Art, beach, california, Creative, los angeles, Our World, Personal, Philosophy and Photography, Redondo Beach, Sensor Fresh, South Bay, travel

KE8208 Korean Air to Seoul

I brought my 100-400 lens to the beach earlier as Anne-Claire and I ordered pizza from a new truck on the Esplanade. A few minutes ago I was looking at my idle captures, I zoomed in, and I realized I could see it was a Korean Air Boeing 747.

I looked it up among the LAX departures. It was a long haul headed to Seoul. It was more than half an hour late.

I don’t know. If I was to be in the air for thirteen and a half hours, I would be really upset about the delay. Or I would cherish half an hour longer on the ground. Or maybe I would not care.

I developed a strange attachment for this flight. Tomorrow morning I will check what time they landed. Maybe I won’t but right now I like to think that I will.

I am wondering who’s flying. Are they flying home? On a business trip?

Such a long time with a mask on, they must barely have a face when they arrive in Seoul. I barely had a face last time I flew to Italy.

I am not looking forward to any thirteen-hour flight.

But a thirteen hour drive, just give me a sign and I’ll be on my way.

Los Angeles + 13 hours, where would that get us?

Au revoir, à Seoul.

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Art, california, Creative, los angeles, Our World, Personal, Philosophy and Photography

Daniela and the (Obsidian) Edge of Time

Disclaimer: This blogpost is a review of an art show in images and words. It does not represent nor aims at representing the ideas or the intentions of the artist. It is a philosophical and artistic way to vibe on another philosophical and artistic work.

Daniela Cueva’s show “Obsidian Edge” is on display at the One Trick Pony gallery at 1051 S Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90019 until July the 17th.

Most good art deals with Time and Death. This has been the case since the Ancients invented Art. “What about Love?” you might wonder. When art is good, love is a function of time and death. Think of Shakespeare: all of his (their?) dramas about love are ultimately tales about death and time and how the two are joined in a ribbon. Time, timelessness, but also timeliness. Death, mortality, or (the unlikely) lack thereof.

Daniela Cueva’s powerful art show takes these two themes and rides them hard.

There’s an image about Daniela’s art that I cannot shake off, so I might as well share it. Think of Death as a Hot-Wheel car, Time as its track, and the artist as the hand what grabs the small car and pushes it back and forth along the track.

Time and Death are the recipients of Daniela Cueva’s interrogation, but the direction flickers as it emerges from this questioning. Questions about composition, decomposition and recomposition are laid out by the artist, and they are given multiple answers, as many as the traits of pencil that Daniela uses to carve her visions out of rough paper.

Where is time going? Daniela Cueva’s drawings don’t look still at all. They go somewhere and they come from somewhere. Possibly the same place, in a never ending circle, but they are not static. There is a depiction of silent pain (for instance in the three the birds, not alive, with their beaks open), a surgical labor of what is not alive, but which might be dead or about to live (again?). This is how Daniela Cueva plays with Time and Death, preventing the viewer from fully realizing where they stand with respect to the frame.

Daniela’s background includes a degree in Fiber Science and Apparel Design at Cornell University. This makes her an artist, but also a designer, and most of all an artisan. The scaffolding, the structures that bind the seemingly organic material together in her works do remind, on the one hand, of the pikes and hooked ropes in Hieronymus Bosch’s theological frenzies; on the other hand, it is also a tacking thread. It is something that keeps together mysterious materials as soft and shapeless as ancient textiles. Is she preserving them? Is she slowing their decay? Or is she crafting the sinews and the organs and the vessels of a new creation? What if it’s somehow both, like a metaphysical salvage? Perhaps the bodies are not dead, only sleeping.

The show features a video, sharing the same title. Not only the eye of the artist is involved, but her hands and the rest of her senses do play a crucial role in this installation.

Time and Death are once again like waves crashing on the shore: you can hear them too, as Daniela’s hands dissolve a weird fabric in an even weirder-looking bath. The sense of oddity and displacement is reinforced by the juxtaposition of digital and analogical layers of recording to achieve a liminal monster: not so much in the horror sense, but according to the Latin etymology of “monstrum”, a wonder, something to be warned about (the same root is in the english verb “demonstrate”).

Daniela Cueva’s exploration goes indeed beyond paper and colors, as she has been working on the artistic and communicative potentialities of novel organic materials, such as the discarded coils of bacteria that she grew herself in her studio. Time, and the death of the microorganisms produce a material that the artist – half weaver and half sculptor – may use, until time (again) brings about the death (sic!) of the organic artwork… unless the artist decides to bring about its dissolution/decomposition as part of the performance itself.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. (Ecclesiastes, 1:9-10)

Daniela Cueva‘s show “Obsidian Edge” is on display at One Trick Pony gallery at 1051 S Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90019 until July the 17th.

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beach, california, Creative, Drone, los angeles, Our World, Palos Verdes, Personal, Philosophy and Photography, Redondo Beach, South Bay

The New (Old) American Postcard

I’ll try to keep this short, as a postcard. My first batch of postcards have arrived!

I don’t see them simply as postcards: to me, they are mini-artworks. If you are old (or hipster) enough, you will recognize the inspiration. Notice the editing, the kitsch lettering, the color palettes, the iconic views from the air and the rounded white bezel surrounding the image: I tried to recreate the feeling of the “golden age” of postcards.

I place such age at the apex of mass tourism, just before the appearance of low-cost flights (when trips became too frequent and too short to allow for postcards). In other words, postcards belong to summer holidays. Most of my childhood spanned over the Nineties. I learnt to write in the fall of 1992. In the summer of 1993, I started scribbling my first postcards.

Before the appearance of smartphones, tablets and the ubiquitous data connection, time was a different experience altogether. Vacations were a peculiar mental space in which boredom was welcome, and we garnished it with games, books, naps, and postcard-writing sessions. We would send postcards to our grandparents, to aunts and uncles, and to a carefully curated handful of schoolmates. Some were just a greeting and kisses, others were short novels packing as much information as a thin handwriting could inscribe in a couple of square inches – paying a sacred attention not to trespass into the holy field of the recipient.

Maybe it’s because, in Southern California, hardly a day goes by without someone saying that “we live in a postcard”. Maybe it’s the forced immobility of the past year, which made us long to travel and recall all of the special experiences surrounding our journeys that we would so easily take for granted. And maybe it’s my drone work, producing several aerial landscapes that kept my mind running back to the dozens of postcards I had sent as a kid.

Anyway, here’s my postcards!

These postcards are for sale at $2.50 each, or 10 for $20, mix and match (any selection you want, one of each, 10 of one, 5 and 5…). If it’s convenient to you, I am happy to add US (36 cents) and international stamps ($1.20) with no markup.

Just send me an email at photos@tombertolotti.com and I’ll get them ready for you! I have most of these designs in stock. If you’re local, we can meet. Otherwise, shipping is an option.

Please come back to this page periodically, as I will keep uploading new designs as I create and have them printed!

Update July 26, 2021: Two new designs arriving next week! The Point Vicente Lighthouse in Palos Verdes, and a dreamy sunset view of Redondo Beach!

Kisses from Redondo Beach

XOXOXO

Tom

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california, Creative, Drone, Redondo Beach, Sensor Fresh

Scientia Potentia Est

I’ve been toying with this idea for a while. To take a drone shot of the magnificent sunset in Redondo Beach.

It is intimidating. Flying your drone is always intimidating. I like to say that every flight feels like your second flight.

At the same time, I’ve been studying hard to get my Part 107 commercial drone pilot license, and that’s where Francis Bacon’s famous motto comes into play: Scientia Potentia Est, “knowledge is power”. Knowledge lets you do more, better, and with more confidence.

There’s a bit of a paradox surrounding drones: everyone loves drone photography and footage, but many people dislike seeing drones flying around. There is a lot of negative bias around drones. One day I will elaborate on this, but I think that half of the issue is purely evolutionary: the fact that drones sound, look, and fly like big insects, and the whole thing of being seen by something we don’t see elicits our primordial scare of predators. On top of this, a few people have been using their drones in illegal, annoying, reckless, or simply stupid ways. Sadly, it takes a few morons to taint the reputation of a whole sector.

I hope I can do my part and show how drones are tools of beauty that give us unprecedented views on everyday vistas.

Without further ado, here’s what I did yesterday.

Checklist:

✅ Request LAANC authorization from Torrance Airport (funny enough, my home is on the demarcation of the 100ft and 400 ft clearance areas of the Zamperini Airfield airspace. If I take off from the back alley, my allowed ceiling is 100ft, on the front Avenue, the ceiling is 400ft).

✅ No people, kids, and pets close to the take-off and landing area.

✅ No hawks or ravens flying nearby.

✅ Good weather, low wind.

Here’s what happened:

This was not a real “flight”, more of an elevator kind of thing. I flew up, stayed there a few minutes, flew down. Here’s what Redondo looked like from up there.

I did also take a 180º panoramic shot, right into the sunset, stretching from Palos Verdes to the Redondo Pier.

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Kind of magic, huh?

Now that I found this safe and beautiful spot, I cannot wait to see what this looks like at other times of day. What I am really looking forward to is to capture the marine layer blowing in from the ocean. That will be some eye candy.

Make sure to follow my Instagram for more updates on my photography!

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Creative, Redondo Beach, Sensor Fresh

Nightswimming

“Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.” Nightswimming is one of the songs I love to listen to when I drive at night. It’s a dreamy song by the R.E.M. (from the 1992 album Automatic for the People). The R.E.M. played a dreamy kind of alt rock. One thing that I like about the notion of dream, and its adjective dreamy, is that it is a vox media. It denotes something neither good or bad, or maybe both good and bad. Even without turning into a nightmare, a dream is strange. You can mean it in a positive way, when you say “it feels like a dream”, but you are nevertheless opening to the ambiguity of the dream, to its lack of rationality, to how you feel like everything is crystal clear, and yet when you try to focus on something, it blurs away.

The key turns in the ignition, the ten year-old Mustang purrs softly and off we go nightswimming.

In case it was not clear, I went to the Pier. That beautifully fat sign makes sure you cannot be mistaken. You’re at the Pier. It’s a colossal sign. It shouts at you. It has an intrinsically epic quality, a little like the poster of Ben-Hur. The-Pier.

I love the Pier because, now that at least dine-in-outdoors has reopened, it feels kind of normal. I do get fishermen: them and I, we were into the night hoping to catch things that we like. Fish for them, images for me.

I hope they were as happy as I was with my catch. Old Tony’s, the seafood restaurants, those sail-shaped shelters on the outer walkway, Kincaid’s, the Police hut, they are all icons of Redondo Beach, and tonight they came to me one flash after the other, a vision and then a blur and then another vision.

My body and my mind were protesting that it was way past dinner time, and the smell of fried seafood didn’t help, but I was not done yet. I wanted to dip a little longer in the quiet of this Super Bowl night. I got back to my car and headed towards the Riviera Village. The quiet was almost palpable. I could take several shots in the middle of Catalina without ever fearing that a car would run me over. It was like being in a dream. It was magic and a strange and I did miss the people a little bit. It’s not easy to be social these days, so I went for the name and let my local journey end at the Social Republic. Plato would have appreciated. Gas heaters outnumbered patrons three to one, and kept my body warm(er than the soul). The Space Dust IPA and the House Burger with fries and pickle were able to warm my soul as well.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.

Fin.

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Creative, los angeles, Modeling, Portraits

The most versatile model

The most versatile model I have ever shot is Lauren Garcia.

I think of models as I think of actors: some actors are amazing at playing one kind of role; other actors are pretty good generalists – you’ll see them in a lot of different roles, they won’t bother you nor will they blow your mind. Then you have diamonds. Stars. Pearls on velvet. Actors who can pull off any kind of role and you can’t help going WOW! Their versatility is an asset for storytelling: an actor who’s able to seamlessly play heroes and villains and winners and losers can masterfully drive the audience through the most baroque twists of the plot, while leaving their willing suspension of disbelief perfectly intact.

For me, models are the same. Some can amazingly embody particular esthetic styles and be mediocre with others. You need a certain vibe, you just know who to call. Some others are pretty good at everything, and these models are incredibly valuable as well because sometimes you just don’t know what the shoot will be like. And then, you have those models that, no matter what you’re going to go for, you know it will be amazing. Lauren, of course, partakes of the latter kind.

She first reached out to me about six month ago, to shoot digitals.

We met at FD Studios, did thirty seconds of small chat and got to work. When both the model and the photographer know what they are doing, digitals take less than half an hour. Shoot, check, reshoot, check, done. We had some time left at the studio, so we goofed around a bit. 20 more minutes of creative brainstorming had already sold me onto Lauren’s exceptionality.

We decided we were a nice fit and since neither of us had shot much anything because of the springtime and early summer restrictions that had just been lifted, we drove to Melrose Avenue to try some urban inspired shots.

By the time we were done on Melrose I had it clear that one of Lauren’s super powers was the aware capacity to tune into different facets of her kaleidoscopic heritage, so that she can activate and blend then ones that are most fitting for the vibe and the scopes of the particular image that’s being crafted. Just as photographers edit images, Lauren – who’s also a mental health advocate – is able to edit herself from the inside out and nail that perfect look.

I worked with Lauren twice again since our first shoot, and her esthetic versatility still remains undefeated. Our second shoot aimed for a sophisticated look in luxurious Palos Verdes, and she blended instantly. Not as a chameleon would do: she does not blend with the background. She seizes the background and shines out of it.

Lauren was also my last shoot of 2020. I had seen an outfit she posted on her Instagram and I wanted to shoot it in a kind of Wednesday Addams / Voodoo Queen esthetics. We went back to FD Studio and Lauren did her magic again. She went in, tuned herself, and came out.

We stepped out into the studio and back into the time machine, to explore a completely different visual inspiration less than one hour afterwards. We actually wanted to try some drone shots in the wilderness, but the vicinity of the LA County Sheriff training facilities in Elysian Park made us desist, and we opted for some ground photography instead. It was the Age of the Aquarius.

Every time I go through my archives and look at Lauren’s photos, I can hardly believe it’s the same person. Lauren can switch from street to high fashion, from seductive to playful, from inspired to candid in the blink of an eye. I like happy photos, and Lauren can flash the most disarming smiles, but also masters a very convincing RBF that I won’t share lest she resents me.

You can find Lauren on Instagram, or go directly to her modeling portfolio.

As for me, you can either follow me on Instagram or visit my website.

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Creative, Personal, Philosophy and Photography, Sensor Fresh

Trapped in a country song

Howdy!

First, just so nobody worries, I’m not feeling particularly “trapped in a country song.” I’ve just been meaning to shoot something with my LEGOs and the instruments that are laying around our home (there’s a lot of them) and my macro tubes.

Seeing the little mini figure behind the six-strings reminded me of that country & western trope, when the singer is behind the bars because of something he did (usually for love). It also reminded me of that line in Dire Strait’s Romeo and Juliet that goes “All I do is kiss you / through the bars of a rhyme”. Hence the title.

I love LEGOs, I love the stories you can build with them. Maybe not everyone knows that, towards the end of my academic career, I wrote a book about philosophy and LEGO. Right now it’s available in Italian and in French, but I have not given up on finding the motivation to finish the English translation 😉

So yes, I do I have my minifig alter-ego, and Anne-Claire has one too!

The title of this one is “Resting on C”.

So… here’s a little freebie! If you like LEGOs and songs and fun photographs, this image is cropped so that you can use it as a screen saver for your phone!

Happy trails, y’all!

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