Vonn Scott Bair, Danger Photographer!

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Good Evening:

Welcome to another exciting episode of “Vonn Scott Bair, Danger Photographer!”

Well, what can I say; amateur photographers are suckers for dark and mysterious places illuminated by only one or two stark overhead lights. So when I was wandering through the Mission District late at night, and walked passed a small parking lot near Guerrero Street, naturally I would be a sucker for the deep shadows that filled the lot except for the metal stairs. A single floodlight at the bottom of the stairs illuminated the first few steps, plus the metal double doors at ground level. A second floodlight illuminated the top of the stairs and the double metal doors to which they led.

Classic film noir scene, except it was better than the movies.

There was nothing in the parking lot except for an old three-ton truck with the back doors wide open, so I figured there was no harm in taking a few pictures. I walked into the lot, framed my shot of the stairs, and starting snapping shots.

“Whuh you doon?”

I had no idea where this came from–it just seemed to float on the air.

“I sai’, whuh you doon?”

The truck was talking to me.

I looked into the jet blackness of the truck’s cargo hold and for the first time spotted a tiny orange dot in the darkness. The dot grew brighter and larger for a few seconds, then faded back to its original size and brightness. A few seconds later, a puff of smoke billowed into the light.

“Fo’ duh las’ time, whuh you doon?”

“Uh, I’m a photographer.”

The dot said, “I can see duh camera.”

“I’m taking pictures of the stairs.”

“Pitchers uh duh stairs.”

The dot grew brighter and larger for a few seconds, then faded back to its original size and brightness. A few seconds later, a puff of smoke billowed into the light.

“Why you doon ‘at?”

“Because it’s, um, art.”

The dot grew brighter and larger for a few seconds, then faded back to its original size and brightness. About five seconds later, a puff of smoke billowed into the light, followed by a short dry cough.

“You lyin’ a’ me?”

“No, not at all. Look at the stairs, the metal contrasting with the brick wall behind it, and the very shape of the stairway itself, plus the doors at both the base and top, and the chiaroscuro of light and shadow caused by the floodlights is really beautiful. This is really am impressive and artistic scene.”

“Key-R-what?”

“Chiaroscuro. It’s an Italian word for the interplay of light and shadow.”

The dot grew brighter and larger for a few seconds, then faded back to its original size and brightness. A few seconds later, a puff of smoke billowed into the light.

“An’ you think that stairs is a work of art?”

“Yes I do. It looks like a scene from those black and white detective movies from the Thirties.”

The dot grew brighter and larger for a few seconds, then faded back to its original size and brightness. About five seconds later, a puff of smoke billowed into the light, followed by a short dry cough.

“You so craz’ you migh’ be tellin’ duh troot.”

“So it’s OK if I take some pic-”

“No.”

“OK, so I’jll just leave now.”

“Now tha’ a good idea.”

“And I’ll just get rid of the pictures I’ve already taken.”

“Tha’ ‘nuther good idea.”

“And I won’t come back.”

“You gettin’ smar’er alla time,” said the dot.

“Have a good night.”

The dot grew brighter and larger for a few seconds, then faded back to its original size and brightness. A few seconds later, a puff of smoke billowed into the light.

“You be careful, man. This ain’t a good neighborhood.”

And thus the truck with the tiny orange dot in the back and I parted.

Tune in next week for another exciting episode of “Vonn Scott Bair, Danger Photographer!”

Yours in the Everlasting Pursuit of Great Chiaroscuro, I Remain,

Yours Truly,

Vonn Scott Bair

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10 responses »

      • Perhaps the right place at the right time… but many people are in the right place and the right time… but they never notice it! So methinks your eyes have something in particular to do with it :-).

      • Probably not, but one never knows. They do have a reputation for sudden violence if you piss them off.

        But if they seem friendly and you offer prints or emailing copies of the photos they may.

        My first interaction with a yakuza was a rather drunk one who politely helped me and friends find the local police koban one evening when we were lost. Other than that I avoid them. Well I did take pictures of the HQ of one of the gangs, but I did so carefully.

  1. The yakuza have a tradition of not messing with ordinary people unless they are messed with first or money is involved. Violating this tradition was a factor in the Goto Gumi being expelled from the Yamaguchi Gumi a few years ago.

    As for visiting Japan I can give you advice on how to do Tokyo on the cheap. The *total cost* of my vacation last October was under $2,800 for three weeks.

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