With nothing but a keen eye for diversity and an iPhone, Mindy Pines, a 59-year-old retired bilingual teacher, distills Richmond into photos.
Her compositions capture a bold and lyrical sense of place. She calls herself a “freelance graphic designer, photographer” and a “sometimes reporter.”
In one of her photo essays, City of Pride and Purpose, she tells the story of Richmond’s election day through images.
“Richmond, California lived up to its motto, City of Pride and Purpose, on Election Day 2014 when voters resoundingly showed they could not be bought,” she wrote.
But Pines said her photos are about more than politics.
Residents outside the La Raza Market in the 700 block of 23rd Street in Richmond, Calif., on the day of the city's 2014 Cinco de Mayo festival. (Courtesy of Mindy Pines) ( Mindy Pines )
“I prefer to leave the politics to the pundits and many others who stress politics and conflict,” she said. “I look through a more anthropological prism, to capture our people’s way of life, our city’s diversity, its many ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic enclaves.”
On a recent day, Pines sat in front of a colorful wall on 23rd Street, wearing a blue shirt and carrying a flower-pattern bag. In her hand was an iPhone 5 — her camera of choice, you might say. She held it tight during the talk, preparing to capture every moment that caught her eye.
A truck with handmade decorations stopped at the corner of the street. She rushed over, lifting her iPhone and said, ” I sometimes risk my life for this.”
Pines carefully selects her locations in Richmond. She said the area around 23rd Street is her favorite. Food trucks, letterings, murals, she wants to document them all.
“I am fearful that in years to come, they will be gone,” she said. “In fact, I have pictures of buildings, letterings and great signs that I took a few years ago that have been painted over.”
Pines’ photography has attracted admirers in the city.
“I am always astounded by Mindy’s work with the iPhone; it proves, of course, that a great eye is more important than a great camera,” said resident Bruce Kaplan. “I think Richmond looks better through Mindy’s eyes.”
Whenever she’s in a bad mood, Pines will drive down 23rd Street to get inspired by the vibrant colors. There are shop facades and walls that she passes regularly, yet it is because of their everyday beauty that Pines finds them beguiling and seductive. She said she doesn’t consider what she does work.
“To me, it is my play, my fun,” she said. “It’s not intentional. I see things, I capture them.”