Man on Roof | Mark Lindsay

During a walk near the local school I noticed a man on a roof of one of the prefabricated buildings that clutter the schoolyard. A giant tub of roofing cement in front of him, he was frozen in an impossible position. Seagulls walked around him, flew over him. He remained frozen except for one arm that swung back and forth as it lathered black goop onto the homely, little roof.

Back and forth, back and forth, he seemed more like a clock than a man. One bird edged closer to see what he was doing. Fascinated myself, I started to photograph him as if I were a tourist in an Italian piazza. In most every piazza there is a statue of a serious man with a pigeon on his head. Neither the statue nor the pigeon ever seem to move. I waited by the schoolyard to see if the seagull would light upon the worker's cap. To my disappointment it did not. Back and forth, back and forth. The worker reloaded his trowel with gunk. Even with that he moved nothing but his arm. A second and third seagull drew closer, joining the happening. I made another dozen images. The still, morning air hung with anticipation as the birds and I waited for the man to move something, anything other than the swinging arm.

I realized that my back was stiffening. How could the worker remain hunched over like that. Shots of sympathetic pain ran down my spine. One of the birds followed the swinging trowel with his head. Back and forth.

At last, one of the birds lost interest and flew off. The others followed. Tired of photographing the man, I turned and walked away, my back feeling the better for it. I looked back one last time to see if the worker had moved. Nothing had changed so I made one last photo as I walked off, my arms now swinging back and forth.