Pick your cliché


Full circle. What goes around, comes around. Old habits die hard.

Posts in WordPress require a headline which becomes part of the url or permalink. So it’s best practice to write a headline that is SEO friendly, because you write this shit for other people to find and read.

So while “pick your cliché” may not be the most searchable phrase and in fact the word cliché has that special character, e-acute, in it which makes it even less searchy, it’s better than the head I probably would have chosen for this post which might have been something like “Full circle or how I went from small-time shooter to big-city journo … and back.”

In fact, while I’m on the topic, I should actually change the name of this blog to something like, “VisualKaos, meaningless blather from a SoCal-based vizjourno seemingly preoccupied with rambling run-on sentences that are used as rhetorical devices via the comma splice while musing about how fast time flies by and where the fuck his entire life and career went, through discrete blog entries displayed in reverse chronological order.

While that would more accurately describe this and many other posts found here it’s also, less than SEO friendly.

Which has little to nothing to do with this:

A few weeks ago, during a content meeting at the VC Reporter I learned of an upcoming story about the Ventura County Ballet Company’s presentation of The Nutcracker. That timeless pageant performed by countless ballet companies during the Christmas season.

Tchaikovsky never could have predicted it but according to wikipedia major American ballet companies generate around 40 percent of their annual ticket revenues from performances of The Nutcracker.

When I heard that VCBC would be performing The Nutcracker I was immediately slammed back to the mid 1980s when I was a mustachioed news photographer at the now-long-dead Oxnard Press-Courier which was located a few blocks down the street from what was then known as the Oxnard Civic Auditorium.

Back then, The Nutcracker was performed every year by Mara Lysova’s Ballet Academié and I would be assigned to photograph the company, usually during rehearsals, for pre-publicitiy stories that would appear in the Press-Courier’s Lifestyle section.

As part of that I got to be friendly with the auditorium manager Jack Lavin and stage manager Brad MacElmurry and would often arrange for some of the dancers to come in to the auditorium during off-afternoons and experiment with stage lighting, long exposures and multi-strobe photography.

Brad MacElmurry was a licensed pyrotechnical when I shot this photo around 1985.

Brad MacElmurry was a licensed pyrotechnical when I shot this photo around 1985.

The emphasis here should be on experimentation. I could see the images I wanted in my head but in the mid-80s, I was a novice shooter and I knew not how to execute those images, technically. But I had nothing but time, carte blanche access to the stage and the paper was paying for all the film I could use.

So, equipped with a couple of Nikon F2s and all the Tri-X pan I could use, I eventually learned how to make some memorable images.

It was those memorable images that flashed in my head like an episode of The Wonder Years during that meeting at the VCR.

Reflecting on the past 30 years that I spent practicing photojournalism, in ever-larger markets and then watching the news business crumble around me and now finding myself back in Ventura County working at the smallest newspaper I’ve ever been at, it seemed obvious what I should do.

I wondered, what were the chances that Brad was still at the Civic Auditorium, now called the Oxnard Performing Arts Center? Was it remotely possible that I might have that access to that stage and could I arrange to have the dancers in the glare of that spotlight again?

A few phone calls later and the answer to all those questions was, yup.

Last week, rather surreally, I stood in the same spot in that auditorium that I might have stood 30 years ago. Time no longer seemed to moving in a straight, linear line. It was now moving backwards

This time I was carrying a few more pounds, less (actually zero) hair, lots more gray in my beard and DSLRs with digital sensors instead of acetate based film emulsions.

Everything was different but nothing had changed.

Full circle.



Ventura County Ballet Company will present The Nutcracker at two separate venues.

The Oxnard Performing Arts Center and the Ventura College Performing Arts Center.


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About tgapen

I'm a photographer, editor, designer, art director, writer, webmaster and Photoshopper and I'm a student of HTML5, CSS3 and Rock n Roll guitar. I live in the burbs of Los Angeles and used to commute 10 hours a week to and from various jobs at L.A. newspapers. My wife is amazing, we have two amazing cats and zero kids. The moon is my planet, I love rain, good, strong coffee and a Gibson ES-335.

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