Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Daniel Dobbs Part 2

I finally had the chance to shoot Fire Inspector, Daniel Dobbs’ second portrait.  I had been anticipating how much fun that would be, because in the course of getting to know Daniel it was evident that he would give me 100 percent no matter what, plus, there was going to be fire! So some planning and permission asking had to happen. We had to also plan around Daniel’s athletic and work endeavors, which included two marathons, one in Japan and the other the LA marathon. This took some time. 
My guardian angel with all things City related, Christine Byers, who works as the Public Art & Historic Preservation Coordinator in Culver City, paved the way for me to get permission, thus we were allowed to shoot at the Culver City fire training facility. So, I took Christine with me to scout the location. At first, the compound looked like a giant, empty concrete yard, except for the crushed car turned upside down, the burned three-story building, several fire trucks and various firefighting contraptions, plus rows of hoses neatly stacked against a wall. We knew right away this was a serious place for serious business. I wiped out my iphone right away and started snapping. 
 (Scout pics of the compound)

This is one of the buildings, which is set ablaze to train future fireman. When I stuck my head in the door, the smell of smoke was all consuming. Simply put, they torch the building and then send in the guys. Daunting? Yes.  The interior is charred because of the many fire drills, I noticed this had created an amazing, graphic, carbonized effect on the walls.  I knew it would make a truly  interesting texture and pattern

( Portrait inside the building with Daniel)

We all know that twelve-year old boys want to be firemen, but it takes a certain kind of personality to want to make this dream come true. Daniel summed it up succinctly, (reminded me why I, too, love these guys). “You have to put yourself second.” It’s as simple, and as complicated as that.  And, I suppose, living in the backdrop of LA, where self-absorption is often a passport to fame, it made me appreciate even more what these men and women do for a living.
So, onto the other eye candy: The Fire Engines. 
(Daniel on the compound)

No doubt things of absolute beauty. I love how amazingly functional and graphic they are. The clean lines of all the valves and gauges appeal to my personal aesthetic—let it be said, I like Fire Engine Chic.
(Jim Van Cleave)

Up close the Engine is a work of art. And, lucky for me, the very wonderful and informative Jim Van Cleave, the on duty Engineer whose job it is to know manage every single one of those cool looking valves, was standing right in front of us. Both Christine and I pounced. We started peppering him with so many questions he wasn’t sure we were serious. I think he was surprised that we were genuinely interested in how things worked. He walked us around the entire engine, sharing all the minute details of how everything works.  I liked throwing out different scenarios like, “What happens if you get to a location and there’s no water?” Or, “ How to get pool water out of the pool to help with a fire?”  And so on. Of course, he had the answers to everything. It’s all very well thought out and actually quite mathematical.  Finally, we had to let him go when a call came in  and we returned to our scouting business. 
It’s been a real treat getting to know Daniel and some of his colleagues at the Culver City Fire Station. I know he’s going to get a lot of grief from the boys over his swimming pose, but that takes guts. And any time they want to “man up”, I’ll take their picture too! Culver City Fire Fighters Calendar anyone?
(Official finished portrait of Daniel Dobbs)


  1. This is so important! Many of take firemen and the work they do for granted. The "close up and personal" look and comments here make us
    appreciate these men as real people.

    Elaine S

  2. We should all respect and appreciate what these men (and women) go through on a daily basis. They make life-or-death decisions on a regular basis and, as FF Dobbs said, put themselves second. I am grateful for all the Firefighters and what they do for us! Thanks boys!

    And yes, I would certainly buy a calendar with FF Dobbs in it!