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The email I wish I could send James Kang on the fifth anniversary of his passing

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Dude!

I was rummaging around an old hard drive the other day and came upon a bunch of your pictures. That started it all over again.

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JLOPpers taking on Sunset Strip in July 2009. From left: Dolores Gillham, Erik Oginski, Scott Mackie, Bryan Frank. (Photo by James Kang. This and all James Kang photos in the post are used with permission of his family)

I was trying to figure out how your shots ended up on my computer. And then it came back to me. It’s when you were still shooting film – b&w film. After a Justice League of Photographers (JLOP) event, which ordinarily ended in a meal at some hour not terribly long before sunrise and all of the rest of us would review the digital snaps in the LCD screens on the back of our cameras, you’d drop the film at a lab. And then, a week or so later, long after most of us had forgotten our digital photos, you’d pick up your pictures on the way to work.

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Revelers on Sunset Strip in the predawn hours of a Saturday in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

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24290021The crisp b&w’s were on CDs. Your computer in the newsroom didn’t have a CD drive, but mine did. So a couple times, I transferred the pictures on those CDs to my drive and then to a USB thumb drive so you could see what you had.

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Making the scene on Sunset Strip in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

Making the scene on Sunset Strip in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

I’m remembering now, you had really good stuff!

Rap mogul Marion "Sug" Knight with a cigar after a haircut on Sunset Strip in the predawn Saturday hours in July 2009. (Photo by James Kang)

Rap mogul Marion “Sug” Knight with a cigar after a haircut on Sunset Strip in the predawn Saturday hours in July 2009. (Photo by James Kang)

Many people don’t realize that taking photos on film is a lot harder than taking pictures on digital media. Since every film picture costs money for film and processing, you tend to get a lot more careful about pushing the shutter. You only want to pay for the good ones. More precisely, you find it much less expensive to double-check your settings, your exposure, your focus than to just fire away. What you save by adhering rigidly to the fundamentals of photography can then be applied to taking even more pictures.

Film photos, particularly film photos taken on b&w film, have some particular qualities that you don’t see in digital photography. There aren’t a lot of shades of gray on Tri-X Pan (or its Fuji equivalent). At least, the gray tones are less prominent than a digital sensor will capture.

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24360010The photos I turned up on my drive were from about two years before you left us. It sounds impressive when I say one set of them came from a JLOP event. Not everyone realizes that JLOP was really a moniker we needed just to create a Facebook group where we could post the pictures we took. This supposed group of ours had as its motto, “It’s not a club.”

A JLOP “event” really was a bunch of people with cameras looking for new and different places to snap our shutters. Hollywood was a favorite destination because it was active and well-populated after midnight, the hour when we would usually get off work and had the time to roam around looking for good shots. That’s all the organization it had.

Looking over these shots from our night on Sunset Strip, I’m astonished at what great shots you got. I can see from looking at the successions how you “worked” the shots – looked for the right light, waited for the right facial pose, paid attention to the composition.

A good example of "street photography," the art of capturing life as it's being lived. Through the window of Carney's on Sunset Strip, before dawn on a Saturday in July 2009.

A good example of “street photography,” the art of capturing life as it’s being lived. Through the window of Carney’s on Sunset Strip, before dawn on a Saturday in July 2009. (Photo by James Kang)

I told you at the time that these were nice shots. I’ll say it again. You got some great stuff.

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An under-the-stars Shakespeare by the Sea performance in Polliwog Park, Manhattan Beach, in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

An under-the-stars Shakespeare by the Sea performance in Polliwog Park, Manhattan Beach, in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

Another of the CDs on my drive had your pictures of a different event in July 2009 – a Shakespeare performance in the park in Manhattan Beach. It was a lot more confining than the Strip. Yet, your pictures of it are every bit as well composed, as relaxed, as evocative as the street stuff. They have a relaxed quality to them. They tell the story in so many ways of that wonderful evening.

Chris Maxwell, having her picture taken by Bryan Frank, so she could be added to the beFrank online gallery of people who jumped for the camera. Dellis Frank was also photographed that day for inclusion in the gallery. (Photo by James Kang)

Chris Maxwell, having her picture taken by Bryan Frank, so she could be added to the beFrank online gallery of people who jumped for the camera. Dellis Frank, in the background of this picture,  was also photographed that day for inclusion in the gallery. (Photo by James Kang)

 

Paul and Kathy Magers, sandwiching the star of the Shakespeare performance. (Photo by James Kang)

Paul and Kathy Magers, sandwiching the star of the Shakespeare performance. (Photo by James Kang)

 

What's a get-together without a "red-cup picture"?

What’s a get-together without a “red-cup picture”? And no, don’t be deceived by the soft drink. Notice that the packages are sealed. (Photo by James Kang)

 

My daughter Rebecca, whose every creative pursuit James Kang praised and encouraged to the high heavens on social media. (Photo by James Kang)

My daughter Rebecca, whose every creative pursuit James Kang praised and encouraged to the high heavens on social media. (Photo by James Kang)

It’s been five years, James. That’s a lot of shutter-snaps. None of us gets to dictate where our lives start and where they end. But we do get to choose how we make our way through it. I want to thank you again for sharing so much with me and my family as you made your way.

It’s easy to wish there were more time. But there wasn’t. And there isn’t. For any of us. I – and the legions of people whose lives you touched in life and online – thank you for making so much of the time we spent together.

We honor you by remembering.

Previous James Kang posts:

May 29, 2011

May 31, 2011

James Kang photo galleries on Flickr (including digital photos in color he took in 2011):

James Kang Flickr photos

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dellis Frank May 27, 2016, 12:42 pm

    Thank you Paul for doing this. You honor a good friend, a good person and a great photographer.

  • Erik Oginski May 27, 2016, 1:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Paul! I cannot think of a better way to remember James than to look through his photography and relive all of the fun adventures we shared!

  • Leslie Janik May 27, 2016, 1:51 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to a friend that you truly loved.

  • Andrea May 27, 2016, 2:33 pm

    You made me tear up. James was so nice to me. He was always so helpful when I had questions about my camera and was always giving me positive affirmations about my photographs. I miss hanging out with him. Thanks you Paul for writing this nice tribute for James.

  • Chris Maxwell May 27, 2016, 5:59 pm

    This is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful friend. That day 5 years ago is burned in my memory. Thank you so much for posting these great shots, and thanks to Carolina and James’ family for giving their permission. We love you Kanger!!!!

  • bev morse May 27, 2016, 6:45 pm

    blow out.
    paul: no words.

  • David Goldstein May 28, 2016, 7:37 am

    Great story Skol

  • Jesse Cash May 28, 2016, 8:25 am

    Spectacular shots and so eloquently put, Paul. Thanks Skolbrutha for the visceral journey down Memory Kang.