SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 7: The King and Queen of Hollywood

When you think of the west coast photo scene, you may think of a who’s who list of name photographers, but today I met true photographic royalty.

Meet Silvino and his sister Andrea, two incredibly hard-working people. I’ve known of Silvino’s name for years as one synonymous with quality flash equipment repair. His reputation is huge and well-respected.

Never met the man before today, so let me start my story with a tale.

Once upon a time there was a beauty and portrait photographer. His light was spectacular (please forgive the self glory, just makes a better tale), but his equipment was flawed. One flash, two flash, three flash, none. A song that was becoming more and more familiar to him. His heart was troubled, and his patience was thin as he did his best to mend the problem. A little tape here, a rap of a hand there, but no matter how hard he tried he would experience again: one flash, two flash, three flash, none. Day after day turned into week after week and as the months slowly passed his trouble only grew. One flash, two flash, three flash, NONE!  Total darkness finally fell upon him, so off to Silvino’s he went.

OK, we’re on the same page, take the flash head to an expert, time to meet Silvino. I call to schedule a drop. Answering the phone is sister Andrea. We chat the usual tech stuff and my gut tells me to ask her if she would be interested in being photographed for 365. I explain it to her and she promises me 5 minutes. We agree and 45 minute later I find myself in Silvino’s West Hollywood shop.

I arrive and am welcomed to a very busy family-run business. I first meet Silvino, seated at a tech counter in the back corner, quietly working away with electrical grace. I look around and self inventory countless flash equipment of every brand. The tone of the room is focused and as my eye’s scan I notice another technician (Hortencia: Silvino’s step sister) hard at work in what looks like delicately wiring a flash head. And from behind the counter Andrea pleasantly steps up. With a warm smile she break the silence in greeting me as she writes up my paperwork.

Business done, we start to chat. We share stories about life, our children (turns out we both have 8-year-old daughters) and of her 17 years of working with her brother.

Silvino’s ears perk up, leading to my inviting him to join us in conversation and if he will be in our photograph. He humbly agrees, but states, “I never let people photograph me.” I feel privileged, seeing it as an honor to photograph someone whose work I truly respect.

His job is thankless and unseen. What he and his family do is a great backbone to the LA photo industry. Something that I challenge every photographer to respect in using his services.

We all chat and the conversation quickly turns away from business to more poignant topics. We expand our talk to past, family and our LA histories. As we converse, I am smitten by a sense of laughter blended with a powerfully determined work ethic and focus on family.

We share family photos and stories of our kids. In doing so, I strengthen my testimony of the importance of family and our responsibilities as parents. I reflect upon the many hard-working families I know. I walk away with a self-challenge, and a challenge to you, to recommit to getting to more fully know our communities.

Forget the spotlight celebrities. Silvono, Andrea and Hortencia: keep going, you’re doing things right! You are the Kings and Queens of Hollywood.

To all who are reading this, do your affirmations for Andrea; her deadbeat ex-husband has not paid a cent of child support for over 5 years. I was told this in a very humble statement from Andrea. She expresses it to me without guile and is very humble about it. But I’m torked. Andrea is a class act. She did not call her ex a deadbeat, I did. So ex-dad, if you read this, be a man and support your daughter.

Silvono, Andrea, Hortencia: Thanks for letting me into your lives.

SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 6: The Book of James

“Let The Love Come to You”

Day 6, almost one week into 365. Only 359 days to go. The good thing is, so far my family is on board. Tonight my daughter and I pass Taft High on our way home from dinner out with a friend. In the parking lot are a dozen or so catering trucks. Gourmet trucks are becoming quite the rage lately and we regularly visit our favorite haunt; a Friday night hot spot we know in Granada Hills where 50 to 60 trucks usually show up.

Tonight, however, catches us by surprise, seeing trucks in this spot is not a typical occurrence. Even though we are full to the gills from a heavy Mexican dinner of chips, fajitas, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, we find it impossible to withstand the temptation of a catering truck expedition. I try to drive by, but 1/4 mile past Taft, will-power gone, I flip a u-turn and we are committed to snacks.

We pull up and immediately I see my greatest temptation: chocolate covered nuts. Hey, they are full of protein. That’s good for me, isn’t it?

Ready to binge, my daughter and I walk towards the most colorful truck in the lot, Antonia’s Nuts. On our approach we are greeted by James. At first glance I know this guy has things to say. He agrees to be photographed. I quickly find out one fact is certain, James is way chill.

We talk for about 15 minutes. My take away: James is an icon for the positive. The kind of dude we all want as a friend.

A few statements from “The Book of James”
• Why not? Not why!
• You have to have humor.
• Laugh at it all.
• I’m a musician, but check out my girlfriend’s music.

And he lives what he preaches. He tells me of his house just being robbed, “it opened up the universe for me.” Even had the robbers try to break in again a second time while he and his roommate were home. He just went to the door and told them to go away. Many of us would have attacked them. James just kept his cool.

I find out he is a musician. Leads me to ask him if I can promote his band or share any message for him,. He gives me two simple notes.
ONE: “Live positive and let the love come to you”
TWO: “Nah, my band broke up, but you can promote my girlfriend’s music, it’s cool. Google her. Jade Alexis”

James, see you in Granada Hills!

SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 5: It’s More Than The News Coverage

I ask, “Where are you from?”  He says, “Wherever I’m passing by.”

Today I had the opportunity to photograph the news anchors of Univision 34, Los Angeles. A great group of people to work with and a ton of fun to shoot. Can’t post the photos right now, but soon you will see them all over LA and on the web.

We started the shoot very early in the morning and finished in the evening. A very full day. No gripes; I love to be busy – plus I had a 365 plan for the day. A perfect plan in my mind; simple, straight forward and easy breezy – just grab someone at lunch break.

But as life always does, the curve ball came… unfinished business locked me to the mobile phone. Still no problem; shift to fallback plan – find a willing person in the hallway at the end of the shoot. Strike two: wrapped the shoot and the halls are quite.

Adding a touch of stress, it’s 8pm, I’m now in the parking structure, sitting in the driver’s seat, car running, and ready to reverse out of the space. Memories of the evening before fall upon me as I struggle to shift my car to reverse in prepping to exit an echoing garage. For whatever reason the gear shift decides to give me grief. My wife and I have a saying, “If it’s not broken, it must not belong to us.” Two nights in a row of car issues… @!*%#^$#!!!!!

With time burning, I reach for the owner’s manual and prepare for a fight. Here’s the blow-by-blow. “Honda throws a stinging low blow,” burying the table of contents in a strangely designed booklet. But no chump to adversity, Radstone quickly regains his composure and side steps to the glossary. Honda counters with an overly simplified list of topics and complex listings of unrelated page references. “Oh no! Looks like Radstone is going down early,” knees weak, body trembling, he’s sagging for the mat and reaching for his AAA card. The shame of it all, AAA two nights in a row… for the same car… what a looser. “But wait, a glimmer of hope,” Radstone’s stomach growls, desperately in need of transportation to the nearest dining establishment. And amidst to on-setting attack of abdominal warnings, a vague spark of hope comes into focus, snapping into view through a sugar crashing blurriness. I strain my eyes, concentrating one more time on an overly cluttered glossary, “and yes, I ready to throw the fight winning blow,” gear shift release button – page 64. Radstone jabs, “insert ignition key into hidden slot,” shifter moves to neutral, Honda drops to the canvas, “1, 2, 3, bla, bla, bla, 10. Out!!!!! The winner by Knock Out!  Radstone! Holy hell, got to love those secret panels.

Event behind me, and still needing to find a person to shoot, I accept the fate that is in store for me. Load my gear, and on the drive home, find a point of interest to stop in searching for a person to photograph. Gear loaded, it is time to exit the parking structure and start my quest.

As I exit, a lone stranger appears, Hector – one of Univision’s news photographers returning from the day’s assignments. I approach him and it’s all thumbs up.

On the list of All Things Happen for a Reason, the car delay ends up working for a purpose. An earlier exit would have made me miss meeting Hector, who taught me a thing or two of what news shooters go through.

A few worthy notes on Hector’s commitment to his craft:
• His news van is really his office.
• Everyday he commutes to, and from, Los Angeles and San Bernardino in bringing the news to us. Not a short drive.
• He has been nominated for an Emmy.
• Has one documentary under his belt that was selected to be featured at the San Diego Latino Film Festival.

But here is what is really impressive:
From 1999 to 2005 Hector’s assignment was to cover events happening on the Mexico / California border. He tells me of things that I choose not to write. With respect and a smile he shares these stories with a degree of humility. With all my years of portrait and advertising photography, I have never found myself in the depth of situations Hector shares with me. In only a few minutes he opens my eyes to the courage of media photographers. Here is a really cool young guy, just getting married, who has looked tragedy right in the face and can share it with the balance of a seasoned spiritualist.

All I can say is, “Thanks Hector, and keep up the meaningful work!”

Until Tomorrow,


SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 4: Fish Out Of Water Saved By Francis the Key Guy

Take one middle class Caucasian man, dressed like a college golfer; put him in a very diverse Spanish-speaking park; place a camera around his neck and paperwork in his hand. Then have him loiter around the teen center – at night mind you. Sound suspicious? Perhaps?

I was not really thinking too soundly on this one. The saving grace was my wife and daughter by my side. Gave me a bit of credibility. All except for the golf club my sweet little child kept swinging in the air (really she was just practicing her drive – golf industry look out!).

We spent a good hour approaching people. All very gracious, but none taking the offer to be photographed. I begin to notice a consistent through-line, a common tendency for people to slowly gain distance. Subtle things, like a tree between us, or a wall, and one of my favorites, a car. Bottom line, no one wants to come near me. In retrospect, I did look a little creepy.

“Wait!, the story gets better. It’s 8pm now, kids are slowly leaving the park, beginning to release the area for the rougher evening crowd. Lights are shutting down soon. And with my tail between my legs, and a commitment to return at a later date, dressed a bit more appropriately, I make the call to move my family to the solace of our car. We approach our assigned doors and look at each other no differently than usual. You know, that you have the keys look?!?

You got it! Keys safely secured, locked dangling behind the steering wheel, doors locked, safe and sound in the vehicle. We are just that kind of family… always planning ahead. And truly, I can see no better stop-gap to auto theft than to lock the keys, and of course my wallet, securely in the car.

Now here we are, no photos, no wallet (no better place than in the glove compartment) and 10K of camera equipment in my handy backpack. By the way, even the locals keep their eyes peeled around these parts, and being the only guy in the whole park wearing a bright blue beach shirt, I’m really starting to feel rather like a target, not at all like a park patron. As I’m standing in bewilderment at the fact my family and I are stranded out of our bright red Accord, Gary Larson’s Far Side comic series strangely comes into my mind; specifically the one of the two deers talking, one with a target on his chest. His buddy saying to him, “bummer of a birth mark Hal.” And that’s right, I’m Hal!?!

But no need to fear, my daughter steps up and boldly states, “Don’t worry Dad, I’ve got a golf club.” Wife does what wives do — brings the common sense back into play, grabs the cell phone and thirty minutes later Francis arrives, the Diamond Security man of the hour. He steps to the rescue, car door picking tools in hand and cell phone on shoulder. Literally 2 minutes and the door is open. He turns, and peels out a clip board. I numbly sign and begin to watch him fade away towards the driver’s side of his truck. My gut tells me he is my photo opportunity and I can not let him get away.

With the glooming possibility of failing to get a photo on day four of a one year challenge, and the clock rapidly ticking away, I rush this savior of a moment in a sprint of determination. He terminates his phone conversation and looks at me with a straight face of inquisition. I tell him what I’m up to, he thinks for a pause, much like the rest of those I’ve approached this evening. In this moment of quiet my mind starts to boot up in preparation for another failed attempt. Thinking of next possibilities, I visualize myself elsewhere. Maybe the pharmacy up the street, a polka club, Pizza Hut, or throwing myself into on-coming traffic and just photographing whatever happens. That way at least I’d have a good injury story to support the fact that I tanked out on day four.

It’s funny how many crazy thoughts can zip through the mind in a nanosecond, and right at the moment my mind was taking me to strange places. I force myself to shut the nutty thinking down and look back at my new friend Francis, who with an approving nod of acceptance redeems my efforts. I’m telling you, I owe this guy big time.

So, if you ever find yourself in Canoga Park, night falling and keys in the car, pick up the phone, call AAA and ask for Francis at Diamond Security. And remember, tip him well!

11:16pm now, made my deadline. Tomorrow is a new day!

SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 3: Wrap Bracelets by Alishia

Alishia, 21 – Bracelet Designer

So here I am, casing the neighborhood and feeling strangely like Ozzie going to borrow a cup of sugar for Harriet. No not Ozzy Osborn, but Ozzie Nelson.

What?!, Who?! Ozzie Nelson??!

If you don’t know the sitcom, Ozzie and Harriet were the ideal TV family and ran on ABC from October 3, 1952 to September 3, 1966. For the fun of it I’ve given you the Wikipedia link. And if you’re bored, curious or just plain nostalgic, here is a link to YouTube episodes.

Back to the story, walking the streets, strolling house by house, ignoring the graffiti and feeling mighty full of 50’s style neighborly love.

I round a corner and popping out of a sweet picket fence house exits the energy and laughter of Alishia along with her mother Valerie. I site them right as they begin a game of front yard badminton.

I muster my courage and somewhat fearing the possible blows of long-handled racquets, a fear brought on by my remembrance of the thrashing I received just yesterday from a not so friendly person, I gingerly approached them in allowing me to take their picture.

We chat for a short time and realizing that we share a similar point-of-view of the 365 project, Alishia accepts the offer to be photographed. She has a wonderful, vibrant spirit. A natural in front of the camera, and a joy to photograph. We shot a bunch of photos. These three really capture her personality. Go El Camino High!


• Observe and Share Everything •

• Practice Humility in Every Situation •

• Value Community •

Lot’s of wisdom from a young woman! Wouldn’t you agree.

I know I’m only three days in, but one constant is already beginning to emerge:  “I’m amazed at the depth people are sharing with me.”

This thing is only beginning. Bear with me as I figure it out. I’ll continue to push in finding new places, different people, cultures and in approaching everyone in a very organic way.

Day three and all is well!

Thanks Alishia for your contribution.

HEY ALL: Here is a shameless plug.
Alishia is just starting her business, even in the early processes of getting her business license. Let’s help her get going! If you are interested in purchasing her jewelry, please leave a comment of interest. I’ll forward it to her.

Talk Tomorrow!


Sidewalk Ghosts / Interview 3: Photoless Entry

Three days in and starting to see the relevance in what I am doing. Took a brief stroll around my neighborhood; thought I knew my community, but really I’ve only been seeing the surface of it.

I’ve been humbled this evening. I approached a husband and wife that are living out of a truck and a motor home. A seemingly intelligent couple, who by the look of things were dealt a rough deck of recession cards. They graciously declined to be photographed, yet expressed their interest in following the blog.

I cannot go further without acknowledging them and the other many deserving families who have been so unfairly displaced in this difficult economy.

I salute their strength and character.

SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 2: Driving Forward

Today’s entry – Travel log style.

11:30am: Early lunch with family. Almost decide to shoot Chef Abraham. Discouraged by the lunch rush, I pass on the prospect,

1:00pm: Frys Electronics, Kill two birds with one stone. How? Buy wireless keypad for iPad and spend enjoyable 30 minutes in demo massage chair. Now healed from the terrible ergonomics of entry one. I’m ready to comfortably blog the rest of 365.

4:00pm: The day is burning, embark on forced quest for stranger two, Find myself at shopping center and denied by one very cool looking person. Leaves lump in throat as to if I am crazy doing this project.

4:30pm: Tugged into Golfsmith by my 8-year-old daughter. First Dentist, Then Cowgirl, Then Egyptologist, Then Doctor, Then Stuntgirl, Now Golf Pro. Break down and buy her a 7 iron.

4:45pm: Price golf lessons, $1000 for roughly 10 lessons*#! Wholly Heck!!

5:00pm: Leave store resolved to find better way to spend daughter’s scholorship fund.

6:00m: We go to driving range instead.

6:45sh: Encino California, Ready Golf Driving Range. All is well.

7:00pm: Hit ATM to get cash for golfclub rental.

7:01pm: Reluctantly eat $3 ATM fee!!

7:05pm: Approach Danial and Donal. Good guys, their in.

“Daniel, the genuine article, and a gentleman to boot.”
As quoted by Irish cigar toting golfing buddy Donal.

These two guys were great. Would have been nice to get Donal on camera as well, but he left all stage honors to Daniel. We chatted for about 20 minutes and captured this photo. Dan, An accountant, moved to Los Angeles from New York in 2006 to get closer to better golfing.

He Quotes, “I’d rather roam on a golf course than be stuck at a desk.”

The Man is A Golf Ball Cannon – SERIOUSLY!

So I’m hitting drives with my daughter. We keep hearing a solid crack and watch balls escape over the horizon’s fence and exiting the driving range at over 300 yards. There is no way I’m leaving this place without photographing the golf ball mangling man to my left.

Introducing Brent, Online marketing dude ant Avatar Labs. A very cool entertainment advertising agency. Turns out we know a few of the same people. Who would have thunk?

I’m telling you this guys drive is no joke.

He leaves me this word of wisdom, “Life is Good!”

I think we should listen.

SideWalk Ghosts: Introducing 365 Strangers in 365 Days

Slava, 61 – Professional Chauffeur

I ask him to share a hobby, after a moment of thought he said in a deep dialect, “guitar.”

I ask him to tell me his favorite tune, he laughs and is silent.

A few moments pass, then he says, “A Russian song.”

I let it go at that, and take his photo over the front seat. My camera battery dies, as I’m reloading new power he says, “Song about friend, shall we take a photo outside the car.”

I agree, two more frames and its time for us to go.


September 9, 2011, sitting at thirty thousand feet, or there about, courtesy of US Airways flight 711 – Philly to LA. Sort of a patriotic and emotional day with it being so close to the 10 year anniversary of 911, a subtext that forces me to truly look at life’s priorities and my regard for the world around me.

There is something about flying that is meditative. And surely being crammed into a plane is powerful motivation to understanding fellow-man. Sitting across the aisle is the smelly sock traveler (sans shoes). I force myself to think beyond the nasal discomfort, and digging deep into my compassion, choose to re-examine the humanity of the situation.

My findings… the stranger across the row from me is just as uncomfortable as I with the situation. My ruling (partially derived from the Swedish language he speaks in doing his best to communicate to the woman seated several rows in front of him) is that he has been traveling for many hours and has not been seated next to his wife as they share a very crowded flight. I’m sure he is aware of the smell of his feet, but the pain of being in tight shoes for endless hours has gotten to him (I’m guessing they are on a last leg transfer from an international flight).

Now, this whole exchange occurs in nanoseconds, and my frustration has hit its highest beat. But, being the self-disciplined man who I am (or think I am) I force myself to take pause, redirecting my pointing finger away from unleashing the cabin attendant furry of call button red… and simply decide to redirect it to twist open air vent seat number one. “No harm, no foul,” I chant to myself. So what, a little re-circulated virus air never hurt anyone… right?

The watering in my eyes subsides, the rising foot vapor dissipates, and more beautifully, my mind clears in self-examination, looking ahead to the next five hours of air time I must spend with not only the unknown man, now reclining to my right, but the entire company of strangers I am sharing airspace with.

My beverage arrives, I take a sip, wash down the salted almonds, and refocus my considerations towards all of the other strangers whom have no choice but to co-exist with me in this five-hundred miles an hour airspace. It hit me like a ton of bricks, “We are all in this thing together.”

From that point, it takes only a moment for me to realize that it’s time for me to procrastinate no longer in committing to a grand blog commitment; one that has been rolling around in my head for years, and one that I have been slightly frightened to begin.  Yet empowered, with clarity the likes of a man awakened under the influence of smelling salt, I boldly commit to meet 365 strangers in 365 days.

The goal, every day for the next year, approach one stranger, photograph them and promptly blog the experience.

Rain or shine, hot or cold, healthy or ill, no days missed.

I’ll do my best to create interesting photos, and for the sake of entertainment, work to get myself into a sticky situation from time to time. It’s a huge commitment, I know. I’m sure there will be some hero photographs and some not so magnificent ones.

Let’s just see what happens!

Slava migrated with his family from the Ukraine to the United States in 1989. A mechanical engineer by trade he is now a very kind and entertaining chauffeur in Philadelphia. Asked him a few questions. A very reserved man, I did not want to force him to deeply into telling his story. Plus, we were both on tight schedules, he having other fares, and I with a plane to catch. The photos are taken in a dead-end road just to the side of Philadelphia airport. Shot only four frames due to limited time.

Nice to meet you Slava. Thanks for helping me start 365!