I am a shy photographer. Rarely do I feel comfortable carrying my camera in a crowd. I take great pains to be invisible and to make myself less obvious. But—once I get lost in the process, once the light is right and I find something that captivates me—I forget to be self-conscious. I forget my story. I get lost.
So, it surprises me when I sit with my photos some months after they were made. It is only then that I notice my subjects staring back at me. Sometimes they smile, other times they glare. Photography can seem like an aggressive act, particularly when the camera is big and the lens long. I wish I could make images without pointing this "thing" at people. But, when I forget that I am shy and forget that I'm even with a camera...that's when they stare.
Here I thought I was being sly and discrete in my shyness. I sometimes imagine myself as a stealthy, black cat with camera, tiptoeing without sound—squeezing the shutter so gently and thinking myself to so be clever in getting the candid shot. Was that me giggling with self satisfaction like a naughty feline in a cartoon?
Why is it that so many people are on to me? How is it that so many candid photos really aren't? Perhaps people have a sixth sense when it comes to cameras. Or perhaps it really is that I get into some kind of flow and forget to be discreet. The thing is that I'm almost always a little gleeful when I discover after the fact that people were staring back at me. More times than not it improves the photo.
Those kinds of images are about connection. The person in the picture and me—we connect for a fleeting instant—a crack in time. This is our only, brief moment together on this planet. And I am left with an artifact of the encounter. A photograph. The connection is frozen, recorded for posterity. And then, I as black and stealthy cat, move silently on to my next engagement, not nearly as clever or invisible, or maybe even as shy, as I imagine myself to be.