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Usher in Mr. Obama

January 20, 2009

Okay, I don’t have any images for this post because I shot film. So, if I’m lucky, I’ll have images about the time Obama is ushered out after eight years.

But, endeavor to persevere, so I’m going ahead with this post about my inauguration experience anyway.

Right off the bat, the most critical and lasting impression I took from the entire day was the “Hat
Battle Royal” between the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and that cagey, old fighter Herbert Walker Bush Sr. Did you see this action? Don’t even THINK that was by accident.

Aretha comes out with her massive, green bow hat, like WHAM, take that. And let me tell you, that was a hat that can ONLY be worn by the Queen of Soul. That hat screams, “I’m at the top looking down.”

And your thinking, “Wow, that was it, that hat is my lasting impression.” And then HWB Jr. makes his move. He goes Daniel Boone on all of us. Daniel Frickin Boone.

I thought for a minute I’d accidentally hit the remote and landed on rerun of Jeremiah Johnson.It looked like Bush Sr. had an entire coyote or beaver or caribou on his head. And he was grinning too.

I guess the grin could have been from the cold. Perhaps it was a grimace. Either way. Brilliant move.

Okay, let me back track.

My idea for the day was to take a chance and look for an image that was slim, thin, unlikely, but possible. Instead of heading into downtown LA, or Pasadena, places with jumbo screens for the viewing, or an area like Watts to check out the proceedings, I decided to take a chance and head to downtown Newport Beach.

Yes, Newport Beach.

NEVER previsualize an image. Never, because it never works. But I did.

I knew I would find the guy who, instead of watching the celebration from inside his house, decides to drag his TV across the bike path, wires and all, so that he, or she, can sit on the beach and watch the historic event.

Or, the lone human who sets up a one person celebration at the end of the jetty, standing on the rock, waving a flag, shouting out over the ocean, “Give me your best shot.”

Or, a small, intimate gathering of people atop their balcony near the ocean, gathering, coffee steaming, to watch the day unfold.

I didn’t find any of these, or anything remotely close. I found empty streets and four guys surfing.

Not discouraged easily I got back in the car and kept going, listening to ads about virtual snow, and others about how my colon is filled with spackle.

At one point I looked over and noticed a crow eating a full carton of french fries, with ketchup! Right in the middle of the street. (How the crow managed this is not clear, or where the bird got the fries at 6:30 am.)

The billboards and sign postings around the area still reflected events held for New Year’s, which made me feel as if I was in a time warp.

The light was beautiful, and all I dreamed for was my inaugural muse to seal the day in my history.

You see I was shooting film, and I wasn’t thinking about photo-editors, stock or “getting these images out.” There are a lot of photographers on the scene and around the world doing that, but I don’t work that way, and those who do work that way tend to do it really well, so not much need for me to join in.

I was thinking about my nephew, about the responsibility of a photographer, not just as my job, but as a historical device.

If I know my nephew, at this moment he is nursing a sweaty upper lip as he does battle with some video game. He is a nine-year-old male with other things on his mind.

But in a few years he might want to reflect back, and to reflect back not on the massive event, but perhaps something more personal, and that is what I tried to give him.

I ended up with about eight people, only one I had met before. Strangers really, but all united by a common bond. They were genuine in their delight and I tried to show that. This little group was a representation of those 1.5 million in Washington, as well as many millions of other people worldwide. These people represent a hope. That’s all really. Just a hope of an unknown person, direction and reality, but hope is one of those things strong enough to permit folks to feel okay about being positive and looking ahead.

I shot twelve pictures total, all different, which I think reflect my morning. I’m frustrated by not finding more in Newport, but again, it was a chance. My heart wanted there to be something more, but my experience told me I would probably come away empty.

Now, I’m sitting here typing with my fingers crossed that BHO signs on a brilliant snapper or team of snappers to chronicle the next term of Prez of the US of A.

These photogs will have the same responsibility, chartering history, one frame at a time, for my nephew, and his children and their children, not just for that day, but for eternity.

Okay, on that last sentence cue the heavy organ music and melodramatic shrills and shrieks of a thriller.

Check back in three weeks to see the photos.

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