As a young photographer in the 1950s Don spent time at California's amusement parks and beaches. The twirling neon of the rides at the old Long Beach Pike as well as the sideshows and game arcades were favorite sources of material for Don. Along with some unique beach scenes he also did a distinctive series of the competitions, gymnastics, and crowds at the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica. Besides the vintage prints which Don developed in his darkroom, there exists a series of 4x5 negatives which have never been printed.
Adding a sense of mystery to this group is a series of gymnastics, adagio, and volleyball that take place in the dense beach fog. An example of the foggy images can be seen here in the photograph of the three men on a balance board.
**Please click on the last image for a viewing of the YouTube slide presentation on The Original Muscle Beach 1950s.
**To purchase a limited edition print of the Mr. Muscle Beach competition or the Miss Muscle Beach competition please go to: www.musclebeach1950s.photos
YOUTUBE SLIDE PRESENTATION MUSCLE BEACH 1950s
This slide presentation consists of still photographs which Don Jim took at the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica California during the mid 1950s.
Many of the photographs exist only in 4x5 negative form and have never been printed other than for proof sheets, from which these images were taken. Some are taken from original vintage prints available through the Barry Singer Gallery.
A People Alphabet
It was long before Photoshop that Don spent countless hours in the darkroom sandwiching negatives and double printing in order to devise a new composition.
He also spent even more countless hours exploring alleys, streets, and buildings, searching for each letter of the alphabet, singularly presented in a masterful abstract from a piece of torn poster on a wall or fence.
The series of letters alone is a masterpiece of composition in the abstract.
Then Don combined images of people with the photographed letter to represent each of the 26 letters. The result of this work he then titled "A People Alphabet."
This group shows four examples from the entire finished double image alphabet.
Santa Monica California Grainy
Don created high grain images (almost to the point of being abstract) of the beach and it's temporary visitors. These momentary imprints in the sands of time live on through this photographer's unique vision.
This work took place in the mid to late 1950s in Santa Monica, California. The original vintage prints were also done circa late l950s.
Urban Artifax Found Objects
Bullets, can openers, nails, screws and bits of miscellaneous metal take on human and symbolic form in these photographs from Don Jim. During the 1960s and 70s he prowled the streets of Los Angeles, head down, eyes focused on the asphalt, looking for uncommon beauty in everyday, flattened pieces of metal. Much like a zen artist, Don tried to suggest, by the simplest possible means, that there is an inherent aesthetic nature even in the most overlooked and battered of objects.
Over two hundred different images of these found objects exist, both in color and black and white. Over fifty images of nails, alone, exist.
There is a series of black and white vintage prints available as well as 35 mm kodachrome color transparencies from which contemporary prints have been made.
Abstracts in Nature
Don's Asian heritage shines through in much of this series. Nature provided him the perfect means of creating simple, zen-like, abstract compositions.
So much of this photographer's work leaves reality in favor of suggestiveness and abstraction. His photographs often have a painterly and sculptural quality to them.
"Warriors" Abstract Tar Drippings
Asphalt dripping from roof tops inspired this series of images. Again, Don saw figures or symbols in the abstract. In fact, he hunted for these. Finding human or symbolic forms in obscure elements was one of his great delights in life.
Don named this series "Warriors" as his first image looked like a marching soldier, although succeeding drippings took on a more common variety of human acts, such as becoming erect, balancing and drooling.
Sandwiched negatives/double prints
An affinity for the surreal is seen in much of the work from photographer Don Jim.
Technically skilled, Don often sandwiched negatives or double printed to come up with a new, slightly askew, variation of a photographic concept.
With controlled experimentation in combination of images Don created striking photographs long before the advent of Photoshop. The lack of advanced digital photography was much in keeping with his nature. The concept of simplicity has been preserved even as several images are merged.
These images are some samples showing his work not only in color, but his ability to combine color with black and white photographs.
The Female Form Nude
Among a multitude of subject matter was Don's lifelong love of the female form. His compositions ranged from detailed sets done in the studio to outdoor images of the nude in nature.
Don's last significant photographic project was of a series of an opulent female which he shot from above on scaffolding that he built. The figure is beautifully lit and appears to be floating above it's framed crinkled canvas. These images are available to be viewed in print form only upon request.