the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

BALANCING ACT

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By MICHAEL PERKINS

THIS WEEKEND MARKS MY FIRST ENTRY INTO LOS ANGELES since February of 2020, or just before the beginning of The Long Dark Night. The city has been a kind of third home to us for nearly twenty years, with both family and friends helping us make the City of Angels a very comfortable fit. Then, as happened all over the world, the familiar became the fraught….as a town that is always ready for its closeup saw more images of tragedy than of tinsel. I have counted the days until I could walk its streets again with nothing more serious on my mind than finding Bing Crosby’s star on the Walk of Fame.

As you read this, I will have spent the Fourth of July weekend trying to, well, feel free, which is still a tricky feat for many of us. We aren’t really done with all this horror, and we pray that our first halting steps back into the sunlight won’t scorch us. Additionally, phrases like “back to normal” will continue to ring hollow for many of us, for……who knows how long?

And yet we venture out. And the pictures that result from those uneasy explorations will have their own special signature. As I have begun packing for the trip this morning, I also spent some time leafing through some of the last images I shot last year, looking for something that could symbolize what we’ve all given up, what we’ve all learned to do to navigate the World After. Oddly, the picture that spoke to me the most has nothing to do with what was about to happen.

On a normal day in a city that boasts amazing museums and galleries, this lad’s wobbly, but essentially risk-free trek across a small hunk of open space, protected by a safety net, now suggests something different about our own uncertain steps back toward Business As Usual. On one hand, we share his thrill: that little bit of hazard quickens the blood and keens the senses, after all. But in a larger sense, we are very much working without a net, learning to weigh each step with care and caution, trying to forget that we’re on a tightwire. So, yeah, I took general shots all over Los Angeles during my last stay there. But this one is both the stuff of dreams and nightmares, and I share it here as a simple metaphor.

Perhaps the net is underneath us all at last. Perhaps not. But from Marco Polo to Lindbergh to Armstrong, explorers press on even where there be monsters. Cities are merely collections of individual journeys, after all. We all crowd together even as our personal paths set us apart. And, as always, images will be first seen, then made.

Safe travel to us all.

“Cal-i-for-nia, here I come….”

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