The market has always been a source of photographic inspiration to me. Life swirls around me as I poke my camera into produce, flowers and food stands. Every so often an ordinary moment of human behavior and interaction stands out as something significant. Why does ordinary life seem so extraordinary in the two-dimensional world of still photography? I suppose this is the great mystery of photography and why it compels so many of us to look at our world through the lens.
Sometimes the camera makes me feel like a boy in a bubble. The lens separates me from what’s going on in front of it. My life seems suspended as I float along a sidewalk or path. It’s as if I were a Martian visiting the planet for the first time—a hovering alien, looking at the world the way a curious cat might study a bug. The camera does this to me.
Cherries and asparagus always meet at a certain time in spring and a particular market in San Rafael, California. As if in a May-December romance, the asparagus is on the way out while the cherries are on the way in. They sit adjacent to one another among a sea of produce stands. Their rendezvous is but a short one and lasts only a week or two. The the asparagus quickly disappears along with the people who sell it. The cherries are left to fend for themselves but their season isn't a long one. Soon they make way for the stalwarts of summer: tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and sweet corn.
If I had no calendar I’d gauge my seasons by the rising sun. It seems to be better way to do things anyway. Humans are always screwing around with calendars and time and making a mess of them. Twice per year we think we’re very clever to move our clocks back or forth in the interest of “saving” daylight. It’s a ridiculous notion that does nothing but make everyone cranky on the two Sunday mornings after this feeble attempt of sorcery. Calendars and clocks cause a lot of anxiety in this world. We’d all be better off just paying attention to the sun.
An old woman pointed at the tiny fish, making a point of not smiling at all. The fishmonger picked up on the seriousness of the situation and stood up straight. Venetian women at the Rialto Market are not to be taken lightly and this particular one knew what she wanted.
Morning walks on the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore—something I experienced often in my youth—were always weird. The amusements and food concessions were meant to be experienced at night, or at the very least at dusk. Mornings on the boardwalk were akin to waking up on the on the living room couch on the morning after a party. Stale odors and bits of refuse mixed with the ambience of the misty, salt air. The rising sun revealed stragglers who seemed just a little lost. The fun was over. Morning’s clarity brought new light to the hangover of too much fun and spent adrenaline. Yes, morning walks on the New Jersey’s boardwalks were strange—but I loved them anyway.
The fog of the Veneto had smothered the entire Venetian Lagoon with a cottony wall of cold vapor. There was nothing to see on this vaporetto ride out to the Lido—nothing outside the windows that is. Inside the cramped boat’s cabin, I stared at the back of a fellow passenger. He, in turn, was staring at the back of the person in front of him. And on it went from back to front of the boat. Like several hundred anchovies in a tin can—the salted kind from Sicily—we were jammed into the steel confines of this listing vessel. It seemed like a one-way trip to Purgatory.
Wild animals come into our lives for only brief moments. One must be deft at beholding them. A photographer must also be quiet and at the ready. Fiddling around with cameras and settings can mean lost opportunity. The whirring of autofocus and the thunderous thud of an SLR shutter can scare off humans in the wild, let alone other warm-blooded creatures
When I was a very young boy all the gas stations in our town had colorful, little propellors strung between posts. Designed to attract customers, the propellors would spin in the breeze and make an odd, fluttering sound that I still remember well. I’d look out the window of the back seat of our station wagon and watch the propellors in marvel. I’d roll down the window so that I could hear their sound. I’d get down low as to get a good view of the propellors in the sky. I wondered if they might take off at any moment, carrying the gas stations with them.
Sunday’s farmers market during the summer is always packed. It’s that way in the summer. No one can resist the fresh corn or the plump, red tomatoes. And the peach guy has about twenty samples on which some people gorge for about twenty minutes. They look like overgrown chipmunks, cheeks full of peach slices and the juice dripping off their chins. The long days attract mothers and their strollers and fathers and their sons. Mixed among the seasonal hoards are the regulars who I see week in and week out, even in the lean months of January when broccoli seems to be the only star of the market.