So I went to Chinatown in downtown LA yesterday to get some wardrobe clips for my stylist friend Joanna Beckwith. I got some of them for the Blue Collar shoot and I guess they work really well so she requested a handful to be sent to her in NY. I decided to do a little sightseeing on my way back so I chose to walk part of the way instead of taking the train. I came across a crowd of people outside a church by Olvera Street and saw a bunch of people taking pictures so I checked it out. I guess there was a group baptism ceremony and people go to this small area to take photos in front of a painting of “La Virgen de Guadalupe.” Photographers were walking about pitching their work which were the photos in a special album. “Oh it’s a really intense photobooth”, I thought. I looked around and did not see any computers or any area where an assistant prints the photos from the quick shoot. Figures. They were using old Polaroid cameras.
I just stood there for like the longest time marveling how they were working it. I peruse the internet daily for anything photo-related and I constantly get these info about megapixels, dynamic range, number of AF points and how many of them are cross-type, frames per second, etc while this select group of people are making their living using equipment that some might consider downright archaic. There was probably a dozen of them (some shoot digital) and only a handful of baptismal groups so they really had to hustle to get a group to book them. They pick a spot, take a shot, remove the polaroid sheet, repeat, throw in some old-school double exposure trick here and there (not even sure how you do that on a polaroid), wait for the pics to “process,” put them in the albums, bam. Next.
It was a beautiful experience and it was amazing to see that niche of photography. I talked to one of them, Jose, who by the way shoots with a D700 and prints 4×6 photos on the spot with a battery-powered Epson printer stashed in his camera bag. He also gave me a little history about the area. Apparently that church was the very first mission in Los Angeles and just a couple of hundred yards down was the very first house in LA. Amazing how much history was in the area that I have been passing by for years. Anyway….it was nice to see how others make their living from photos. I hate to say it but cameras really are just tools for the job. If you can make your camera work for you then it does not matter what kind it is. It just….works.