travel story on Jacumba, CA (pronounced Ha Coomba), a tiny town about 70 Miles East of San Diego and right on the U.S-Mexico Border. It's a funky, weird little enclave which basically consists of a spa hotel (Jacumba Hot Springs Spa) and a clothing optional RV park (De Anza Spa). I didn't know of this from my assignment sheet and was pleasantly surprised as my guide, David Landman, who owns both sites and is the unofficial mayor of the town, drove me into the RV park. As we got out of the car, we headed into the clubhouse where there was an office, pool area, restaurant and activity room. The walls were filled with photos of nudists playing Bingo, swimming, and socializing. Dave went out of his way to show me a photo of a Guinness Book of World Records contest where they were trying to cram the largest number of nudists into a pool. I think they were off by a few but was assured they would keep trying. He then invited me to come out on Memorial Day to participate. I politely declined. I was then whisked into an indoor pool area where there were several folks engaged in a game of nude water volleyball. I can honestly say I've never shot that before. Also, evidently, there is a league where they travel to different RV parks to compete.
I then just walked around the park; there was a bulletin board which posted clothing-optional activities such as hiking, BBQ dinner, Jenga Contest, and several other day and nighttime social gatherings. After shooting for about an hour, Dave took me down to his other property, the Jacumba Hot Springs Spa, which was a bit more tame. There were a few pools and a large Jacuzzi, which had that unmistakable smell of sulfur from the mineral water being pumped into it. There was a friendly bar and restaurant, and everyone seemed to know each other. I walked about a block down into the heart of town which had a small strip of abandoned shops on one side and a Mini-Mart on the other. It felt very desolate.
I would say overall it's an incredibly unpretentious place that is cheap and only an hour from San Diego. You really feel like you've time warped a few decades back. For me it seems like the total embodiment of the West. Come out, be free, soak up the sun, look out over the border into Mexico, and admire the strange rock formations and endless skies.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Monday, February 23, 2015
I went down to the Mexico side over the weekend to get photos of a non-denominational Mass that is held every weekend on both sides of the border fence. There were folks enjoying the outdoors and eating at the numerous Mariscos restaurants along the beachfront. Then, as you look north, it all stops as you hit the border. As I approached, there were a handful of worshipers, along with dozens of families, lined up along the wall visiting their relatives on the U.S. side. It all seemed pretty normal, grandma on one side remarking to her grandson how tall he had gotten, recent family photos being shown, news from back home, granddaughter’s new shoes, etc... All that until the tears started rolling, from relatives on both sides, and you realize these families are separated by this physical barrier. This keeps them from touching, hugging, coming over for dinner, seeing their grandkid's first steps, spending holidays together and all those special moments in life that you can't get from a phone conversation, letter or email. The stories from some of these folks are amazing and harrowing on why they decided to head North to the U.S., but the part of the difficulty is leaving their families, and culture behind.
The other group of folks were involved in the Mass, which took place on both sides of the fence. It had many of the normal rituals of a mass--a sermon, confession, singing, praying--except you were looking at a large metal, mesh fence with silhouettes of worshipers on the other side as opposed to an altar. It seemed to be tailored towards the hardships that many deportees face, as well as bringing peoples and cultures together. It was a really cool experience.
As I was walking back to my car, I noticed a group of kids playing soccer next to the wall and it just got me thinking how normal this was to them and how utterly strange (it is to me) to have your whole world end at this barrier a few feet away.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
I wanted to stay away from the normal slick, over lit style portraits and go au natural. I think one benefit was going with minimal gear, just a camera, a few lenses, and a reflector. I also planned late in the day so the light would add a bit of mood. This allowed me to be more mobile and get photos that were spontaneous and energetic. There are so many times when the best shots come in between set up situations. In fact, I usually do the "say Cheese" photos anticipating that the usable shots will be captured after those are over when the subject lets their guard down.