Color Me Gobsmacked

I was down at my usual hangout, the Mare Island Preserve this afternoon. Myrna stopped to ask me if my dad’s name was Milton, and did I know a photographer named Bob Seidemann?

Tiny bells chimed, far off in the distance, and other conversations beckoned… but not much later, Bob’s partner, Belinda Bryant, introduced herself. “Bob worked for your dad, for about a week. Says he was an ass.” “My dad sure could be,” I said. “No, Bob says it was him.”

We chatted a bit about her career as a makeup instructor and artist, including ten years of Star Trek credits. I said I’d love to hire her, but doubted I could afford her, or that she’d be interested in creating flawless skin: “I’d rather get it right in the camera,” I said. “Bob’s like that, too.”

Not long after that, up strolls a guy with short, striking white hair and white glasses. We introduce ourselves, and we go over the “ass of the week” discussion. And then he hands me two business cards. One shows a series of airplanes – ordinarily enough to grab all my interest, and they would have if it hadn’t been for the second card.

Blind Faith

That image shocked, scandalized, titillated, and overawed me when the album came out. (It’s one of a very few pieces of vinyl I still own, as much for the music as the image. Almost! I rarely listen to music these days, but I look at that album every time I flip the stack.) I wish I’d taken it, or something half as good back then, but never had that kind of courage, and only recently the skill, if I have it at all. And certainly not the self control — I think I was 17 at the time the album came out, and it would be another year or two before I put down the guitar and took up the camera, thinking I might be able to follow in someone like Bob Siedemann’s gelatin-prints.

Those gelatin-prints were much larger than Blind Faithsuggested to me at first sight of the card. When I got home, I hit the Google.

Dayum! Everybody knew those images. Rolling Stone was a free paper, the posters were everywhere and Bob’s work was very, very visible.

I jammed with the Dead, carried pianos with Janis’s roadies, hung out with parts of Quicksilver, irritated the luthier with Jefferson Starship and even got a couple of good shots of a couple of guys who later became Journey. (To be rigorously honest, I got a lot of good shots of them, but I didn’t know how to push process Tri-X. Given Hal’s association with Ansel and his contributions to the Zone System, you’d think I’d know this stuff. Theoretically doesn’t count.)

If our timing had been a bit different, that “following in Bob’s gelatin-prints” could have been literal, maybe? Probably not — I’m just a hack, and I was even more of a hack back then, standing On The Shutters Of Giants.

It looks like he has some prints of Blind Faith for sale. I might maybe ought to buy one if I can, and see if I can find the right model to hire Belinda for.

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