There once was this Caltech Quantum Physicist who also doubled as a world-traveling photographer. He had piles and piles of films and slides of places he had traveled to, anywhere from across the U.S. to South America, Asia, Europe and Africa. And amongst these photographs were pictures of people from different countries, natives from indigenous tribes. And in these photographs, the subjects were always smiling and holding in their hands a square Polaroid shot of themselves.
This, he told me, was his way of returning the favor of allowing him to photograph them. He always had a Polaroid camera handy so that whenever he asked a stranger for a picture, he would give them a copy with a Polaroid shot. Never offer to pay them with cash, he warned me. Or else you’ll only encourage them to rely on tourists taking their pictures for money. Which, of course, would take away their authenticity and start off this whole commercializing mess.
And that brings me Venice Beach, the drugged-up cousin of Santa Monica Beach.
It’s an awesome place to take pictures. You just have to “tip” for every single, freakin’ shot you take. I don’t know how it started, if one day a tourist came across a psychedelic pothead and thought, “hmmm, that’s something you don’t see in <insert small midwestern town> everyday” and then decided to tip him a dollar for a picture and thus instigating the entire pay-me-for-pictures concept.
But I get it. I do. Some of these folks are real, hard-working artists just trying to get by, really no different from any other street artists.
But then you do have these other ones that are just plain old tourist bait (me being one of those baited tourists, as you can see below).
But if you look long and hard enough, you can across random things you can shoot for free.
This one below was an abandoned sand sculpture. I have no idea what it used to be, but hey, it still had some spiffy details and the culprit was no longer around to charge me a dollar for a shot.
These Dia de los Muertos skull shots below weren’t exactly free. I had to purchase one these suckers just so I could shoot them.
And finally, probably my favorite shots out of all (and the one that least likely screams “Venice Beach!”), a puppy. And it was free.
Yep, that’s Venice Beach.