even though there seem to be many who've been less than impressed, I say the hell with it, go out and buy Tokyo Love. Gives you something to defend when you're arguing Art and Life among friends.

The photograph was taken at the San Francisco 2001 Gay Pride parade with a Nikon F5 mounted with a 135mm f2.0 Nikkor lens on T-Max 400.