THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY
Handheld, manual through-the-front-window exposure of the interior of Los Angeles’ Fine Arts Building.
By MICHAEL PERKINS
SHOW ME A SOLID LOCKED DOOR and I’ll tell you what I’m imagining as to what lies beyond it.
Show me a locked door with a pane of glass in it, and I’ll tell you what my next photograph will be.
We’ve all been on our share of historic urban tours in which really great buildings are viewable only as exteriors. Many sites that used to be everyday places of business are now at least partially protected from the prying peepers of passersby (alliteration fans rejoice!), usually by barring access to their interiors. And it seems to also be true that the juiciest lobbies and entries are described by the tour guides with the phrase, “unfortunately, we can’t go inside..but you can peep through the glass..”
Well, peeping is great, as far as it goes, but, since I’m packing a camera anyway, I always decide to add to my ever-growing go-for-broke file of near misses and happy accidents and snap something, anything. The potential in the gamble is often a bigger thrill than the actual results, but, oh, well.
Here we see the interior of the venerable Fine Arts Building, which opened in downtown Los Angeles in 1927. The outside of the place is a grandiose beaux-arts birthday cake of excess, and the builders were no more restrained when it came to the lobby, some of which, being multi-storied, is cut off from view here. But what delights within immediate eye-shot! I was jammed flat up against the glass to fend off reflections and glare and set my trusty old Nikkor 24mm manual prime for ISO 800 at 1/50th of a second. Since I was some distance from the rear lobby wall, I could shoot wide open at f/2.8 and focus on infinity. Some lights were on, but luckily they were indirect, and so, were not rendered too glow-y or globb-y by the extreme aperture. The whole thing was a matter of some fifteen seconds, and luckily the tour group had only moved on a few yards by the time I was done.
I am a firm believer that you louse up 100% of the shots you don’t try, so I always have a whatthehell attitude toward any flops or flukes. Because a barrier can be the end of an experience, or just the gateway to the rest of it.