Venice Beach, California

 

With the touch of dawn in a cloud-packed sky, I made the trek to the Venice pier. The homeless were beginning to steer, sitting blurry-eyed and wrapped up like children in their favorite blankets. My “Good morning” wishes seemed to catch them off guard, but they responded in kind.

Three surfers were paddling out as the sun’s first rays brightened the ink-black sea. I set up my tripod and camera and clicked off shots. A young, thin man with long, tangled hair stopped a few feet down the pier and pulled out an enormous, conical-shaped joint. He puffed the crazy-looking thing to life and then broke the silence. “Are you shooting long exposers?” 

What I thought would be an annoyance became an uncanny conversation, as the surfer/photographer weaved his stories of shooting the sunrise from his board with a GoPro. He described early morning light refracting off the sea as waves curled and dropped through the soft golden glow. As he talked, pelicans swooped over the surf, and the clouds parted just enough to allow the sun to drop through and stretch across the water. 

Venice is full of contradictions: rich and homeless, city and surf, artists and tourists. The detritus that flies from this impact falls back to earth in shades of art, film, and craft as if no one has a choice in the matter.