Hands are the most fascinating part of a farmer's market. This is a recent discovery of mine, thanks to the telephoto lens. I started watching the rummaging hands of market shoppers only a few weeks ago when I zoomed in to reveal a few paws hard at work searching through tomatoes—a show that I'd never noticed before. The hands are like puppet shows. Young, old, deliberate, or frantic, they dart around with anthropomorphic personality. Hands search for the perfect tomato. They grope for the reddest of cherries. Some remind me of the giant claws that grasp for treasure in those old arcade machines at amusement parks. Hovering over the green beans, they plunge down into the center of a huge pile of them. Up come the hands, dropping half their load as they maneuver the lode into plastic bags. Then they repeat the cycle, seemingly insatiable in their appetite for more.
The produce is the star of the market so the hands are somewhat invisible as they do their thing. Like the curtain pages at the opera, the hands do the necessary work to keep the show going, but with all the glorious shapes and colors and distractions, they are generally nothing but a blur. Yet, they reveal a truth.
It is through the observation of market hands that I have come to realize that we are taking our markets more seriously as of late. It's obvious that the Sunday market has been getting more crowded. It's getting harder to park. The pressure has been building to get there earlier and earlier. Yet, I didn't realize the passion people were developing for their produce until I really, truly began watching their hands.
Hands motion to a lover to come see an artichoke. Elder hands guide the soft hands of a child towards the knowingness of ripeness. A nimble hand can judge roundness by rolling a round fruit around inside a palm. A quick hand can separate out the good from the mediocre with lightning speed. An analytical hand can feel the weight of a bag with uncanny accuracy by employing a deliberate up-and-down motion. A sly hand sneaks a berry for tasting, like a nervous bird that pecks at seed in a feeder.
Photography is a wonderful way for us to find gems of life such as these. Normally they remain undetected, so obvious that we take them for granted. Then, along comes a photo that reveals the miracle and turns the quotidian into something profound. It all came before me in a moment, when looking at my life through a lens.