Andy Romanoff: Blog en-us All images and text copyright Andy Romanoff(C) - all rights reserved [email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Sun, 30 Aug 2020 22:58:00 GMT Sun, 30 Aug 2020 22:58:00 GMT Andy Romanoff: Blog 81 120 The Chicago Chop Suey Building Mystery A few years back my daughter and I were driving up the coast to San Francisco.  Along the way we found ourselves on the streets of Guadalupe Ca, a small town about a hundred and fifty miles from Los Angeles.  Driving around town we came upon this sweet little oddity of a place, the Chicago Chop Suey building.  I loved it in an instant and we pulled over so I could shoot this picture.  And because I am who I am I tried to find out more about the place from the neighbors but...nothing.  So this picture languished, having no purpose to call it to life but too sweet to delete.

We all make pictures like this, pictures made for no particular purpose except they call to you and you respond.  In an Instagram world the easy answer is to post it and move on but I am looking for something more.  Not more from the picture but from myself.  I think part of being a photographer is to think about the pictures you make, not just to make them.  So I am. Chicago Chop Suey - Guadalupe CAChicago Chop Suey - Guadalupe CA

It occurs to me this picture calls me because I am from Chicago.  And it calls to me because Chop Suey was the Chinese food of my youth.  And the thirties lettering style and the older architecture feed my nostalgia while the closed door and drawn shades speak of mystery.  The signs on the windows say "Please do not lean your bicycles on the building. Thank you"  The one on the fence says "Please do not lean your bicycles on the fence. Thank you"......but why?  Was there an epidemic of bicyclists in this part of town piling their bicycles everywhere without regard?  Did something already happen the owner wants to prevent from happening again?  The fire hydrant, a Jones by the way, sits inches above the curb...why, why was it too much trouble to install it flush with the cement?

I can go on...but enough, I get it.  Like every picture, with careful study this one reveals details I never see in real life.  One beauty of a photograph is that the more you look at it the more it reveals.  Sometimes that opens up more questions than it be it.

Before posting this I decided to explore on the web a little and see what I could find.  Of Guadalupe, Wikipedia told me that "Some of the small town businesses include El Tapatio, and Guadalupe Restaurant serve traditional Mexican food. For a quick bite you can get pizza at Two Guys Pizza, a burger at King Falafel and Charlie's Place, Chinese Food at Panda Sticks, or tacos and burritos Romo's Market. Groceries can be bought at La Chiquita market and Masatani's Market. There is a hardware store called The Guadalupe Hardware Company, Napa Auto Parts, two tire shops, an auto body shop, and three auto mechanic shops in town. Etc, etc,"...........nothing!

A picture on Google search showed me the restaurant has been there unchanged since 2006 but just looking at the building had already told me that.  A search for Chicago Chop Suey, Guadalupe, CA revealed "According to a map showing the locations of Japanese American-owned businesses in 1940, this was originally New York Chop Suey. The building was constructed in 1926." and that led me to a map entitled Guadalupe Japanese American Businesses 1940.  It shows a thriving community of Japanese businesses.  Where had they all gone?  And then I connected that with what I had read on the Wikipedia page.  That the current population of the town was 86 percent Latin American and that there were very few Asians.

I'll spare you all the twists and turns that followed.  The Japanese of Guadalupe were removed in 1942 and settled in internment camps.  After the war it seems few came back.  So a casual photograph of a little building teaches me about a place where history happened.  It reminds me of the buildings I saw in Stawiski Poland and the story it opened up for me there ( ).  Maybe I'll go back to Guadalupe and see what else there is to see.

[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Chicago Chop Suey Guadalupe CA Sun, 30 Aug 2020 22:57:43 GMT
Stories I've Been Meaning To Tell Yo Hi,

Thanks for stopping by.  I've moved my writing to another place where it's easier to find me and the stories look better.  I try to publish a new story there once a week so please stop by and give it a look 


[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Angeles Chicago Hollywood Los Medium hippie memoir sacred seventies sixties stories stories i've been meaning to tell you Sun, 15 Jan 2017 17:57:45 GMT
Driving up to Kesey’s Farm Tuesday, June 9th 1970.  I don’t always remember exactly when things happened but for once I have help.  That’s because I’m telling this story in memory of Terry Reim, onetime editor of the Berkeley Barb.  Terry was a fine traveling companion who recently left us for parts unknown.  When I heard of his passing there was a flurry of emails back and forth with his companion and his daughter and as part of that I was sent a portion of his journal.  A good thing because I’m never sure how much of what I remember is real and how much is even better.  In this case I get to tell you the story as I remember it but with the verification of Terry’s words freshly written in in 1970. Think of it as both of us telling you the story.  I think he would have liked that.

Terry Reim - on the road to Eugene 1970Terry Reim - on the road to Eugene 1970Terry Reim - on the road to Eugene

Terry Reim sitting in the van

Bobby Skye, Terry Reim and I got into the van and headed up to Oregon to visit Kesey at the farm.  Maybe only Terry and I were going up to visit, maybe Bobby was already living up there but I can’t fact check this one any more.  Kesey was a powerful totem for me, a mythic figure and the guy who had turned me onto Nitrous Oxide a year earlier. That introduction, sitting in the front of Road Hog the Hog Farm bus I was living on had opened my senses to psychedelics in a way nothing else had ever done.  Out of that visioned afternoon I had gained an alter ego, and I had taken on an alternate identity, Captain Gas; might as well pay Ken a visit.

Captain GasCaptain Gas

My Captain Gas card

We headed out of San Francisco in Terry’s van driving up U.S.1 cruising along the coastline.

Terry writes - In Inverness we stopped to see Elf & On. “Don’t get caught in any Box Canyons,” Elf told us as we were leaving; but it did no good.

Somewhere along the way in the late afternoon we took some psychedelics, first Psilocybin and an hour later when we were sure the drugs hadn’t worked some acid.  Then the drugs kicked in and the day turned sweetly cosmic. We parked on a bluff overlooking the Pacific and walked along the cliff feeling the winds blowing and listening to the surf crashing below.  Then suddenly a big gust of wind grabbed my hat off of my head.  It went sailing out over the edge, and floated down till it landed on the rocks below, maybe fifty or sixty feet away but straight down and no way to get to it. Shit damn, what a fucking disaster!  That hat was totally part of me, beloved and unique and my companion along the way. I had to get it back.

AR in hat-b&w - On the Road to SomewhereAR in hat-b&w - On the Road to Somewhere

The Hat

A few hours later up Route1 we got out to piss at sunset by the ocean.  The wind caught Andy’s old battered straw hat and carried it about 50 feet down into a what? Yup, a Box Canyon.  “I gotta get that hat!” Andy yells and starts scaling down the side.  “Remember what Elf told us?” I yell back to him into the heavy wind, running about the rim as Andy heads downward. “It’s gonna be dark soon and you’ll never find your way out,” I say.  “I gotta get that hat – I’ve had it for years – that hat’s been with me everywhere,” Andy calls back up, “I gotta get it.”

“You have to know when to let go!” Sky yells down to him “let it be.” “It’s not time yet” Andy counters

Looking down at my hat through the acid it seemed possible I could climb back up but in reality, probably not.  The water came right in to the cliff face at the bottom and crashed on the rocks at the edge.  The bluff swept away from our position in an arc and then the ends disappeared.  The earth was soft, pieces of it would come away in my hand and it was steep…really steep.  I had to have my hat though so I started down...

It’s getting dark fast now, the wind is howling across the cliff. “We’re not going to convince him,” I yell to Sky, “so we might as well help.” “Wait a minute,” I yell to Andy, “I’ve got 100 feet of rope in the truck.  I’ll back it up and we’ll tie it to the bumper.” I back the truck up and Sky ties the rope to the bumper then lowers himself into the canyon.

In a minute we’re back on Route 1, hat in Andy’s hand, now on his head.  The acid and psilocybin zooming gently through our veins.

Bobby Sky - on the road to Eugene 1970Bobby Sky (Steinbrecher) on the road to EugeneBobby Sky (Steinbrecher) on the road to Eugene

Bobby Sky (Steinbrecher) on the road to Eugene

I climbed back up and Sky headed down.  Even with a rope it wasn’t easy.  Sky grabbed the hat, stuck it on his head and clambered over the rocks looking for a way up.  When he found one he started climbing.  About half way up he stopped to rest for a minute, Terry and I waiting above, stoned and anxious.  A gull flew by hovering in the wind.  It came close to Sky, flew slowly by, and somehow it was all OK.  A few minutes later Sky was climbing over the top of the bluff and triumphantly handing me my hat.  We got back in the van and headed north.

Later that night of a new moon, we turned off the engine, the headlights, and Andy and I get atop the van lying down and looking up at the stars.  Sky’s at the wheel and brake guiding us silently down the mountain road in the dark.

A few hours later we were on a two lane road winding up through Redwood forests.  Something grand was playing on the radio.  Something good enough that as we crested the hill and the signal dropped away we turned back pulled off the road and sat their listening.  In the darkness the night was immense.  The trees towering over our heads touching the stars and the sky.  Terry and I grabbed sleeping bags and spread them on the roof, climbed up and lay looking into the cosmic night.  Everything was alive, soft and beautiful.  Sky got into the driver’s seat, started the van and slowly pulled us out onto the road.  As soon as the slope of the hill would carry us along he cut the engine and the lights and we coasted down the road.  As we drifted down it seemed the trees and the skies drifted along with us, part of our journey.  The breeze was part of us, we were part of it.  We were part of it all.

We drifted down the road for perhaps ten minutes, the only sound the shhh of our tires, no traffic, no talking, nothing but sensation.  I have been a lot more loaded but I’ve never been higher.  Finally, the road started to level out and when we had slowed to a crawl Sky pulled over and Terry and I climbed back in.

For years I had a few raggedy memories of all this, emotionally powerful but unreal enough that I didn’t totally trust it.  And now I have Terry’s corroboration written just three days after it happened.  Reading his version tells me that what I remembered was true enough and it fills my memory full of life. This thing really happened and it was important enough in the moment that he wrote it down and I remembered it for almost fifty years.

As I get older I think a lot about what we remember and why.  About the truth that slowly comes from the telling.  Having doubted it, it’s a pleasure for me to have this memory be trustworthy again.  When you come down to it memory is the edited version of our life.  What we keep about who we were and what we did and when.  Here’s one thing that happened

[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Captain Gas Eugene Nitrous Oxide Psilocybin acid hippie seventies sixties van Wed, 15 Jun 2016 18:57:31 GMT
The First Place I Ever Lived in LA Downtown LA - King Edward HotelDowntown LA - King Edward Hotel

1960, I’m eighteen years old and the cops have just come through Billy Caponigro’s apartment and warned us that if we don’t get out of town we are all going to jail.  I’d like to tell you that it’s a phony beef but it’s not.  We’ve been causing a lot of trouble in the neighborhood and the cops know it.  We are me, Billy and…..another guy whose name I can’t remember although I try and I try.  He’s seventeen or eighteen too, his wife has thrown him out of their apartment and he has moved into Billy’s where we live on mattresses and couches and the radio is always playing.  We empty out the apartment, a first floor on Leland near Kedzie and load it into my car, a fifty Plymouth four door, faded grey.  There isn’t much to load.  Clothes, the canned goods we’ve been stealing from the grocery story, my tools and a few maps.  We are headed to California.

The trip takes five or six days driving pretty much non-stop.  None of us have ever been west of Joliet. The road is a revelation, highway 66 for thousands of miles.  We have adventures, breaking into a junkyard in the middle of the night to steal a generator we need to fix our car, seeing the Grand Canyon as dawn breaks, hanging a canvas bag filled with water from the antenna for the desert stretches, driving with the windows down and the hot air parching our skin and then coming into California to the unbelievable heat of Needles in summer, meeting some local kids and swimming in their pool not far from the railroad tracks while we wait for the darkness to come.

California is……………..unbelievable.  In the sweet evening air it all looks new and bright and modern, the super-sized gas stations and themed restaurants that line the road when you drive through the bigger towns, the everything that is not like Chicago.  Almost sixty years later I still feel the excitement, the thrill I felt as we drove through this different place on our way towards Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, dazed from days on the road, exhausted from taking turns sleeping in the back seat, bent from lying curled up amongst the dirty clothes.  More than anything I wanted a place to sleep and not be in the car.  We headed for downtown.  Downtown LA felt a lot more like Chicago, tall buildings, bricks and cement, traffic lights and tiny diners, lots of people.  We found a cheap parking lot, left our car and headed for a hotel we had spotted earlier, the King Edward.

I don’t recall what we paid but it couldn’t have been much.  Even in 1960 the King Edward was little more than a flop house.  It didn’t matter.  To me it felt special; a big had-been fancy place, a place where important people had once stayed.  The lobby remembered when it had been an expensive hotel.  In the room the furniture was old but the place was still finished with ornate moldings and the remains of good porcelain in the bathroom.  I remember how happy I was to be there.  I spent a little time looking out the window that faced out onto 5th street, watching the Los Angeles night, smelling the city air, imagining a life I might have here and finally drifting off to sleep.

In the morning I woke up first.  I dressed and slipped out of the room, went down to the lobby and walked out onto the street.  Somewhere close by I found a diner and ate breakfast sitting at the counter and reading my first L.A. Times.  Then I went back to the room where the guys were already up and waiting.  We gathered our things and got back in the car.  The guy I can’t remember wanted to go back home and so phone calls were made from corner phone booths and arrangements were arranged and we dropped him at the Greyhound bus station for the ride home.

That’s it.  Billy and I left that day driving up San Fernando Road, winding our way out of the city on our way to San Francisco.  When we got there he decided to go home too while I stayed, sleeping in my car until I got a job and then living in a cheap hotel on Powell St.

Other things happened, things I’ll tell you about one of these days but eventually I came back to LA, built a life and never went back to the King Edward again. Even so it stayed in the back of my mind.  When I looked at my future and it felt bleak I might say “well I can always go back to living that way, I know how to do that”  or “This is why I gotta quit screwing up, do I want to be living at the Eddy?”.  It became a marker of an earlier time for me, remembered both proudly and as a caution, a part of my life very different from the things that happened later.

I drove by the King Edward a few weeks ago, still standing in the seedy part of downtown.  It looks like the real estate boom is finally catching up with it and perhaps soon it will be lofts for young professionals but for now it stands there in the grit and the afternoon light much like it stood then.  I can no longer imagine living there but I can still remember the moment when I did. 

[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) King Edward Hotel Los Angeles downtown sixties Mon, 28 Mar 2016 03:09:20 GMT
Ghost Chicago - looking for things no longer here - Part two - Shaare Tikvah  

I didn’t know why I was being sent to Hebrew school.  My father had not been religious and besides, he was dead.  HE didn’t care.  My mother had only a glancing connection to Judaism, not like her father who davened daily at a little shul in Albany Park.  Nevertheless when I neared thirteen off I went to learn Hebrew at Shaare Tikvah, the big, new synagogue on Kimball Avenue.  It was not a match made in heaven.

Shaare TikvahShaare Tikvah Afternoons I had spent riding bicycles or exploring the alleys of Hollywood Park, figuring out my life, were now spent with kids I didn’t know or want to know, learning things I didn’t want to learn from people I didn’t want to learn from.

 Below, my prison of unwanted learning; through those double doors, up to the second floor and into the line of classrooms overlooking the alley.

Shaare TikvahShaare Tikvah In those upstairs rooms they taught what me they could.   I grudgingly memorized the Hebrew for my Torah portion and when the day came I recited it standing on the bimah before my mother and my relatives and for the moment everyone was happy.  Then I forgot all the ritual and I left being Jewish behind for forty years.

A few years ago I came back to Chicago to visit and driving by Shaare Tikvah on a Saturday morning I told my wife “There’s the place where I went to Hebrew school”.  We parked and went in and were welcomed to services in a small downstairs chapel, not the big sanctuary where I had stood many years before.  The overwhelming Shaare Tikvah was long gone, both the congregation and my confused feelings about it.  It was dying and a few years later that congregation flickered out.

Shaare TikvahShaare Tikvah In December 2015 I came back and saw that it was all changed again.  Not the building but the congregation, the community.  The people I was afraid of and disdainful of, the ones I wanted nothing to do with - all gone.  It might have made me happy but it did not.  I’m not that boy anymore.

But something of him remains from those days, something I feel inside with all the strength of something that happened just yesterday.  I remember this.

Shaare TikvahShaare Tikvah

I remember sitting inside those second floor windows looking out.  Not those windows exactly though - in 1955 the windows were different and I could imagine climbing out of them.  What I saw looking out then was that telephone pole.  I knew that if I was willing enough to take the chance I could climb through the window, grab the pole and shinny down to freedom.  I knew it!  All through my pained afternoons looking outside at the world I wanted so much to be in I looked at that pole and imagined the possibilities.   I never took the chance.

It doesn't matter, I didn't jump out the window and my life turned out just fine.  I've had success and good fortune, family and health.  Still...there’s a little piece of me wants to know...could I make it…..can I make it?  If I swing my legs out, duck my head under the glass; reach around to the left and push off can I get a foothold?  Can I get a little way down the pole before the teacher comes running - stay out of reach of his desperate grasping arms? Can I get down the pole without falling and can I run away westward before they all come running out the door after me?  Can I be free?


[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Bar Mitzvah Chicago Hebrew Hollywood Park Jewish Shaare Tikvah Thu, 24 Dec 2015 22:44:36 GMT
Ghost Chicago - looking for things no longer here - My childhood I went back to Chicago last week.  City of my early years and a place of deep emotional connection.  While I was there I visited the old neighborhoods, the streets where I grew up.  Much is gone or changed beyond recognition and what remains resonates mainly with me, so I'll tell you little stories as we go along, stories about why I made these pictures. Chicago December 2015, the old neighborhoodChicago December 2015, the old neighborhood It starts here, the building where I first remember the world.  We lived on the second floor in the apartment with the big bright window.  This is 5637 N Spaulding, A large courtyard building built probably in the thirties, old enough that the apartment had an icebox.  See the white horizontal boards on the right?  That's the back staircase. It was open to the winds and snows of winter then so they finally closed it, but when I was a boy the iceman came up those slippery canted steps with a big block of ice gripped between his tongs and resting on his leather apron.

Chicago December 2015, the old neighborhoodChicago December 2015, the old neighborhood Here's the staircase. It's been freshly redone but the tight turns and the steep pitch remain. We raced down these stairs to the basement, grabbed our bicycles and rode off looking for adventure. My mother stayed behind washing clothes in the old circular washing machine and squeezing the water out with the wringer.  Then she would hang them on the long rope clothes lines that stretched the basement end to end. How endless that must have been, a young woman alone raising two boys.

Chicago December 2015, the old neighborhoodChicago December 2015, the old neighborhood Sometimes we played in the alley.  The building was heated by a coal furnace located down the steps behind the door on the right. On the left where the glass block window stands was the coal chute.  In the fall a great chain driven coal truck would lumber into the alley.  The coal chute would be connected and the back of the truck would lift sending the coal into the basement.  On winter mornings, Johnny the janitor would stoke the fires starting at 6AM sending heat up through the radiators and into the apartments.  The windows would slowly defrost, the ice changing to mist and the day would begin.

Chicago December 2015, the old neighborhoodChicago December 2015, the old neighborhood Johnny lived here in this basement apartment with his wife Mary and a German Shepard trained in the old country way.  When Johnny raked leaves the dog would carry a basket filled with them, walking along side of Johnny to the trash. Our father was dead, a massive heart attack at 37.  I was 7. None of this made sense. It still doesn't. My brother, a year younger connected with Johnny and sometimes followed him on his rounds. My mother was friends with Johnny and Mary and sometimes we were invited to their cottage outside the city.  See what I mean about ghosts?  Nothing of this is visible, even to me, but being here the stories come.

Chicago December 2015, the old neighborhoodChicago December 2015, the old neighborhood This is what Chicago looked like then...and now. Small brick houses and large brick buildings, all neat and orderly. This is Kimball Avenue, my route to high school or at least one route. I went to five high schools before we all got tired of the process. Not their fault, not mine.

Chicago December 2015, the old neighborhoodChicago December 2015, the old neighborhood Schools were giant machines, 3-4-5 thousand kids in a single building, learning the post war skills they would need to be part of the economy, the world.  I wasn't interested.  I wanted to be                  somewhere else,                someone else,                     so I stayed away.

Chicago December 2015, the old neighborhoodChicago December 2015, the old neighborhood Mainly I hung around on the front steps of the school smoking Camels but sometimes I wandered around back where the river flowed.  Really not much of a river, engineered and contained and carrying the sewage of a million families but water moving past land, the occasional rubber floating by, a marker of the waters speed and a telltale that someone somewhere had been close to someone else, had broken the barrier of longing and unknowing.  Funny huh?

Chicago December 2015, the old neighborhoodChicago December 2015, the old neighborhood I wasn't sad. I was angry, confused, lost and empty but I wasn't sad.  Here is the building where my grandpa and grandma lived, my fathers family.  Up there, the windows in the middle I think. On Sunday afternoons the family would gather sometimes, the men in the front room just behind those shades, the large brown wooden console radio telling the details of a Cubs game, the women gathered in the kitchen preparing the dinner that would come later. If you were a little boy, grandma would take you into the pantry and slip you a forbidden treat.  For an afternoon, life was the way it was supposed to be. Can't you see it. I can.


[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Albany Park Chicago Chicago's north side Hollywood Park Von Steuben Fri, 18 Dec 2015 00:20:38 GMT
29 Palms - Postcards from the Desert A weekend trip to 29 Palms and Joshua Tree with some close friends. A chance to make pictures that are not part of my 15000 Buddhas project...although in the end I made a few:) This gallery marks a departure for me. It's a grab bag of disparate elements connected only by time...what perhaps life really is when when we aren't projecting a narrative on it. In any case these are pictures I made over a few days without any plan or project. Just shooting whatever looked interesting next.
29 Palms - Joshua Tree29 Palms - Joshua Tree
The portraits were mostly made in about fifteen minutes on Saturday evening. The light became suddenly magical and I grabbed one friend after another and said "let's do a portrait right now!" A turn into the light, the trust that comes from knowing someone for a time and they were done. I've never photographed so many so quickly and I think so well.

29 Palms - Joshua Tree - Donna M29 Palms - Joshua Tree - Donna M

The abstracts are ...abstract. Just about the shape things take and the way they come together.  And then there are some pinhole lens pictures of the desert and the shrines. With a pinhole and a DSLR you can't see the results before shooting and sometimes it's wonderful to imagine, not to know.

29 Palms - Harmony Motel29 Palms - Harmony Motel
Roadside shrines, I've been looking at them for a year or two now thinking that sooner or later I should shoot one to find out if they were part of the 15000 Buddhas project. This weekend I saw one that said "Start with me". The experience of standing close to these shrines is very different from driving by. Up close you learn the name, you may see pictures of the person, you see the things loved ones have brought to mark the ground. I know now they are sacred places. I will probably do more.

29 Palms area - roadside shrines29 Palms area - roadside shrines
The motel and desert pictures are postcards....but I mean that in a good way. Before instant everything postcards were an important part of traveling. Pictures we bought as we traveled and sent to our friends with a few words scribbled on them so they could share a sense of what we were experiencing. These pictures feel like that to me. Postcards from the weekend. Hi everybody, wish you were here!

29 Palms - Joshua Tree29 Palms - Joshua Tree

[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) 15000 Buddhas 29 Palms Harmony Motel Joshua Tree abstract cactus crosses desert flowers moon postcards roadside shrine shrines Thu, 26 Nov 2015 19:31:20 GMT
Landscapes and Dancers I've been busy lately with trips to Salt Lake City and the Grand Canyon.  First I went to Salt Lake and attended the Parliament of World Religions, ten thousand people from around the world, people from every faith imaginable.  It was spectacular.  There were days of panels and meetings but also sacred moments from many traditions.  I went to explore and to seek new opportunities to show my work but of course I brought my camera with me and when the singing or dancing or rapt moments happened I made a few pictures.  here's the link - and here's some pictures.

There was dancing Parliament of the World's Religions - people dancing to the music of  Kummar ChatterjeeParliament of the World's Religions - people dancing to the music of Kummar Chatterjee And the making of Sand Mandalas Parliament of the World's ReligionsParliament of the World's Religions And there were Angels Parliament of the World's Religions - Angels in the eveningParliament of the World's Religions - Angels in the evening And beautiful people Parliament of the World's Religions - Sehdev and AalokaParliament of the World's Religions - Sehdev and Aaloka

Then, just a week later Darcy and I went to the Grand Canyon to spend time with old friends.  I've been very happy just working on my 15,000 Buddhas project so I haven't felt much need to shoot other things but.....the Grand could I not?  So for the first time in a while I turned to the landscape and remembered what it's like to be in someplace immense and natural. How humbling.  Somewhere around the third day I was filled with the understanding of just how big I am...really, how big we all are.  Not as big as I seem in closed in spaces but not nothing either even in the vastness of nature.  Seems like just the right size between large and small when I'm paying attention:)  Pictures are here -

Grand Canyon just after dusk

Grand CanyonGrand Canyon

A tree along the rim

Grand CanyonGrand Canyon

Mule Train along the trail

Grand CanyonGrand Canyon


[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Grand Canyon angels dancing sacred Thu, 05 Nov 2015 18:50:35 GMT
The shrine at Wavy Gravys Wavy Gravy, holy man/prankster/Hog Farmer/friend has a unique shrine in a spare bedroom at the Hog Farm house in Berkeley.  Filled with both sacred and personal icons, it's a private place to reflect on a life lived largely in public.  I spent the afternoon with Wavy recently talking and making these pictures.  Mainly we were quiet but from time to time Wavy would point at something and say "did you see that ...and then there would be a story about how some icon came to fit into his pantheon.  Here's a few pictures from a beautiful afternoon.

Wavy Gravy's shrine -Wavy Gravy's shrine - Looking from the doorway into the room.  What you see here is a tiny fraction of the collection.  There are faces everywhere, up high, tucked in corners, spilling over into the next room. Each one has some personal meaning, some connection to his well lived life - a place where a serious clown can ponder.

Wavy Gravy's shrine -Wavy Gravy's shrine -

Some are sacred faces you've probably seen before

Wavy Gravy's shrine - MLK booking photo iconWavy Gravy's shrine - MLK booking photo icon

Others you might not have thought of as sacred, but when you see them I think you will understand - Dr. Martin Luther King from a booking photograph


Wavy Gravy's shrine - AbbyWavy Gravy's shrine - Abby And for some it might help to have to have known the roads that Wavy traveled to understand - like this Abby Hoffman face from the seventies.  Taken together they make a beautiful whole.  The timeless sacred mixed with travelers from the road.  Tricksters, cartoon figures, people who made a difference by their public courage and quiet ones who made a difference outside the spotlight.  What a lovely shrine.  You can see it here;

[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Abby Hoffman Buddha Bugs Bunny" Doctor Evil', Donald Duck Jesus Lenny Bruce Mary Shiva Wavy Gravy Thu, 24 Sep 2015 20:00:00 GMT
Sometimes the lights all shining on me... ...other times I can barely see...  a great Grateful Dead lyric, thank you Robert Hunter...and one I think about all the time.  A few weeks ago I made pictures that felt good at the moment of their making and this week as I selected and finished them the feeling was still there.  Seemed like the light was all shining on me.

Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, Redwood Valley, CAAbhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, Redwood Valley, CA

One of the ways I know I'm in my zone is when I keep finding different ways to see the same thing and that was happening at the Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, CA.  I only spent a few hours there but every minute felt good - I kept seeing more.

Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, Redwood Valley, CAAbhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, Redwood Valley, CA

So here are three ways I saw the same face.  A foot or two here a foot or two there, a little up or a little down and what was revealed was totally changed.  How wonderful, no right way, just beautiful.

Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, Redwood Valley, CAAbhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, Redwood Valley, CA

That's what I love about shooting icons.  They don't change - or at least not very fast.  The light changes of course but what mainly changes is me.  What I bring to it, what is revealed when I'm patient, what is really there but I don't always see.  The eyes are always looking but perception is a sometime thing...and that's another song.

If you want to see more all the pictures are at 

[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Buddha Buddhist Grateful Dead Monastery Robert Hunter beauty perception Sun, 13 Sep 2015 21:00:46 GMT
New places, new pictures I've been shooting a lot on the 15,000 Buddhas project this summer and visiting some new places along the way.  In the last month or so I've photographed three temples, three monasteries, a wonderful personal shrine and at the Mormon visitors center in Salt Lake City.  Given that, I thought it might be time to show you a few of the images I've been making lately.  Many of the pictures I've made the last year have been close-ups, portraits.  This time I thought I might take a step back and see some more of the surroundings.

More of these pictures will be coming on-line every day at the Best of 15,000 Buddhas gallery on my website ""  In the next little while I'll show you the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the Abhayagiri Monastery and Wavy Gravy's wonderful shrine.  Stay tuned.

Holy Transfiguration MonasteryHoly Transfiguration Monastery

Perhaps the most unusual place I've been lately was the Holy Transfiguration Monastery not far from Ukiah, CA.  Far up a two lane road and then a little further up a winding driveway you come to what seems to be an eighteenth century Eastern European church.  It's made all of wood with spires and onion domes and inside there are beautifully painted icons.  This one sits up high at the front of the church waiting for me in the dark.  I was happy making pictures here.

Grace Bible FellowshipGrace Bible Fellowship

Down at the bottom of the road that leads up to the monastery sits this simple country church.  I didn't go inside and there was no one around so I parked my car by the side of the road and found the right place to make this picture.  It happened to be in the middle of the road but there wasn't much traffic:)

TIOH - the light as Shabbos comesTIOH - the light as Shabbos comes

Mostly you don't ever see the way the natural light glows in sanctuaries when the artificial lights are turned off - and that's a shame.  One of my favorite things to do is to sit in these large rooms as the sun sets and watch the light as it softens and colors and finally fades.  This is the sanctuary at Temple Israel of Hollywood on a Friday evening recently.  Shabbos services were going on in the courtyard outside and I could hear the people singing as I made my pictures.  What a treat!

Mormon ward house spire, Salt Lake CityMormon ward house spire, Salt Lake City

A Mormon church spire rises above a neighborhood in Salt Lake.  It's not easy to shoot Mormon icons and symbols.  Unless you are a believer you can't get into the meeting houses let alone the tabernacle.  I shot at the visitors center and drove through the neighborhoods looking for the spires that mark the meeting houses and wards.  There were many to see and to shoot.

Hare Krishna Temple - Los Angeles - Snana Yatra FestivalHare Krishna Temple - Los Angeles - Snana Yatra Festival

Finally, a Hare Krishna festival at the temple on Venice Boulevard.  I had gone there to see their museum but it was closed.  Instead, hundreds of people were gathered for a festival.  I was welcomed and told I could make all the pictures I wanted so I took my shoes off, entered the temple and spent the next hour shooting this joyous celebration.  Not at all what I had expected but a different pleasure indeed.




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[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) . Hare Krishna Temple Holy Transfiguration Monastery Los Angeles Salt Lake City Snana Yatra Festival Temple Israel Ukiah Ukrainian Church Wed, 09 Sep 2015 16:10:07 GMT
How Many Words Did You Say? I've been thinking about an old saying I'm sure you know, "A picture is worth a thousand words".  First uttered by newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane in 1911 the phrase quickly became a kind of unexamined standard for the amount of information an image and particularly a photographic image carried.  Now why do I say photographic?  Because I think the biggest difference between a photo and a painting is that most photos carry a mixture of wanted and unwanted information while painters, starting with a blank canvas, put in only what they feel is important.  So the "words" a painting generates are all about intentional content while the "words" a photograph generates are often blurred by the total "reality" the camera sees.

Gallery, NY - not much to get in the way of reading this

The problem is well expressed by the great perceptual voyagers Simon and Garfunkel who said. "All I that a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest..."  Looking at one of our own pictures it’s too easy to see what we felt at the moment we made it...not what the camera captured.  It's too easy for us to tune out the distracting background, zoom into the faces of the ones we love, ignore the colors or the light and in a hundred ways not see the things that keep others from connecting to the pictures as strongly as we do.  I fight that as best I can.

What's Wurst than this picture? (sorry)

Maybe this one...

Many experienced photographers have a check list they have developed over the years to guide themselves as they make a picture - "where's the light coming from, what's at the sides of the picture, the top, the bottom, what's bright, what's dark, how big is the thing I'm interested in in the frame...", the list goes on and on and if you shoot all the time those questions become second nature.

Better yet, sometimes everything works and you know without thinking that all the elements of the picture have come together in a glorious whole - a picture worth a thousand words.  On the days when that doesn't happen the experienced photographer will add and subtract using every tool they have to make a picture that's less than perfect but more than average, maybe one that's worth five hundred words.

A railroad siding on the road from Krakow to Warsaw.  A chance to test a texture screen process I'm interested in

These pictures fall into that category.  Not stunners where everything is perfect and the moment of a lifetime is captured but rather good pictures with small meanings that perhaps can say "I was here, I saw that, here's what was revealed to me, I want to remember this".  Kind of a photographer’s version of a writer’s notebook, not the whole story but rather scraps and pieces that may be useful someday, seems ok to meJ

[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) NY galleries Wurst art intention photographers notebook photography railroad trains Fri, 21 Aug 2015 17:46:18 GMT
I don't want pictures filled with photography... I don't want pictures filled with photography, I want pictures with some...mystery.  With enough experience we can almost always make a good picture, a nice representation of a beautiful or evocative thing.  Much rarer is a picture filled with something more, some indefinable thing, a mysterious spirit we can not command but which calls to many who see it.  I don't know how to call for that at will and I don't think anyone else does either.  At best I can sometimes put myself in the proper spirit to receive it and when I do...sometimes it comes.

This week I've been working on pictures of a Buddha that sits in the hallway of my house.  The hallway is quiet, a place that ties the dining room to the breakfast room.  There is a stairway that leads upstairs.  No light of its own, only the light that filters through from the other rooms.

Hallway BuddhaHallway Buddha

In this space the Buddha stands.  He's carved from wood and not too big, dark and smooth with a patina of age.  Most people never notice him.  I bought him at a flea market a few months ago.  Something about it spoke of the person who had made it, maybe their intention.  In any case I brought him home and moved him from place to place until finally I tried him in the hallway - and then he was happy, or maybe it was me.

Hallway BuddhaHallway Buddha

This week I spent some time trying to capture the spirit of my new Buddha.  I moved him out into the dining room to have enough room to work and turned him and moved him until the light was nice.  I shot with an old lens, a manual focus macro.  When you make pictures this small the tiniest movement is magnified.  An inch becomes the difference between mouth and forehead and each turn of the subject or adjustment of the camera is hugely magnified.  Working this way is a wonderful exercise in patience and very calming to me.

Hallway BuddhaHallway Buddha I made pictures for an hour or two; hands, feet, face, the shape, always looking for one that would sum up the whole.

The viewfinder is a tiny window, often too dark and small for me to see through clearly so sometimes I just go by feel, letting impression guide me along the way until the work feels done.  These pictures were made that way, just feeling my way along.

I have a favorite of course.  I always do even if looking back later I change my mind.  For now, the middle one expresses best the feeling I had when I first connected to him.  Not completely maybe but a piece of the thing that connects us, the mystery between us.  



[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Buddha icon sacred Thu, 20 Aug 2015 16:32:11 GMT
A few pictures from last week I've been busy preparing a revised version of 15000 Buddhas for the website so there wasn't much shooting this week.  I did go to the Hsi Lai Buddhist monastery Saturday and made a few pictures while I was there.  Hsi Lai is filled with beautiful icons which I hope to be shooting soon but for now I only made a few exploratory pictures.

Hsi Lai Buddhist TempleHsi Lai Buddhist Temple

A wonderful Buddha out on the terrace

Hsi Lai Buddhist TempleHsi Lai Buddhist Temple

A large and fierce icon made from what must have been a very large tree trunk.  I thought of him as a guardian of concentration, my concentration I hope.

Hsi Lai Buddhist TempleHsi Lai Buddhist Temple A beautiful and serene face to smile on the week

Late afternoon Sunday, deep in the dusky hour. One of the many feral cats that enjoy our backyard pauses and regards me for a moment.

The last gasp of daylight, flat and dim.  With film cameras I would have quit an hour ago and waited for real night to fall.  Now there is a way to make pictures at any hour.



[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Mon, 29 Jun 2015 05:49:26 GMT
More pictures that asked to be made A few more pictures, ones I made recently while working on the 15000 Buddhas project.  I like making these casuals while I'm working on the big project "just because".

First this one from the New Whitney.  It's hard to get back far enough to make wide pictures with a natural foreground/background relationship but the Whitney offers some spaces where you can stand back and shoot with a 70mm lens...stitched of course.

​Coming out of the Whitney there was a man with a table full of masks.  The afternoon sun was warm and inviting and he had nodded off.  I was more than a little envious...


Up on the High Line looking down I saw a little photo shoot going on.  The line between cast and crew has become non-existant.

_DSC7620-1920@72_DSC7620-1920@72 Then right from the High Line to the NY subway.  A very young couple sleeping as we rolled under the streets.  I didn't know their story of course but they could have been homeless or exhausted or...whatever.  Regardless, she slept in his arms and he slept folded over her to protect her.  I thought they were beautiful.

Back home and out in the backyard.  All the new plants are filling in and the yard grows more beautiful all the time.

The light is subtle in the late afternoon Little bits of sunlight make their way in and illuminate the flowers for a few last minutes.



[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Mon, 22 Jun 2015 16:14:43 GMT
Maybe I ought to do a blog...  

 I keep finding pictures I have to make that don't fit into the projects I'm doing.  A month ago D and I were in NY and while there we went to the New Whitney.  The current installation is great and while we were there dancers suddenly appeared.  How could I resist? New Whitney, dancers performing in the galleriesNew Whitney, dancers performing in the galleries New Whitney, dancers performing in the galleriesNew Whitney, dancers performing in the galleries New Whitney, dancers performing in the galleriesNew Whitney, dancers performing in the galleries New Whitney, dancers performing in the galleriesNew Whitney, dancers performing in the galleries New Whitney, dancers performing in the galleriesNew Whitney, dancers performing in the galleries Storm King is one of my favorite places.  Big open spaces and wonderful sculptures.  The only way not to make pictures is not to bring a camera and you still see the pictures anyway so might as well bring the camera along:) Storm KingStorm King Storm KingStorm King Storm King, Darcy and Andy enjoying the sculpturesStorm King, Darcy and Andy enjoying the sculpturesHmmm, do you think we can fit one of these in our yard? Storm King, Darcy and Andy enjoying the sculpturesStorm King, Darcy and Andy enjoying the sculpturesHmmm, do you think we can fit one of these in our yard? It's great to visit galleries in NY.  Many of the galleries there are on the upper floors of the buildings.  Walking between two galleries I looked outside a hallway window and saw this.

window in a gallery building in NYwindow in a gallery building in NY

[email protected] (Andy Romanoff) Mon, 15 Jun 2015 21:40:11 GMT