I fell in love with Laguna Beach the moment I first stepped foot there back in the early days of 1983. I had just moved to California from Italy where I'd been studying music and teaching piano lessons. When I found myself more interested in taking pictures than I was in making music I moved to Hollywood where I hung out a shingle and started calling myself a photographer.
Somebody told me about an art school in Laguna Beach where I could learn more about Cibachrome, a printing process I was interested in learning. I decided to check it out and drove my old Chevy pickup down from Hollywood into Orange County where I passed through endless stretches of orange groves before getting off the freeway at Laguna Canyon Road.
The minute I started winding my way into the canyon I knew something was different. The alternating smells of sage and orange blossoms were intoxicating and the further I drove the more I could feel the ocean air beginning to take me over. I saw the school on my right but had to keep going until I got to the ocean - it was calling me like a siren song.
That first day in Laguna Beach was like discovering a treasure that I didn't even know existed. It was love at first sight and like countless people before me I was completely swept away by its magic. For years I would take my camera with me and photograph the surfers, artists, tourists and gay boys there who all claimed a piece of Laguna as their own. It was an amazing adventure every time I visited and in time Laguna began to feel like my home even though I wasn't living there.
I left California for a few years and when I returned in the fall of 1999 I made a beeline for Laguna Beach. Though some of it remained the same, a lot had changed. The new toll road had made getting there easier so tourists were more abundant than ever. With commute times shortened because of the improved access, those with money from all over Southern Callifornia had begun buying up the homes, driving prices into the stratosphere and pushing out a lot of the less affluent types who gave Laguna Beach its unique and colorful texture. The appearance of a Banana Republic in Laguna's downtown shopping area made it clear to me that things were probably never going to be the same.
My love affair with Laguna has continued undaunted though and today instead of just photographing the town and its people, I write about them too. It's all very personal of course and not meant to be a travelogue for a Chamber of Commerce brochure. I live about twelve minutes from Laguna and usually on Sunday mornings go there for breakfast at the Heidelberg Cafe`, a walk on the beach and some shopping. By late afternoon I'm home sitting at my computer and writing about the morning's adventures.
These essays are really more love letters about my affair with Laguna than anything else. I send them on to friends via email as a way of staying in touch and to share what's going on in my life. I've been a photographer for more than thirty years now and a writer since I was a little boy - so my pictures and stories are the easiest way I can think of to share this Pacific gem with you.
From the water's edge...