Tucson Arizona 49 years ago • c. 1964
Life — Long ago & far away…
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.”
~ Possibly the most moving soliloquy in the history of cinema, appears to have been substantially written by the actor, Rutger Hauer, in the film “Blade Runner,” which was based on a novel: “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” by Phillip K. Dick.
Holmes Book Store San Francisco, California • c. 1965
This photograph, of the calm before the storm, precedes the freak out photograph that I published here on the 20th of March. I remember the lower image because of the timing of capturing the 5 line-of-sight darts of attention focused on the woman’s emotional outbreak. It was my son, Geoff, who rediscovered the upper photograph in a box of my prints in his basement in Brentwood. I find this image to be an strong and revealing representation of the era — I can say that comfortably because it’s been so long since I’ve seen this print, it’s as if if found it no a history book.
This is an image of normal people living normal lives in San Francisco, California in the 1960s, at a time where a small number of beatniks were beginning to migrate from North Beach to the Haight Ashbury district. These are images from my attempts to observe & represent the not unpleasant sea of “normalcy” that surrounded our islands of coolness.
This is the pre-hippie era where the word “hippie” developed in North Beach and Greenwich Village as an insult. Initially, “Hippie” was a condescending diminutive — it meant “a little hip.”
PHOTOGRAPHIC NOTE: In these years, I was shooting with a Leica M2, with a Leicavit Rapidwinder . The silent subtly of the Leica made the scene of the first shot approachable; the rapid film advance of the Leicavit made the subsequent exposures possible The lense was probably a 35mm Summicron although, occasionally. I used a 50mm. I used the 90mm too but even less frequently. This was pretty much the classic kit for serious photojournalists at the time. Apart from the massive transformation that came with the digital image revolution, I find the Leica M2 (later M4 & M6) as good as any tool I’ve ever used.
"SHALOM — RETIREMENT HOTEL"
Los Angeles California, Fairfax District • c. 1965
One of those Retirement Homes where they issue yarmulkes, with the name of your institution printed on the back. So… in case you get lost, someone can bring you home…
In the 60s when I was in my twenties that sounded like Hell, now, more than 40 years later, in my 60s, it sounds way worse.
Holmes Book Co. 3rd Street at Market, San Francisco, c.1965
Many people have asked me to describe the event that took place in this photograph.
The external “event” was simply a woman having a spontaneous screaming freak-out on the street; actually, approaching the street coming out of a great, but long-gone, S.F. Landmark, the legendary Holmes Book Company store on 3rd Street at Market. The photographic event — the event internal to the photograph — was the capture of six people in obvious linear focus on a single point at an unscheduled instant.
What was a minor human event, on the streets of San Francisco, was a major moment for a 21 year old photographer walking the street in a state of heightened alertness, in the hunt to record a decisive moment. Even at that young age, I had a long ongoing string of poems, and lines for poems, scrawled on scraps of paper and stuffed in a file folder entitled: “Photographs I Will Never Make.” A collection of moments missed (the image of my wife’s grandmother Gussie, tottering down the hall for the last time before she died; of my high-school friend, Robbie Lewis going off to Nam — the little boy smile that I could never quite remember when he came home with a new face) all the important images that I did not make because they were either unrecognized in time or unimagined; plus, of course, the litany of photographs that I might have made but didn’t or tried to make and failed — it’s what I would call: “the miasma of a serious photographer’s unconscious…” but what do I know? The only photographer I know anything worth knowing about is myself.
This may be difficult to understand in an Instagram generation of instantaneously broadcastable digital images, but this image was locked in the fragile potentiality of exposed film in a camera. Vulnerable to light leaks then to myriad processing miscalculations or any of the mistakes roll film is prone to. Just two years earlier, what was possibly the most important historical footage of all time, the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination, was partially mangled in LIFE Magazine’s lab, one of the finest darkrooms on the planet. Making the exposure at what seemed to be — what might have been — precisely the right moment, remained quite etherial and distinctly uncertain for many days.
When I looked at this image in the form of a strip of still-wet negatives hanging by a close-pin from a string, it was probably more than a week later in my darkroom in West Hollywood — in our little house between Melrose and Santa Monica Blvd. across the street from a sweet old lady who grew roses and was Tony Curtis’ mother — I was as amazed as I remain.
Venice Beach, 1963
While a student at a jesuit university, where I’d registered as and agnostic, I felt a lot more comfortable living among the old Jews and young beatniks of Venice Beach than I did with my purported peers over the bridge. With a few wonderful exceptions, i felt like a stranger in a strange land on campus but felt at home here.
For an half-assed historian, I remember very few dates in my life, but I do know the date of this photograph. It was 22 November 1963. I made a series of photographs walking down the promenade along Venice beach, in a daze, after I heard that JFK had been assassinated in Dallas.
One of my favorite early photographs,
Diane Karasik & our VW Westphalian Camper
Sometime in the 60s. Somewhere in Mexico…
"Two Different Worlds"
Smoking a joint in front of the Zig-Zag Paper store, Mexico City
© 1966 Joey Tranchina
Street Seen: Food Stamp Poster with passerby
ChinaTown, San Francisco, California USA
Living in Chinatown for the first time, I was amazed to learn that people I met in their 70s & 80s, who had been born in Chinatown, had lived their entire lives within the confines of a 12 block square without EVER leaving Chinatown or ever learning to speak English. Made me wish I had more Chinese.
© 1972 Joey Tranchina
"Welcome LBJ to the Vietnam War @ Home"
© 1967 Joey Tranchina
The Watts Towers, Los Angeles CA - 1966
Photographs by Joey Tranchina
Part 2 of 3