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Major Bill Smith USMC/RET., of San Clemente and a vetran of Iwo Jima and Guam, lends words of support and experience for Marine Corp recruits at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente at their last civilian meal before entering boot camp on Monday evening.  Steven Villegas, 19, of Whittier(left, foreground) looks on. Every Monday at noontime the United States Marine Corp calls the Denny’s in San Clemente and asks to speak with Guillermo Santos.  Santos will answer simply and wait to hear the number; the number of plates to set for the weekly busload of Marine recruits on their way to the San Diego Marine Recruit Training Center that will be eating their last civilian meal for 13 weeks.

 

…Most of the time its 20 or 30 guys…sometimes its just 12 or 15…and in the summer it can be as many as 45…”

 Former Navy Radioman and Pearl Harbor survivor, Pete Limon, of San Juan Capistrano, shares his experiences during WW2 while waiting to address Marine Recruits at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico for their last civilian meal on Monday evening.

Every week the recruits file in and every week Major Bill Smith USMC/Ret. is there ahead of time, in the same booth, with his friend, Pete Limon, Navy radioman and Pearl Harbor survivor.  They sit in the back, on the way to the bathrooms, passing the time talking about the old days and their investments. 

 

They don’t talk too much about the recruits during this time; they were recruits themselves once and their feelings are too intimate and common between the two men; anything to say has been said as they watch together, their own newer shadows stepping off a rented Marine Corp bus in the parking lot beside them.

 

 

 

 

 Tall, short, shaggy and trim, these young men, the new believers, disembark from the bus that will shortly deliver them to a tight jawed, stubborn, un-bending drill instructor.  This day there are 23 volunteers that file in for a choice of steak and shrimp, hamburger and fries, salad bar or pasta with marinara sauce.  They will taste for the last time Coca-Cola and eat without hurry and without a screaming Marine Corp Sergeant counting off the minutes they are allowed to consume their meal. 

 

Brad Napier, 18 of Lompoc and Johnny Carillo, 19, of Mission Viejo are Marine Corp recruits lining up for their last civilian meal at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente on Monday evening.Heads bowed and with little to say, they lean into their plates, the first light of the reality that will be their lives for the next 4 years has begun to stretch across a landscape of food made by someone other than their mothers. Smith makes his way to them between the breakfast counter and the tall, thin wood grain laminate privacy partition.

 

 

A dress saber is exchanged for an aluminum walker, its creaks and squeals compete with silverware, plates, pans and spatulas in the kitchen.  The other diners sit a little stiffer and a little quieter as they watch Major Smith pass by; a Marine Major, retired, thin, grey and  wobbly but determined, still calls their attention and respect.  

 

Smith enters the cluster of booths, along with Limon, at the end of the restaurant and begins to speak.  Limon pulls a few photos and documents from an old folder and motions for them to be handed around among the recruits.  At first, most are more concerned about what is on their plates and talking to each other but then, slowly begin to pay attention and listen.  Smith’s words convey support and care for the brotherhood they will soon share when they are Marines in 3 months.  

 

Smith’s words are simple and to the point; he does not share anything about his time in Iwo Jima, Guam and Korea so many years ago.  The recruits that want to understand show it in their eyes and nodding heads.  The rest will know what it means at the end of 13 weeks.

 Guillermo Santos, of Denny\'s, prepares to seat Ramiro Alvarez, 21, of Downey, a Marine Corp recruit, for his last civilian meal at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente on Monday evening.

Limon finishes “their routine” as he calls it with a few words of his own and as everyone in one shot could not hear them, they move to the other side of the booths to repeat it.  The recruits where I sit are a little quieter and more thoughtful; they have been handed another clue and see a little further into the unknown world they have joined. 

 

 

I move from one to another for their names, hometowns and ages for my photo captions.  Strangely familiar, they respond in similar voices of those “Victory at Sea” documentaries I watched as a kid.  Their names come, different and unknown, but their towns sound strong and close.  Lompoc, Santa Clarita, Whittier, Lakewood, Slymar.  These are California towns and cities and I am suddenly more involved than if they had said Pokipsie, Grosse Point, Saint George or Galvaston. 

   

     “Can I get your name?” I ask.

Sure,  it’s {Johnny Carrillo}” he says and spells it so I get it right with the two r’s in his last name.

“Mission Viejo” he responds after I ask him where he is from and then states his age as 19.

I ask him if he went to Mission Viejo High School and what year he graduated.

“I went to Capo Valley” he says and adds “I graduated last year”

“Why did you join the Marine Corp?” I asked.

He began to respond with something he thought better of and stopped, looking up at me from his finished plate of Steak and shrimp.  The shy, gangly grin he shared earlier with his new friends at the table turned instantly to the sure, solid and serious words of a soon to be Marine.
 
 

“For the experience, sir.”

 

 

 

 http://www.ocregister.com/articles/recruits-limon-smith-2066075-san-clemente

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ruaridh (Rory) Stewart (shown at left photographing a car at the recent LA Car show), 37, of Laguna Niguel, knows the business of what makes photos work.  He describes a photo of a Vietcong guerrilla captured by US troops photographed by Philip Jones Griffiths, a Welsh photojournalist from the 60’s and 70’s.

 

“Griffiths set the standard for what makes a news photo…how he shot events, no one had done before, his approach…everything…students of photography should begin with his books and photos, he started it all really…”

 

 

Griffiths published Vietnam INC, and the book had major influence on American perceptions of the war and became a classic of photojournalism with astounding and compelling images.  All qualities that Zuma Press, a full service photo agency based in Dana Point and where Stewart works as News Director, look for when they license photos for magazines like Time, Newsweek and National Geographic. 

 

 

This image conveys the tragedy that is war, there are multiple elements to his images that cause the viewer to really pause and look…”

 

Stewart, born in Perthshire, Scotland in 1971 is tall, lean and serious, but not without a certain kindness in his gaze.  He pauses between points and reflects, seemingly editing his words one last time, just before telling you what he thinks.  It’s his thoughts on photography and how he got started that you realize his greatest trait must be his innate compassion.

 

“I was always taking photos when I was young and while traveling in India over the summer in 1993, I was doing travel photos, I knew it was what I wanted to do, something just clicked …I traveled all over Asia and it was the people…taking pictures of the people….you just have to go for it and make it work and that’s what I did…”

 

Stewart’s work at Zuma Press as News Director is what you might think at first to be the standard faire of deadlines, fact checking and the eenie, meenie, miny, mo of where to send which photo to which publication.  Consider that Stewart deals with over 700 contract photographers from all over the world and in every possible situation at any one time and delivers to hundreds of magazines worldwide; there is no doubt that many of the photos you see in your favorite magazines, he sees first.

 

It wasn’t too long ago that Stewart was looking through the lens and seeing it all first hand.  In 2000 he was selected as Photographer of the Year by the Hong Kong Press for a photo that depicts children praying at an assembly after their Principal has just shared that the Chinese takeover in Hong Kong would no longer allow English to be taught.  Stewart had the opportunity to work for several newspapers and magazines in Asia and traveled extensively on assignments that included sports, politics and earthquakes. 

 

 

“In 1999 I was assigned to cover the aftermath of the earthquake in Taiwan where over 2000 people died…the devastation was impressive….to see people in those conditions was humbling…”

 

Stewart had the unique nuts and bolts experience of literally working through the change from film to digital.  Assigned to cover the fall of  President Suharto of Indonesia in the spring of 1998, he was given a digital camera to take with him along with his equipment for film; that first digital camera cost more than $10,000 dollars and had less than 2 megapixels; soccer moms would scoff at anything less than 6 megapixels today.

 

“We would shoot maybe 5 rolls a day of the rioting and protests and then return to the hotel room to process the film in the bathroom and use the hotel hair dryer to dry the negatives….eventually I ran out of chemical and so I started using the digital camera…the image quality was terrible but it was that immediate result and even more I appreciated the speed”

 

Stewart explains that after returning to the hotel and developing the film it still took hours to edit the photos down to two or three that would get sent out to the paper.  He details the methodic orgy of using the bathroom as a darkroom, developing in the bathtub, drying the negatives on the shower rod with the hair dryer, scanning the negatives into the computer, getting a dependable international phone line, usually splicing the lines himself and then spending 3 hours to download 3 images.  The confusion, chaos and imminent collapse of President Suharto’s regime made for excellent and emotionally charged photos but wasn’t the safest spot to be.

 

“ I was shooting from behind a crowd, towards the government troops…I was getting the rioters throwing rocks when the soldiers began to shoot into the crowd…it all broke loose at that point…there was a wave of people…everyone was scattering, except for me…at one point I looked out over the top of my camera….in front of me just 10 feet away was a soldier…he was franticly trying to pull out his pistol from its holster but he had forgotten the little leather strap that held it in…he kept trying to get it out and then he was working on the strap…it just wouldn’t come…I just stood there watching until a hand from behind pulled me out…an Indonesian photographer I think…I don’t know what would have happened…”

 

Stewart is in the office now mostly and likes it better that way because now he can pick the assignments he wants to do and at the end of the day he goes home to Laguna Niguel, his wife, Sylvia and his little girl, Ailee, 18 months.

 

Stewart has had an ongoing assignment at US military installations photographing, the  Army as they train and prepare for duty in Iraq.  It keeps him close to home, it’s safer and it’s an easier commute but it’s not the only thing that’s easy.

 

 

 

 “When we first got the digital stuff…the image quality was not that good and the batteries were huge and we had to carry extra batteries where ever we went…now the cameras are just phenomenal…the point and shoot cameras that we have today take better pictures than what I had in Indonesia…”

 

Stewart feels that with the quality of digital cameras today, there is no reason why a reasonably skilled photographer couldn’t take a shot where you would be unable to tell if it were color film or not; digital only keeps getting better every day.

 

“There are some great digital cameras out there right now but, you know, I still have all my film cameras…”

 

Stewart knows what he’s doing; he’ll make it work out.

 

Ruaridh Stewart:

http://www.ruaridhstewart.com/

 

Philip Jones Griffiths:

 

http://www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/C.aspx?VP=XSpecific_MAG.PhotographerDetail_VPage&l1=0&pid=2K7O3R149GCO&nm=Philip%20Jones%20Griffiths

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/20/arts/design/20griffiths.html?scp=3&sq=philip%20jone%20griffiths&st=cse

 

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/03/19/arts/20080320_GRIFFITHS_SLIDESHOW_index.html?scp=4&sq=philip%20jone%20griffiths&st=cse

 

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,905816,00.html

 Zuma Reportage:

http://www.zreportage.com/

  

 

 

 

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