A month ago I stepped into the odd world of Curiosities, a vintage store in Dallas, Texas. Speckled throughout the collection of taxidermy and early 1900’s medical supplies (DIY liver transplant, anyone?) were porcelain dolls. They hung out like mini bouncers ready to follow you around each corner. The collection of stuff was meticulously random, like a Jackson Pollock painting but instead of throwing paint on canvas, they dumped vintage photographs and porcelain knick-knacks. Here are some of the characters I found:
Category Archives: Out And About
Before my permanent move to Texas I felt a duty festering deep in my soul to visit the city one last time. With my second-hand Fujifilm x100 and Polaroid Automatic Land Camera 360 in hand, I spent hours walking around releasing any fears of separation at the tail end of the shutter sound.
These are my shots from the X100 in their full form, void of any image compression *cough*Facebook*cough* and commentary.
When you grow up like I did, staying up late into the AMs playing video games and watching music videos on
Youtube, you start to redefine what night time actually is. For some, like my mom and perhaps the rest of the sane
world, night time is somewhere around an hour after sunset and about 9pm. For me, night time settles in at about
There’s something about crossing into the AM that just changes things. The air smells different — like smoking
firewood from a nearby campfire — trees turn into ominous, black silhouettes and anyone you see jogging by
or taking a night stroll feels immediately dangerous and suspicious. But that’s just what the darkness does. So
naturally, exploring and adventuring around this time gets even more fun as the mundane things of everyday
suddenly turn obscure, waiting for you to uncover them.
Fascinated by bright lights at night, one night I drove over to the construction site where they are currently
building the new San Francisco 49ers football stadium in Santa Clara. Tripod mounted with my Polaroid
Automatic Land Camera 360, I stood outside the chain linked fence and scoped out possible shots. After two
or three, I saw a security guard emerge from a parked car. He looked at me. And I looked at him. We nodded
to each other, and he walked towards me.
Asking what I was up to, I showed him my camera. He seemed interested but to my great surprise, he didn’t seem
to care that I was up this late taking pictures, nor did he care that I was standing around in a raggedy shirt, short
shorts and a mismatching bath robe. After talking about my camera, we discussed for an hour about everything:
work, school, finding a job, and even football, despite the fact that I know very little about it.
I wanted to take a picture of him at the time but unfortunately, I only had color film which was ISO 100 so I knew
I had to return and see him again to have another midnight chat. So I did. I came back the following week, same day
and around the same time, and there he was again. His name is Raman and he’s a college student who works the
graveyard shift as a security guard while attending classes in the day time. He’s currently studying computer science.
These are some of our conversations:
Me: Do you have to stay up the entire time?
Raman: Yea, but you get used to it, ya know?
Me: Do you drink coffee or something or what? How do you stay up the whole time?
Raman: The first time, you do. I like drank hella red bulls n shit, but after you get used to it and it’s nothing. I just
watch movies and shows n shit while I’m waiting.
Me: Your boss is cool about it?
Raman: Yea, he knows wassup.
Me: Yea, I mean, it’s not like there’s a whole lot going on so it should be understandable.
Me: Do you eat anything while you’re here?
Raman: Nah, we don’t get a lunch.
Me: FORREALS?! Why not?
Raman: We have to be on the watch the whole time so we can’t leave. But we can bring food if we want. I just don’t
eat. I’m trying to bulk up though.
Me: Yea? Been working out?
Raman: Yea man, but it’s hard because I barely get any sleep, and you know how your muscles grow over night n
Me: Yea, yea, my girlfriend used to work at Vitamin Shoppe so she knew all about that stuff
(talking about his annoying ex-coworker)
Raman: Yea dude, he was a fuckin bitch.
Me: How so?
Raman: One time, I thought I was running late so I called my boss and was like “Yo, I’m on my way but I’ll be
there in like five minutes.” So I drive up and just as I’m about to park my car, my coworker is standing there with his
watch and complains to my boss about me being one minute late. I’m like, forreals?
Me: What did your boss do?
Raman: He had to give me a warning. It’s part of his job though, ya know?
Raman: Some of these construction workers make like, $80,000 a year.
Me: Damn! That’s hella crazy! But I mean, they’re doing incredibly physical work. And it’s also very dangerous
Raman: Yea, exactly. They be hanging on this wire thing hella high up in the air while they’re welding shit. I’m
like, awww, fuck that!
Me: haha! Yea man, its almost like, shit, if I can make that kind of money, why go to school?
Raman: I know, right? Make hella bank.
Raman: So what kinda camera is that?
Me: It’s an old Polaroid film camera from the 1960’s.
Raman: That’s sick yo. Does it take hella nice pictures or what?
Me: It does. The thing that I also like about film is that it’s more permanent. You really only get one shot to
get it right. So you cherish your photos more and they’re more meaningful and sentimental.
Raman: Yea, I remember in 2nd grade our teacher had one of those old polaroid cameras and she took a
picture of me, and I think I still have it somewhere in one of my binders or something, haha.
Raman: Yea man, that’s pretty sick
The friendship that Raman and I shared was an interesting one. He’s a sports guy, I’m an artsy nerd. He’s into
computer science while I do communication studies. In a sad way, in our every day life we probably would
never hang out together. But in this instance, we did. Like a stray cat finding a caged dog behind a chain link
fence, that grid of metal served as this physical and symbolic representation of our separate worlds. Worlds
that normally do not collide. Worlds where, had it been daylight, we might not even recognize each other. And by
the mysterious powers of the darkness of night, we shared an intimate yet comforting conversation for just those
Goodnight Raman, and good luck in all your endeavors.
Ah, Fanime… the only time of the year when you can walk around downtown San Jose wearing a lolita dress and
not have people suspect that you’re a hardcore weeaboo. But alas, Fanime was today and it brought out all of the
bay area’s nerdiest and most creative minds under one wet blanket. Being the cheap ass that I am, I just roamed
the halls and outskirts of the convention looking for cosplayers with some pizazz. Oddly enough, I actually wasn’t
too thrilled to be shooting there.
You see, ever since I transitioned into film/polaroid photography my shooting style has changed. So while nerd
1, 2 and 384 were all photographing the same girl, DSLRs click-clacking faster than Michael J. Fox in tap shoes,
I pretty much had one chance to get it right. Equipped with 1 pack of Fuji FP-100C color film, 1 pack of fp-3000b
black and white and one roll of Portra 400 in my Olympus Stylus Epic, I had to be very selective with who I
photographed and how. Take this shot for example:
First off, I thought her Catwoman was fantastic. The stitching looked legit and the expressions were
pretty damn spot on. She was even hanging out against the wall like one of those stray cats you might see
in an alley. However, due to the low speed of film (100 ISO) I was forced to really grip down on my camera
and stabilize it as much as possible. A bit blurry for my taste but the silver lining is that popping red against
the blue hazed tones. I also bleached the negative which has a very 80’s-ish vibe – no?
It totally reminds of those thin, outdated hairstyle booklets that almost every Vietnamese barber shop owns.
Gerri curl, anybody? Digressions aside, the con was a little disappointing to be honest. Everyone seemed to be
dressed as the same damn thing and no one really went there. It was all just a bunch of Lolitas, obscure
characters who look like they could be from any damn anime — I mean seriously, how original do you look wearing
an Asian schoolgirl outfit? — and even more annoying was the bukkake of Princess Zeldas and Links gossiping
around their makeshift deku tree.
This was one of the few Zeldas that I actually bought into. She totally stayed in character the whole time and had
demure hand gestures as if her hand were a dolphin skipping away.
See what I mean? This kinda shit is cool. Squatting over a bird shit-stained light post just to give your fans a
good shot? BALLIN! And the black chick has that confidence that bodes well with Black widow.
Being the only polaroid photographer that day, I got quite a few compliments and questions about my camera.
After taking a photo of miss Pochahontas over here, some dude popped out of the trees like Slenderman and
was like “cool camera!” We chatted for a bit about film photography, he told me about his film background
and he eventually gave me his business card. Check out their fantastic work!
One of the moments that truly stuck out to me was when I saw Zero Suit Samus. When I came up to take a
picture of her I noticed this Super-Cholo dude with his hood lookin’ buddy asking to have their photo taken
with her. Arms around her shoulder, they cheesed as the other brother snapped away on their camera phone.
Now, I’m not going to say they were out of place since who knows, those guys could be closeted weeboos,
but what I did take note of was her expression.
Her face was cringing when they were touching her; it was as if she were 5 years old again and her parents
were trying to feed her vegetables. Maybe other people didn’t see it, but I know I did. It was subtle, but it
was definitely there. I guess when you do street photography you end up training your eye to notice
microscopic moments: a bright red high heel on cold pavement, a little child dancing in a pocket of
sunlight or the forced smile of a woman trying to maintain her composure. Which brings me to my final
point of this drawn out post: IS Cosplay consent?
Oh, what the hell am I saying? Of course Cosplay isn’t consent! Yes, some of these women are dressed more
minimalistic than your average hooters girl, but the outfit a woman wears should never dictate whether a man
(or rather, a boy) has the right to touch her in any way. Come to think about it, most of the photographers that
were there seemed rather pervy. I kinda just took my shots and walked away while these other peeping toms
looked like they were completely getting off with their camera lenses. WHY DO YOU LADIES EVEN COME
HERE?! SAVE YOURSELVES! LEAVE, NOW!
I kid, I kid. But in all honesty it does make me wonder: during these types of conventions where you have
women dressed up as characters, is there something about the environment that makes guys feel like it’s
okay to touch women? Or should we just learn to expect this behavior from virgin boys who claim to have
reached first base when in reality, an elderly German lady simply patted down their jeans during a TSA
inspection. It really goes to show you that both nerds and jocks can be assholes.
Oh, and I also saw Ironman.
You know those nights when the sky just feels pitch black? Like the uncertain darkness of an Mc Escher sky, you
wonder what is up there, hiding and spying on you.
I had on chunky basketball shorts, a paper-thin t-shirt and a fuzzy Star Wars themed bathrobe my girlfriend
got me for Christmas. I probably drove around for 2 full hours trying to find something worth photographing,
anything at all, really. I remembered a bridge and overpass that looked photogenic during the day so I wondered
how amazing it might look at night.
So there I was, feeling almost naked in my bathrobe with my Polaroid 360 on a tripod on the corner of the road
trying to get a shot. Then a white van pulled up to my left and in front of a house. I looked back and noticed an
older Chinese man who looked at me and without hesitation shouted out to me.
Chinese Man: HEY!
*my head turns to him*
Chinese Man: WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!
Me: I’m taking a picture
Chinese Man: OF WHAT?!
Me: The street
Chinese Man: FOR WHAT?
*I kept thinking he said “of what”*
Me: The street!
Chinese Man: FOR. WHAT?!
Me: Nothing. I’m a local photographer
Chinese Man: *in a very sarcastic tone* So… YOU’RE a local photographer taking a picture of THE STREET?
At this point I became fed up with his CSI interrogation of me and decided to bark back.
Me: YES! THAT’S WHAT I SAID!
He shut up, I turned back to my camera, took a shot and this is what I got.
I kinda like it. The blacks in this shot truly do capture the essence of the blackness of that night. As I walked back
to my car and drove away, I noticed the Chinese man peeking through a small crack in his front door, checking to
see if I were up to no good.
Do I really look that criminal? Perhaps I shouldn’t dress up like such a crazy person in a bathrobe at 1am and maybe
I won’t be so “suspicious” looking.
Night Time: for a child, this is when all the creepy crawlers and slimy monsters come out to play. But for any
adult in the San Jose/Santa Clara area, night time is when a different breed of monsters come out. Monsters
in mini skirts, tube tops, and douchey dress shirts that are unbuttoned low enough to see some pubes.
Welcome to Santana Row! Where trying hard and making a fool of yourself is abundant and plenty.
Here, I decided to take out the Fuji X10 for a spin. Honing my inner Daido Moriyama, I practiced my zone
focusing and quick shooting. Unlike the sniper like precision I’m used to at fashion shows and photoshoots,
this type of street photography calls for a different mentality. Whereas fashion shooting is about strolling
on by, picking shots carefully like a little girl picking only the ripest of blueberries, this style is more of an
impulsive reaction. You see it, you shoot it. No thinking, no autofocusing, and certainly no chimping.
Thirty minutes in and I’m already starting to realize something: the circus like show that I anticpated – the
bar fights, sidewalk barfing and random fondling of privates – was hardly visible to my 28mm eye. Where
was all the P.D.I (public display of idiocy)? It was then that I realized that although the streets were
congested with walking tube tops and faux hawks, they weren’t hanging out on the pavement, but in the bars
themselves – duh!
I spy an Asian guy.
Perhaps Santana Row isn’t that bad – at least on the pavement. I’m still not gonna eat their shit-tier food and dine
at their over-priced, over-hyped restaurants, but perhaps I can come back more often to photograph the
try-hards and people looking to be seen.
“OH SHIT, IT’S THE COPS!”
Places are much different from the outside looking in, and even more so if you aren’t even close enough to see
through the glass yourself. If you speculate and make assumptions before coming to a place, you could possibly
miss an opportunity. For you, maybe that opportunity is a chance to grind your sweaty balls all over some jail
bait’s freshly waxed leg, but for me, it’s an opportunity for a nicely pressed photo. For every tramp stamped
tramp at this joint, there is a group of Asian tourists, a family looking for grub, and a flock of socially oblivious
And me? Where do I fit in with all of the creepy crawlers and tube topped monsters? I’m a kid with a flashlight,
trying to see if there really are monsters under the bed.
You would never suspect it, but behind that blue and black uniform, there stands a man with a wife, a daughter, and a
background in chemistry. But that’s the thing, you’d never suspect it because most of us judge others by their job.
Every so often while I was growing up, my mom would point at random strangers and say “Ranier, look! You see that
janitor? You see that homeless man? He didn’t love his mom and he didn’t go to school. Now he’s homeless. You better
go to school or you’ll end up like him!”
But now, as a logical and much, much more compassionate human being, I’ve noticed the often conflicting lifestyles
people live in comparison to their jobs. The friendly sales lady at the local Kay Jewelers might be a dominatrix on
weekends, and the MMA instructor with the Harley Davidson tattoo might be an avid volunteer at the local animal
shelter. Nowadays, you really can’t judge a person by their profession.
Larry is the security guard in our apartment complex. Whenever Livi and I find ourselves in the parking lot, Larry is there
doing is rounds, checking up on the place to make sure we’re safe. Out of everyone, he’s easily the most friendly and
Upon asking him about the new regulations for parking, Larry and I wound up chatting for a good ten minutes about work,
his personal life, and his family. Unfortunately for all of us, tonight is Larry’s last shift at the complex. With the apartment
management swapping out its security men with hordes of cameras, Larry has no need to work at this place. Luckily for
him, he’s managed to find a new location up in Standford. He’ll be in a much safer, nicer area – which makes me quite
glad seeing as how he’s such a kind person.
I’m not sure what gravitated me towards him and his story. I guess there are those people in life that you meet, talk to for
a few moments, and you can just tell that they are good people. Solid people with good morals, a big heart, and an open
mind. Whether I will see Larry back in our apartments is an act of security roulette (security guards are contracted to
certain places for a specific duration of time, then they move on to a new location.) But one thing is for sure: no amount
of cameras and high tech gadgetry could ever replace the substance of a nice conversation, and an honest smile.
Thanks for keeping us safe, Larry.
There are two types of working people on this earth: the early-to-risers that zap to the beat of their alarm clock,
and the nocturnal zombies that horde through mazes of internet at night. I am, as with most of the men in my age
group who have access to Call of Duty and XBOX Live, the latter. I am the one who you see posting status
updates at 3:00 A.M in the morning while the foggy glaze over my eyeballs swirls and swirls. However, I’ve
been living a double life for the past month.
I recently sold my car some time ago and to make a very long story short, I am now on-call to help taxi my
oldest sister to work on weekday mornings at 7am. Let me get this straight: though some of you might
consider 7am the hour to be jettin’ out the front door, I see it as the hour to be flying through a mega mall
with a laser beam attached to my biceps while floating hamsters throw rainbow tacos at me. In other words,
I am passed out and lost in another cooky dream.
But not today my friends. Today, I slugged out of bed like a wounded Bubba Gump as I threw on a robe and
looked out the cold and dreary apartment complex.
Who the hell is up at this obscene hour? What tormented soul puts themselves through this crap? I understand
that some individuals must wake up at this time for their job, which I totally understand, but my confusion is
with people who choose to wake up early, as if the freshest and most fragrant part of human life must be picked
clean in the wee hours of 5 a.m.
I‘ve never been drunk thus I’ve never driven while inebriated, but I can imagine that driving while
half-awake is just the same. I loop in and out of consciousness as the swaying of my car rocks me like a baby.
Then there are those momentary dips of darkness where you crawl under a bridge and pop comes the light.
After I drop off my sister, I take a mental conquest to truly figure out: who gets up at this hour, and why? The
world is perfectly fine in about four more hours! Come back to bed, broski! Snuggle snuggle my little cholo! The
bed is cozy and here, we only sleep on the cool side of the pillow. So lay back, relax, and let the dreams of flying
and lasers begin!
Realistically speaking, I know that some individuals just prefer that time of day. The world can’t function without
these lose– caring and dedicated folks. I mean, who else is gonna pour that cup of coffee at the diner? Denny’s
hasbrowns don’t make themselves ya know! The world needs you early wakers, and they also need us wonderful
night owls. But on the question of “Who is up at this hour?” I found my answer driving up beside me – literally.
In comes Mr. Rich-Asian-Guy driving a $130,000 Black Audi R8.
Whatever… I don’t even like driving fast! :)
For as long as I’ve lived, I’ve always been quite the skeptic. Santa Claus? No way. Ghosts? Can’t happen. Spirits
and the after life? I doubt it. Yet for some reason, I always found the concept of the Apocalypse to be quite
intriguing and to some degree, believable. Now hold on a second Mr. Hawking, before you strike out my last
sentence with that piece of virtual chalk, I would like us to enter a world where we believe that the Apocalypse
was actually an imminent truth. Let us slip into a cozy and transport our minds to a time where the world would
actually end on a specific date and time.
Think about it for a minute. If the world were to end at a set time, how would the human race react? Would we all
sit around a garbage can fire, hold hands and cry? What would we do? Who would we hold during those final
moments of existence? A speech teacher once told me that during the attack on 9/11, the civilians who were in the
Twin Towers were faced with two options: die in a slow, giant burning ember, or fall through the sky like a comet.
Sadly, many did choose to jump out. But you know what the interesting thing was? My professor said that when
people were jumping out windows, they looked for the nearest person, held their hand, and jumped together.
Sometimes I think of the rapture because it puts my life into perspective. It forces me to ask myself “if I knew
the world would end, what would matter to me during that last breath of oxygen?” Once you get in that trance
of “wow… what if the world really DID end?” you start to remove all of the tedious things you think you care about.
Stuff like laptops, Call of Duty points, Fendi handbags, and college degrees. Remove them all, keep cutting, and
what do you get?
When you reduce the pot of problems and needs in your life, you’re left with a stock of few things: loved ones,
happiness, and self-fulfillment. That’s really it. Take this bit of info and really apply it to this new year. Stop
creating retarded New Years resolutions which are too often based on your desire to look like a Bowflex
commercial model, and make a meaningful resolution this year.
Hooray for surviving another Apocalypse! Quick, queue the random dancing black man who I saw at Costco!
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to fully understand the true beauty of photography. Most people (including
myself at one point) get so bogged down by megapixel count, ISO capabilities, and creative filters that we forget
the true purpose of the photograph. The purpose isn’t to take gorgeous, detailed shots with blown out
backgrounds and perfect lighting, nor is it a contest to see who can generate the best, most “liked” image on the
interweb. In it’s purest, most simplified form, photography is a tool used to capture memories.
That is it.
A few weeks ago, Olivia (my girlfriend) and I drove up to Oakland to visit my brother and his boyfriend James’
house. After a hearty meal of corned beef, potatoes and cabbage, they took us to The Alameda, a small island just
ten minutes away from their home. We strolled through the thick cold Northern California breeze, and sipped
teas and peppermint hot chocolates while walking our three little dogs.
During this time, I found myself in one of those “PHOTOGRAPH ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS!” mode – which I did.
Now, I did get a handful of shots, but in all honesty, some of them were just… okay. None of them blew my
brains out like a loaded double barrel shotgun.
As I sit back in my bed looking at these shots, I wonder: how much did I miss out on by gluing my eyeballs
to that camera? Was I too busy trying to capture memories on camera and not enough time actually
experiencing them myself? I look at these shots and I feel… disconnected. It’s as if I were never even there; as
if I watched Olivia, my brother, and James experience these events while I floated in the air like a wandering
Thinking about this actually makes me sad…
Looking at this photograph makes me especially gloomy. My girlfriend, the woman I’m deeply in love with, who
is photographed within arms length actually looks lonely. I’m not even holding her hand…
So what can we do to cut down the time in front of the glowing screen and more time experiencing the memories?
Well, for starters, I can tell you that owning a nice point and shoot (like my X10) makes it very convenient to
snap a quick shot without gunning down your subjects with a giant DSLR. The quiet nature of this camera seizes
the photographic moment as swiftly as James Bond’s silenced handgun snips the neck of a Russian terrorist.
However, the final a-ha moment in learning how to reconnect with your subjects is to stop worrying about
perfecting all aspects. Who gives a fuck if your shot is shaky, and grainy, and non-photoshopped? Does it
really matter? Step away from your technical side and shoot from the heart. Shoot because you feel like
you’re stealing a piece of life – not because you want a Facebook thumb up your egotistical ass.
In the end, you will either understand this or not. But one thing is for sure: our ties to technology may have
simplified our lives in ways we never expected, yet at the same time… it has removed us from the experience
of experiencing our life. Our one and only life…