Perspective from an image-obsessed ugly duckling before a new year of high expectations.

On my very best day, I’m an L.A. three: not downright hideous, but somewhere on the unsatisfying side of benign and generic-looking—a mashup of Jon Snow and Fred Mertz. I’m quite used to not being noticed, but thoughts of bad old days of Grindr rejections and always being on the outs with card-carrying cool kid crews in high school and art school still sting, no matter how much time goes by. I once worked in a photography agency that I hoped might represent my work when I later struck out on my own. After a long discussion over many drinks…

These times are trying but there is still plenty of cause for hope.

Like most American millennials, I grew up in a family that belonged nominally to one party but that could hardly be described as ideological. Politics were discussed only in broad platitudes: “we’re for the regular people,” “we’re for fairness,” “we’re for honesty.” Back then, these generic mantras could have been repeated just as easily and earnestly by any nominally Republican family as by my nominally Democrat one. It all seems impossibly quaint from our Trump-era perch, but the lines dividing one side from the other were mostly fuzzy and indefinite — directional rather than decisive. …

The faded old motel remains a cornerstone of American culture

Barstow, January 2019. Photos: Tag Christof, unless noted

Cheaters, liars, outlaws, fallen angels
Come looking for the grace from which they fell
So they hold on to each other
In the darkness
Cause the morning light is hell
At the Camelot Motel

— Mary Gautier

There is no setting more evocative in American storytelling than the motel. It is transitory, interchangeable, rife with cultural connotations. It appears locked in an eternal time warp somewhere between 1949 and 1999. Its definitive literary archetype, the Bates Motel in Robert Bloch’s Psycho (later the iconic Hitchcock film), is shorthand for everything from shabbiness to deviance, provincialism, and murder.

The motel’s range…

My sisters are radically different people whose stories and perspectives have broadened my perspective immeasurably. But for this and every election, I vote in solidarity with only one of them.

A few months ago, I posted a Facebook rant that drew parallels between my two, very different, sisters and the state of American politics: the older one, Nissa (now Sister Maravillas), has been a cloistered Carmelite nun for a dozen years and the younger, Autumn, is a trans woman, just over two years into her transition. …

Tag Christof

Photographer. I spend my days on the road thinking about design, architecture, culture, America and the dark side of innovation.

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