Needed an afternoon pick me up yesterday so took a walk to get a dirty chai. I picked a spot my wife recommended about a mile from the studio so I could log some time on the streets. Bold, graphic elements are what presented. Take some time this Labor Day weekend to explore what’s around you. Immerse yourself, be present. But most of all enjoy the 3 day holiday!
Like many large American cities over the last couple of decades San Diego’s downtown has seen a resurgence and revitalization. Most areas of downtown are now safe and “happening”. This was not always the case. Prior to the Padres building and relocating to PetCo Park the area was blighted and dangerous. That, along with many other revitalization projects has transformed downtown SD into a destination for tourists and locals alike. People actually live downtown now. There are numerous hi rise condos - a new concept for San Diego where sprawl has always been the name of the game . Downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is considered the Heart of San Diego. It’s teaming with restaurants, bars, clubs - hard not to be entertained. It’s a happening destination. The Gaslamp is often compared to New Orleans’ French Quarter. I’ve lived in both cities. The Gaslamp is no French Quarter. It doesn’t embrace it’s history the way they do in Louisiana. For that matter, it doesn’t have the history that the French Quarter does. But what little historical significance it has is whitewashed, as you often find in historic areas of California. There’s still enough happening downtown and in the Gaslamp to make it interesting and weird. Great place to explore with a camera, especially as the sun is going down.
More walking. More street photography. Stumbled on a bit of a transportation theme today.
How do you get around in the gig economy? E-bike? Scooter? Trolley? Or the quintessential Southern California ride, a Skateboard? Me? I’ve been walking. Slowing things down. Taking some time to observe what’s around me. What I’m seeing is a lot of people on the move. Moving fast. Lots of motion in all directions.
Ocean Beach, a small beach community in San Diego, CA is one of those unique beach communities in Southern California. Sadly, like so many other funky hideaways, it’s slowly being gentrified, with OBceans kicking and screaming the whole way. But when the sun goes down there’s still a a whole lotta flavor.
I’ve been walking a lot lately. I’m walking places I’d normally drive. I know, nobody walks anywhere in Southern California. I get the weird looks and double takes when people ask me how I got there and I say I walked. But it’s summer in Southern California The weather’s great and I’ve got a creative itch. I carry a camera. I’m looking to get back in touch with my roots. Every couple of years I need to scratch this itch. Back in school I carried a camera with me everywhere. I fancied myself quite the street photographer. I was inspired by the greats; Cartier-Brasson, William Klien, Walker Evans, and all the rest. So when I want a jolt of inspiration, I get back to my roots, I get back to the streets.
On March 25th 2018, over 200K people gathered in Washington DC in support of March For Our Lives: the youth movement challenging politicians and the electorate to action. Action to change gun laws in the United States. Below are a few of the faces from that march.
Independent filmmakers are by nature creative, tenacious and passionate. They embody all of the elements of craft, hard work and dedication that have inspired me to photograph and explore workers from all walks of life. I present here a selection of the passionate independent filmmakers featured at the 2017 San Diego International Film Festival.
I’ve been in DC a couple of times this year. I love the city. There’s an intensity there. The politics, obviously. The young go-getters. The hustle. Even the weather. But there’s also a calm serenity grounded in the throngs of tourists who slow the pace to their own agenda. Set to a backdrop of intense security, these groups commingle and collide daily among our national treasures.
Warning: The following post contains a couple of images that some may find graphic.
Chicken Harvest: what does that even mean? When I embarked on the Who’s Your Farmer project I was told if I wanted to understand how natural, free range chickens get from pasture to table, I needed to experience the chicken harvest. The word harvest threw me. I’d seen crops harvested, but not animals. Naturally I was curious, so off I went to Autonomy Farms in California’s Central Valley to learn how chickens get from farm to market.
A side note: I’m not a big meat eater. In fact I don’t eat beef or pork. There’s no religious or moral reason. It started as one of those things you try when you're young, like vegetarianism or Buddhism, and it stuck. It’s been years now. I’ve had a sampling or 2 over the years, even a steak recently (that’s a whole other story from the ranch…). One of my “rationales” to not eat red meat or pork has been that I should be willing to kill anything I was going to eat. As my reasoning went, I would never be able to kill a cow or a pig but I felt pretty confident I could kill a chicken. Of course, I’d never been in a position to kill a cow, or a pig, or even a chicken, so this was all completely theoretical. I honestly didn’t know how I would kill this imaginary chicken. Perhaps I would have to wring it’s neck? Well that’s not how they do it on the farm…..
Harvesting chickens is a bit gruesome for this city slicker.
But the process is actually quite simple: catch chicken, slit throat, bleed it out, (that’s the gruesome part), blanch in boiling water to loosen quills, drop in plucker machine, remove feet, head, and innards, package it up for market.
That’s about it - most of the harvest is nothing I haven’t done myself, in my own kitchen.
And there’s an air of respect for the birds here. Sure, they’re being raised for human consumption, but there’s nothing excessive about it. Most parts are harvested, including the organs and feet. The chickens look like chickens. Autonomy Farms is proud of their birds. They don’t have over inflated breasts. They run around the farm freely. And they actually taste like chicken, not the artificially plump, overly brined meat we’re so used to today.
So could I kill a chicken? I think yes, but it wouldn’t be as easy as I had rationalized…..
Butchering a whole animal is an artful skill. I worked at a restaurant in New Orleans years ago. It had it’s own butcher in house. It’s still one of the only restaurants I’ve know to have it’s own in house butcher. I remember being in awe of how quickly and efficiently he could break down an animal, dress a hen, filet a fish. He taught me to filet fish without gutting the animal - simply following the bone line down the back to remove the filet from each side of the fish. It seemed like magic, and so simple, when I finally learned to do it right.
Butchering an animal can be violent and strenuous. There is a lot of finesse to breaking down an animal. It’s pretty remarkable to witness. The butcher knows the lines, muscles, and bones of the animal intimately. Sides of beef can weigh several hundred pounds. Moving these beasts around takes strength. And not every cut is intricate. There are also the saws, and the large cuts, where brute strength is required.
Grocery store “butchers” are not in fact butchers. They are meat cutters. A butcher has the ability and skill to break down an entire animal. He has to know the animal. He has to know the bone structure, the muscle structure. So called grocery store butchers receive select sections of an animal and cut them down to serving size filets. They do not require the skill to break down a whole animal.
There is virtually no waste in the shop. It strikes me as a Native American approach to food. When the shop receives a side of beef they’ll break down all the regular cuts, the tenderloin, the ribs, etc. What’s not used for the case or primary cuts is used for in house deli meats, sausages, bacon, and stock. There is very little waste of the animal. And there are no preservatives or chemicals. It’s a very wholistic approach to animal consumption.
Local butchers know their suppliers and know where the meat they sell comes from. They’ve often toured the farms and ranches that supply their meat and have personal relationships with the farmers and ranchers. They get the best quality meats because it’s their product, their reputation on the line. They have their hands on every animal that makes it’s way through the case. If it’s not up to par, they’ll know it before you do.
The prices are still high. You pay a premium for hormone free, chemical free, non GMO and grass fed. There’s no way around it, yet. The industry is set up for cheaper and faster production, delivery and consumption: the CostCo / Walmart approach. The tide is slowly turning. Consumers are making their voices heard by seeking out organic and chemical free options. We have a long way to go and price is still a huge component of the equation. The more consumers opt out of hormone and chemical fed meats the more the scales will tip.
We need to support those that bring these great products to market. Thanks to Heart & Trotter for opening their shop to me and teaching me more about whole animal butchery. James Holster is the head butcher. Stop by and say hello next time you’re in North Park.