Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The colors of the City.

For those not on the west coast, San Francisco is affectionately known as "The City" and for all of it's tourism, The City is relatively safe from 10-5pm.  At night, the City has a different feel. I would tell anyone who is vacationing there that is only appropriate for adults traveling in small packs.
At 5am, the feel is a little desperate.  Thieves, Prostitution and the homeless are doing their final rounds.  The problem is that for a photographer the light has some amazing characteristics at this time. So off I go into the wild with an expensive camera strapped to my chest.   I am a relatively large person so I was hoping that my size and presence was intimidating enough to prevent a mugging but I knew the walk was going to be interesting. 

Not more than a block from my hotel,  I notice a prostitute with what might be a pimp or john walking in my direction. They are at a safe distance,  about 1/2 block away so I change direction and avoid conversation. I walk across the street toward my assignment in a nearby alley with a beautifully colored mural of flowers.  Next to the mural was about 8 homeless people sleeping along the wall of the alley. Asleep, I didn't think they would wake if I took a few shots, after all the city has it's noises and my camera wasn't louder than the city. So, I step in take a couple shots. Artistically cropping a couple more shots for future composite projects I had in mind and then I hear a person approaching me.  So I turn toward them ready to swing.   It was the prostitute, she was still about fifty feet away but was turning around probably noticing my purpose of being in the alley  Now I could get a good look at her but she was also turning around,  looking over her shoulder in a deep black mans voice she says " HI". Oh Crap, this is a Wesley Snipes looking Prosti-dude. Dead ringer, so If you want to see what I mean click the link.  I say nothing and move out of the alley but with a little more caution about me because I lost track of the pimp.

 I walk down another couple blocks and get a few more shots of some uninspired  graffiti art and then off to the next site. At the middle of a crosswalk get greeted by another working girl with a simple "hi" walking past. I turn and look at her,  and think is she a man but saying nothing or breaking stride but when I turned back, I immediately see a police cruiser was driving by.

  I laugh to myself and continue walking, changing directions again. I bet Johns get busted all the time here. Not wanting to be mistaken for one,  I start back to the hotel, as it's a little too crazy out here besides, the murals around the hotel aren't as good as in the mission district. So I get to the next intersection and see the police officer turn around.  I am kind of really thankful to see him. As I know they are letting their presence known. I take a shot of him and let him know my purpose in the area. also because of the cool steam that was coming from the grate below his cruiser and the lines of the intersection might make for an inviting image.  Took my shot and kept moving.  I also know the rules for shooting in The City. Stick and move or faced being harassed for not having a permit.
One more detour, after all I am not deviating from the travel path back to the hotel but it's a longer route. I find my last grafitti art. most of the stuff is uninspired self glorification and expression of the artists passion but there are some amazing colors that are being used and they would make interesting backgrounds. I remember  focusing on the last one and seeing the colors but wasn;t sure what it was depicting because I wanted to be done.
I started back to the hotel when I noticed a couple of guys getting off the bus and looking in my direction. They started a quick conversation and  looking as if they were deciding to grab the camera or get where they needed to be. Maybe it was nothing, maybe it was instinct. I know plotting when I see it.  Funny thing is that they both looked in a hurry so I decided to duck into a corner store just in case, I thought if I had a fighting chance,  at least I would have someone calling the cops.  And if the cops are as good as the cabs here, they would arrive in seconds. I know the owner of the store would get involved because their store would be ruined in the hostile encounter.

 Funny because as I approached the corner store, I felt like I was in a movie.  I ran into another prostitute right in the doorway. This one was a Little Person. A little blonde wearing a mock  pretty woman pink colored dress, not the same cut but the same color.   She was digging into the pockets of an Arab man.
WHERES MY DOLLAR!  She was yelling at him but he was pleased that she was digging in his slacks. Nasty people. As I passed by and looked over at her, she looked at me briefly pausing with her hands deep into the other mans pockets and looks at me with that " hey baby" look, Gah, I wanted to laugh so hard but it was real. So I just rushed by.   I went over to the back and picked up a juice.  I can still hear her scream at him. He was throwing banter saying she should trust him, that he doesn't have it. This was a good sign as they stopped talking when I walked in and I would notice                                          anyone following as they again would stop conversating.   I go to the back and grab an orange juice.  Way to expensive for the couple swallows of a convenience size package.  Oh well it will have to do. The mini prostitute was done digging in the Arab mans pockets but still trying to get a dollar out of him.   As a courtesy to me or guilt, he says get out of my store which en flamed the prostitute more. Now she conjured up a cup of coffee.  I didn't want it on my camera so I paid my fee and got out and went around the corner back to my hotel.   I wasn't gone for more than 30 minutes and in retrospect it probably wasn't a good idea but I will make some interesting work building composites so my clients will never need to go out there. I also walked away with a funny story of this city.

On a side note, the afternoon prior. I was speaking with a nurse in the hotel lobby. She was moonlighting from her Santa Cruz hospital and was working at a local hospital, She says the prostitutes and homeless walk into the hospital on a daily basis.  They pretend that they are deathly ill to get a sandwich, sometimes a bed to sleep in and maybe some drugs for a little while.  She says that some do it two or three times a day.  Imagine the cost of each emergency room visit? Wow, who pays that bill. She said that she has a coworker who collects pictures of the small prostitute for fun.  I understand this has nothing on pride week lol.

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