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Independence Day Parade

by Paynal Ward, text and photos

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For this series on the parade, I wanted to pick up the feel of the solemness of the event. I decided to use black and white with a high contrast to create the darker feel.

This decision was influenced by one of the great photojournalists. Donald McCollum mostly covered the horror of war, and human nature in these desperate situations. His photos are dark, contrasty, very close and intense.

McCollum's style (Hearts of Darkness, book) has influenced my work, in that I get close and try to pull the human aspect out of the image. Look closely at the faces in these images. Look at the expressions. They tell something. I always try to incorporate people in my pics. That was the goal at the parade. I'm quite pleased with how it came out.

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I have been shooting for more than 45 years. I started on my high school newspaper, and I was hooked. In college, I interned in the public information office covering school activities. There I learned how to make the everyday interesting.

I studied the work of many great photojournalists. Those who covered Vietnam were a great influence on me: they were incredibly brave. In those days, if you had a press pass, you could hitch a ride on a truck or even sometimes a helicopter to the area of combat. I can't imagine doing that myself. But the rules for press coverage were changing anyway.

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In the late 80s I became a ghost photographer for another photographer covering the music industry. We had identical hair, so I could double for him at concerts. I never retained ownership of my negatives. They would go out FedEx "Next Day" to the magazines that needed them. I never even saw what I shot. But those negatives would become valuable, as there were many young acts before they were famous.

Later in life, having kids, I had to get a real job and dropped shooting for years. I was losing my creative motivation at that time from too many years shooting in a city that looked almost entirely like it was staged, scene-complete with actors. L.A. just burns you out. Ten years ago, I learned about digital and decided to get moving again. I'm now retired, and very inspired by what is going on in digital arts and photography. I love loving traveling to new places and getting a fresh eye on things.

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I'm a co-administrator for a Facebook page that is now up to 2,600 followers. The page has given me a certain celebrity, as when I'm shooting, people come up to ask if I'm that Fat Bastard Art Walk photographer. They tell me that they follow my work here and love it.

Mostly, I shoot local artists in an effort to promote their work. We try to get people out of el Centro to see the amazing murals that have been and are being created. This town is over-brimming with talent.

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Mexico has given me so much. I have grown as a photographer here. One of my goals is to work with other photographers and create a website showing the true people of Mexico to counter the constant bad narco press the country gets. I want to show the kindness, humility, happiness and joy that I see in the everyday people here. Those are my true inspirations here.

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Fat Bastard Art Walks

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Paynal Ward, a retired photographer is 64 years old. He grew up on the beaches of So Cal. He came to SMA July 2021 and plans to stay.

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