So what I’m saying is, I usually stumble on them… they find me.
But the key is, I talk to a lot of people who say, “I’ve got this project that I’m working on, but I just can’t get motivated,” and I think “Well, you’ve got the wrong one then, pal!” The right one is the one where you get out of work early so you can go out and shoot it, not the one where you’ve got to force yourself.
MG: How large do you usually print? Are you limited by the 35mm format?
Cole: I have about 3 sizes that I usually, print, an 8×12 a 10×15, and whatever that is [perhaps 20×30]. I pre-cut mats, have them computerized cut, and then I’m ready for whatever is needed. My images tend not to be about sharpness, so going with a larger format would be a waste. Often I’m doing long exposures, with multiple filters, the image is being degraded just because of that.
There’s no part of that image [pointing at an even larger print of The Angel Gabriel] that’s about sharpness. That’s a crowded pier… it’s as crowded as Disneyland on a busy day, but because it’s a 30 [second exposure], you can see only a few people, and only just enough to register, and i think that people fall in love with the story of that image as much as the image itself.
This came up recently because someone was criticizing digital because there’s no variation in the print: if you print one, you can print a thousand and they’re all identical. I was explaining that that’s not necessarily true. There used to be an Ansel Adams exhibit of Moonrise over Hernandez and how over the years it changed because his interpretation of it changed. If you look at The Angel Gabriel, this image has changed over the years a great deal… it’s gotten darker and more vignetted, so this concept that digital removes any artistic element because they’re all simple machined reproductions… it’s not so.
I always go back and look for him. Never seen him, never met him since.
He was a homeless guy. I had shot the pier without anyone standing there, and it was just kinda empty, so I was looking for someone. I saw him… he was reaching into a trashcan and pulled out these french fries, he was eating these fries out of the trash can, and so I traded him. I said, if he’d stand in for me, I’d buy him lunch. So we shot a couple, and he said that he wanted to do one, and his concept was that he got his Bible, he wanted to hold his Bible, and that was the shot that we used.
Then afterwards… this was at the Newport Beach Pier in CA, there were these nice restaurants at the end, I’d say 3 or 4 star places, so we go into one, and they’re looking at him… he’s barefoot, he’s dirty, and they’re looking at me thinking, what’s this? So we sat down and I ordered lunch, and I said “Gabriel, order anything you want.” And he ordered a steak with mushrooms and onions, and they bring it out, and he picks it up in his hands and eats it.
So it turns out that he was Romanian and I’m Romanian, so we talked about that and at the end I said, he had told me that his father lived there in LA, I said, “Gabriel, give me your Dad’s address, and if I sell any of these, I’ll send some of the money to you.” He said, no.. send it to someone who can really use it, I’ve got everything I need” and he walked off with his Bible and his bedroll, and that was it. Never seen him since.