When you think of the West Coast photo scene, you may think of a who’s-who list of name photographers, but on September 16, 2011 I met true photographic royalty.
Say, “Hello,” to two incredibly hard-working people: Silvino and his sister Andrea. For years Silvino’s name has been synonymous with quality flash equipment repair. Never met the man before that day, so to set up the story, I have written a little fairy tale.
Once upon a time there was a photographer. His light was spectacular (please forgive the self-glory, just makes a better story), but his equipment had a hiccup. One flash, two flash, three flash, none… a repeating moment that was becoming very familiar to him as his patience wore thin. A little tape here, a rap of a hand there, but no matter how hard he tried, he would experience over and over again: one flash, two flash, three flash, none. Day-after-day turned into week-after-week, and as the months slowly passed his trouble only grew. One flash, two flash, three flash, NONE! Total darkness finally fell upon him, so off to Silvino’s he went.
I called to schedule a drop. Answering the phone was Silvino’s sister, Andrea. We chatted the usual tech stuff and my gut told me to ask her if she would be interested in being photographed for my blog project. She promised me 5 minutes and 45 minute later I found myself at Silvino’s West Hollywood shop.
I arrived and was welcomed to a very busy family-run business. First receiving a warm nod from Silvino, seated at a tech counter in the back corner he quietly worked. The place was part photo store / part museum / part nutty professor laboratory as looking around were countless flash units of every brand and year. There was a buzz of activity. Another technician, Hortencia, Silvino’s stepsister, sat to the front of the shop as, still taking the place in, I watched her work on the delicate wiring a flash head. Walking in from another room Andrea pleasantly steped up and with a warm smile she broke the silence as she greeted me.
We discussed the problem with my equipment. Business done, we started to chat on a more casual level, sharing stories about life, our children (turns out we both had 8-year-old daughters) and her 17 years of working with her brother.
Silvino’s ears perked up, leading to my inviting him to join our conversation and if he would be in our photograph. He humbly agreed, but stated, “I never let people photograph me.” I felt privileged, seeing it as an honor to photograph someone whose work I truly respected.
We chatted and as the conversation turned away from business to more poignant topics, we shared our pasts, family values, and our LA histories. I was deeply smitten by Silvino and Andrea’s blend of laughter and powerful determination to work ethical and focus on family. In doing so, my testimony of the importance of family and our responsibilities as parents was strengthened. An experience that forced me to willingly reflect upon the many hard-working families I knew. Et all, challenging me, and I hope you, to more fully open ourselves to knowing our communities; for all around us are amazing and unique people to learn from, many of whom are living in the shadows.
There is something very timely as I re-publish this story the day before the Oscars. A realization that, as found in the beginning of this project, is reemerging through the new face of Sidewalk Ghosts. Frankly, that the day before our nation glues their eyes to the TV to watch a broadcast of awards to the known and famous, it serves as an important and palpable reminder to look beyond the spotlight of celebrity or popularity when assessing the worth and contribution of another person.
My opinion. It is people like Silvono, Andrea, and Hortencia, who are real the Kings and Queens of Hollywood, and my life is all the better to have met them.
Talk tomorrow my good friends
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