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Chasing the Lit Mag Photo Essay, 7

Working with NYC street photographer Donato DiCamillo, San Antonio, Texas, January 2018.

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March 4, 2018
 
 

I had shown Donato the iconic cover of Henry Miller’s Air Conditioned Nightmare, a shanty dwarfed by a skyscraper, to illustrate Matt’s idea of disparity. Donato thought there might be an equivalent shot with trailers in the foreground and mansions behind, with the stone wall separating them. He tried to climb the Dominion wall near Kristy’s trailer to scout it but couldn’t get a purchase, so he tried climbing me. He decided the shot was impossible due to all the trees in the compound.

Our topic had shifted, but we still held out hope for empathy with all sides, so we backtracked a mile and drove into The Dominion. Older men in immaculate whites were driving off a range the color of Glendalough. The entrance to the housing area was farther on. As we came even with the golfers, someone in our car in high spirits rolled down his window and shouted lines from a comedy routine that suggested we were not Dominion’s sort. Matt turned the car around at the country club and drove straight back out.

There were many talents and competencies represented in the car. Before this last year it had been decades since I worked with a group of people I would trust with my life. But we really could have used somebody who knew how to talk to the rich.

***

That night Matt would take us to a garage where friends built custom choppers. I told Donato I thought it was an industrial Quonset with big machining tools, used by guys who worked there after the shop closed for the day, which would offer better lighting, props, and a space to shoot subjects individually.

It was actually a converted two-car garage in the home of Matt’s friend Forrest, a young high-school history teacher in east San Antonio. As we pulled up, Matt said it was the sort of nice neighborhood where, in order to keep it that way, police would fuck you up if you parked in the wrong place at the curb. Forrest’s tidy workshop seemed to have every necessary tool and was outfitted for welding, grinding, machining, and even minor blacksmithing. Clients commissioned him to build the frames.

We watched Forrest work as he smoked one of his pipes; there was music and good talk. Matt spoke with him so easily I was surprised to learn he’d known him only a month.

​Nic, who introduced Matt to Forrest, joined us later, pulling up to the garage on a bike he built himself. Like Forrest, he’s unaffiliated with a club but loves to ride. At the time of the shoot he worked as a bicycle mechanic but has since quit to build his own motorcycle frames too.

Later, Phil and Jason from the Blue Collar Bastards MC showed up, and things went late—or so I heard. Tired from travel and long days, Donato, Dustin, and I stopped, at Matt’s urging, at Whataburger for chorizo burgers and were already in our second sleep.

 

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