Since I started my Sidewalk Face Project a year and half ago I have had the opportunity to make faces in a few locations other than Los Angeles.
Mojave Desert (2x)
Hawaii, Big Island
Texas, Matagorda County
San Francisco, California
If you had to guess, which place inspired the most faces? Do you think I should be able to make good faces anywhere I go? I think I should. But off course I don’t. Let’s investigate.
The worst ratio of faces captured to days available to make them goes to….Hawaii! It should have been the winner just based on the amount of free time I had at my disposal. I was there longer than the other two places by double and I was on vacation so I had nothing else to attend to. Oh, except swimming in the prettiest cerulean blue ocean ever. Could I please die and be reincarnated as a dolphin on the Hawaiian coast? That is what I want out of life.
I didn’t make faces at the beach because I had better things to do but also because the beach doesn’t offer the right ingredients. It has lots of one thing (sand) with only a few other things (shells, seaweed maybe). It could be done, and now that I type this, I am sure my next visit to a beach will force my hand just so I can eat my words, but on the whole, something is missing there that is not missing on my daily dog walks. What is it? Let’s examine my best Hawaiian Faces for a clue.
The first thing that jumps out is nothing is man made. The only unnatural item here is pavement. Four of them were taken in a rural area where we were waiting for a tour. Nobody was around and I felt free to poke about in the dirt. The tree face was taken on the side of the road as I walked to the beach and the dead centipede face was made at our airbnb. This has me thinking about access. To make these faces I need access to both materials and environment. Do the faces reflect their habitat? I don’t know.
- 7 Days
- 6 Good (Posted to Instagram)
- 8 Mediocre (Unposted)
- Less than 1 good one a day. Not so hot.
Now let’s consider Southeast Texas just above the Gulf and south of Houston. I got quite a few good faces in only 3 days. My mom lives in a lovely neighborhood filled with huge live oaks and people moving about in large vehicles. The streets are very clean and the pavement consistently uniform. Unlike my Los Angeles neighborhood where I don’t mind treading briefly on the edges of a neighbor’s lawn to take a photo of a bush, a paving stone or whatever, in Texas l felt too self conscious and maybe even a bit reprobate at the thought of trespassing on someone else’s property. So while there were interesting things I could imagine doing, it was out of my purview. I did spot a dead snake while riding my bike. It was flat as a pancake and a little bloody from being run over in the street. I picked it up with a stick and rode home one handed to get it back to my mom’s driveway for photographing (first one in grid below). I also found some asphalt chunks discarded after a recent road re-pavement. Otherwise it was just leaves and dirt to work with, which I did.
Things got much more interesting when I crossed the railroad tracks. On the other side of town, there are blocks of houses that form small neighborhoods but they are interspersed with grain silos and other industrial buildings. I found lots of junky stuff in this area that kept me busy for hours such as a pair of rusty faux Chanel sunglasses I paired with a dirty car matt. I also made a face out of some type of grain chaff that was super thick around the edge of a silo. There was absolutely nobody around except for the occasional drive by pickup so I was free to manipulate things without interference.
As I look at the grid above, I see more natural elements than man made ones. Overall it looks wilder than my LA Sidewalk faces but it doesn’t look entirely organic. We aren’t lost in the woods but we aren’t downtown either.
- 2 Days
- 10 Good (Posted to Instagram)
- 4 Mediocre (Unposted)
- 5 Good per day. Not bad!
I have shot in the desert twice.
The visual themes I notice are rust, sand and abandoned stuff. Out here the stuff left behind isn’t trash it’s the items of domestic life. For some reason this is a place people leave thinking they will return and they don’t. Going picture by picture I shot a charcoal pit, a bathtub, the head of a stuffed animal on some broken concrete, bedsprings, a swimming pool, metal items, netting, coat hangers and an empty pack of marlboros.
The desert is the ideal place to make faces. Nobody is around, no foot traffic, no vehicle traffic. It’s a giant playground of weird crap I am unlikely to find in the city.
- 2015 3 Days
- 4 Good (Posted to Instagram)
- 19 Mediocre (Unposted)
- 2016 3 days
- 9 Good (Posted to Instagram)
- 0 Mediocre (Unposted)
- Combined 6 Days
- 13 Good
- 19 Mediocre
- 2-ish per day
Nothing. I took not a single face photo. Not even a bad one. But to be fair I was on a job working almost round the clock.
I think I could go to San Francisco and make something but the stains and trash that caught my eye were not so different from what I might see in LA that they didn’t demand I deal with them. I don’t normally make a face unless I am compelled by a feeling that if I don’t do it right then I will regret it forever. A tad dramatic but still true.
I can deduce that two ingredients are necessary for face making: time and ….time. I was going to write materials but as I think about it that’s not the main problem, only time. The best captures from Texas and the desert were when I was on a walk specifically to indulge this activity and I had given myself several hours to play. I can still remember the feeling of pleasure, like a kid on a very luxurious easter egg hunt.
It’s been illuminating to look at the faces made in each location in a grid. None of them look like Los Angeles faces. In my next post I will discuss materials, geography and why my Los Angeles neighborhood is an ideal location for this particular activity.
So the winner by far is Texas! Did anybody see that coming? I bet the Texans did. I think I was most productive in Texas because I had the least amount of other concerns and responsibilities pulling at my attention.