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It’s the Fourth of July

There’s nothing like the Fourth of July down at Pacific Beach in San Diego. It’s one huge party and I make it my job to document it. Yeah, it’s tough, but someone’s got to do it.

One thing I love about shooting the Fourth is that everyone so quintessentially embodies California beach culture. It helps me with my fashion and lifestyle work to stay connected with what’s going on out there. This girl (Ashley?) is practically straight out of casting central. (I’m sorry if I don’t't get your names right. My notes weren’t too good.)

I saw this little scene as I walked past. I stopped, lined up my shot and dialed in my exposure and got everything ready so I could get in close and get out of there. I snapped two photos and started to walk away. People started laughing and shouting out, “Look, he’s taking a picture of that guy’s underwear.” I’d already melted away into the crowd by that point, even though I did feel a little bad for the guy.

San Diego recently outlawed alcohol on the beaches so the bars have become more crowded than ever. Can you say binge drinking?

I usually ask people if it’s okay that I photograph them. I like my images to be right there in the moment so shooting anonymously from across the street with a long lens doesn’t work for me. People aren’t used to being photographed though so it’s often awkward for them. They think they’re supposed to do something. This was the first shot that I took, afterwards, they started with the hands in the air and the moment was lost. To do this type of street work, you have to nail it from the beginning because the very act of photographing the moment often destroys it.

Shane, doing the grilling, is the proprietor of the boutique off to the left.

This was the first shot of the day and I think it’s my favorite. I was riding by on my bike and just managed to get off this one shot. There’s a lot of flaws with this shot, but at the same time it’s perfect. There’s a timelessness to the shot while still being of this moment. This the kind of shot that you can look at in 30 years and just get lost in.

It’s illegal to drink or smoke at the beaches now. Good thing there’s no shortage of bars in PB. Or people who want to drink and smoke. Mandy and Megan were kind enough to show me how it’s done. These two sisters may look mild-mannered, but I suspect they’re trouble.

I saw this guy and was struck by the tattoos and the shape of his body. I didn’t want to destroy the scene by bringing out my camera, so I just left it at my side and shot upward without looking through it.

I crashed a party at one of the houses that sit right on the beach. This guy was gracious enough to offer me a shot of Jaeger. I passed.

I love going up to strangers and getting them to pose. What’s fun is that there’s usually some guy talking to a girl but they don’t know each other. Yet. But I have them play around together. It’s awkward but fun. For them. For me it’s just fun. John Mireles, bringing drunk people together since 1998.

Two young kids who one day will get to partake in all of this debauchery one day. Who says the outlook for the future is bleak?

I saw Dre, in the foreground, walking in the crowd and had to photograph him. I got a few portraits of him and then had his posse stand on a wall. Who knows, maybe I’ll photograph them all as groomsmen one day.

How could I not stop to photograph these two? I was riding my bike past the house where they were partying. I spotted them in the back and just rode my bike over. I think they were a little startled when this complete stranger appeared and asked if he could take their picture. I don’t think they minded though.

The beach was packed. You could hardly find room for a postage stamp.

Around here, people don’t just wear their patriotism on their sleeves. They wear it on their heads too.

The day was sunny, but around 6:00, the low clouds rolled in. It sort of killed the energy of the place so I pedaled my bike on back to the car. Another tough day at the office…


8 Responses to “It’s the Fourth of July”

  1. Maurice Says:

    Great series John. I still have the slideshow you posted of the 4th from a few years ago bookmarked. You capture the party culture so well.

    I’m curious how you answer the question, “what are the pictures for?” or “why are you shooting?”. Do you give people cards, give them prints, etc?….

  2. John Says:

    Hi Maurice:

    Can you leave a message or email me with the link to that slide show that I did? I don’t remember where I put it. (Really.) I want to repost it here.

    To answer your questions, I just try to be upfront with people when I go up to them. I tell them that I’m a photographer out shooting for fun. I don’t ask for model releases although this time around I did hand out some cards so that people could contact me afterwards if they wanted to see the photos. I also took some notes and got some email addresses so that I could email them a link to the photos.

    Mostly, it’s just fun and something to do so I think that people just go with it. If not, there’s plenty of other people out there.


  3. Tony Bisson Says:

    Glad to see you are continuing this project. There is no better day or place to document beach culture then Mission Beach or perhaps Newport on 7-4. I agree that the slip and slide photo is going to be a classic!

  4. jeanette sanchez Says:

    That was so fun to read, and the pictures are totally documentary. Keep up the great work!

  5. Chris From Detroit Says:

    Great read. I love the many stories that you’ve shared and the many stories that we can see in your work.

  6. Maurice Says:

    Hey John,
    Sure thing, right here:


    It’s interesting to see how your perspective changed a little in 2 years.

  7. Paulo Jordao Says:

    That was cool…
    I am a Photographer here in Fort Lauderdale - Miami area and i wish we had more of these houses right on the beach. Here, in most of the cases, the beach is a private beach.
    Great Post
    Paulo Jordao

  8. ruth rackley Says:

    Love these shots I’m having a tough time picking a fav especially since the 4th is my all time favorite holiday. You totally embodied the true fun and spirit of the 4th.
    Love them!

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