ANIMAL’s original series I Should Have Shot That! asks photographers about that one shot that got away. This week, we give our illustrator James Noel Smith a well-deserved break and let ANIMAL favorite Scot Sothern talk about that one disturbing photo he almost regrets taking.

Sometimes I take pictures then think maybe I shouldn’t have. 3:30 Friday morning, a couple of days ago, I cruised through the intersection of Sixth and San Pedro Street. Looking both ways, I saw encampments of disenfranchised souls; burning embers and black smoke; the horror of wartime America.  I went south into a few square blocks of drug pushers, addicts and whores. During the day it was the flower district, they’d be hosing off the sidewalks in another hour or so. In a few more hours people in other parts of Los Angeles would receive beautiful bouquets; cards that say, I love you.

A woman emerged from the shadows and I stopped.  She ran to the car and grabbed the handle but the door was locked. I unzipped the passenger-side window and told her, “Hey, you alright, you working?” Her face refused to focus; it vibrated like a VCR image on Pause.  he was wearing a black top with a single shoulder strap. She was wearing shiny silver short-shorts pulled up too high, tight yet a little baggy. She was frantically  pulling the door handle and I told her to hang on a minute.  “I want to take your picture, I’ll give you twenty bucks. Stop pulling on the handle for a second and I can unlock the door.”  She opened the door and got in and I went back to driving.

“I want to take your picture,” I told her again but then realized we had communication problems.  She was making painful noises similar to speech but I couldn’t understand. I took a twenty from my pants’ pocket and offered it to her, telling her pictures, you know, say cheese? I was wearing my Nikon which I held up to show her but I don’t think it made any difference.  Driving around old industrial buildings I looked for good backgrounds. I wanted to keep my eyes on the road but there was madness in my periphery. I passed a dead-end alley, about a half block long with a yellow light and blue plastic tubs at the end, a loading dock. I backed up and turned in.

Halfway down the narrow alley, a big dirty guy sitting in a doorway jumped up, as I passed by, and watched us carefully. I stopped at the end, turned off the ignition, took a long breath and turned to my passenger, who was is in full spastic mode; a kinetic ball without definition. Again I offered her the twenty dollars but I felt  like an idiot offering money to a hallucination. She hadn’t stopped gibbering and had yet to form a word. She gobbled for air like she’d been strangled. I made out, “Hold the pickles hold the lettuce,” but I don’t think that’s really what she said. Her arms were flying. She opened the door and got out. I got out of the car as well. I wanted to see what would happen next. I hit a stink that smelled like rotten fish and made me gag, then I realized I’d pulled into a loading bay next to a load of rotten fish.

The big dirty guy was walking toward us; not wearing a shirt but a grungy pair of red pants and ugly tennis shoes, his eyes were red as well. I got my cane from the car; a weapon in case I needed to fend the guy off. On the other side of the car the woman was bouncing off walls that didn’t exist. The guy jumped suddenly like when you tip-toe up and goose someone. He took off in a run the other way which I was glad to see. The woman looked at me, seemingly trying to tell me something, probably, Fuck You. Then she took off, as well, flailing herself out to the street. I got in the car and reversed out of the alley and looked around. The guy was nowhere to be seen and the woman was still running. I noticed she was barefoot. I pulled up closer and I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. I pointed my camera out the open window and pushed the button, but the auto-focus was slow, in the dim light, and the screen and manual focus are poorly designed. Finally, two seconds maybe, and the camera fired as she ran away into the dark, her silvery shorts reflecting my headlights like a street sign; a dark red blood stain in the seat of her pants. Sometimes it seems like I make exposures I really shouldn’t make and then I go ahead and show them anyway.

I Should Have Shot That!

I Should Have Shot That: Dan Bracaglia’s Tahrir Square Mob

I Should Have Shot That: Charles le Brigand’s Guadalupe Tough

I Should Have Shot That: Zach Hyman’s Nude MET Chase

I Should Have Shot That: Shane Perez’s “Dangerous” Skyline

I Should Have Shot That: Clayton Cubitt’s Childhood Escape

I Should Have Shot That: Ricky Powell’s Kennedy Ambush

I Should Have Shot That: Tony Fouhse’s Addict Breakdown

I Should Have Shot That: Ellen Stagg’s Naked Girls of Ghostbusters

I Should Have Shot That: Clayton Patterson’s Bloodless Bullet Hole

I Should Have Shot That: Suzanne Plunkett’s Idle Catastrophe

I Should Have Shot That: Boogie’s Lost Girl

I Should Have Shot That: Chris Arnade’s Brighton Beach Rejection