A man sold a bunch of parsley to a robust woman. The woman laughed and talked as she gave him the two dollars that the hand-painted said she owed. She continued her conversation with him while she walked away, getting getting louder and louder in order for him to hear her. Soon she was out of shouting distance and disappeared. Then it was quiet. A brief lull filled the air. The vegetable stand was deserted for a moment but the peace wouldn’t last. The next rush of hungry buyers were but a moment away.
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.
One of my first ever discoveries as a young boy was the vision out of the corner of my eye. It was a murky and mysterious perspective when looking at things from the fringes of my field of vision. I'd try to perceive as much of the world as I could without staring directly at it. I'd practice, practice, then practice some more—as hard as I could—trying to make things clear out of the corner of my eye. I suppose my early love of photography had something to do with this; my very first lens was my eye and I was fascinated with it.
The only way to get to New York was to drive past the dump. We knew this as kids as we rode along Route 46 in New Jersey. The dump was in Pine Brook and you could smell it about two miles before you got there. “Ew, Pine Brook!” we'd screech, holding our noses. Back then they would burn the garbage right there in the open air. The mingling of acrid smoke and rotting garbage created an odor like no other. Although we pretended to hate the smell of the Pine Brook dump, we secretly anticipated it—looking forward to the peculiar odor added a little drama to the otherwise boring ride. Ever since then I've always loved garbage dumps.
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.
May 21st had come and gone. I looked around and then I touched my toes. Yup. I was still here. The world didn't end. We survived yet another apocalyptic prediction. I learned in Grand Canyon that life on the brink is like a Technicolor movie. Maybe that's why these guys are always predicting the end of the world—they secretly enjoy the adrenaline buzz.
Bin Laden is dead. People went into the street and screamed. They chanted, "USA!" But the euphoria was short-lived. By the next day the world was shutting itself in again, preparing for retaliation, preparing for the worst. The men in flack jackets are back. An eye for an eye. Does this cycle ever end? It just seems to go on and on.
I sit here in front of my Mac and look at the enticing row of applications on my dock. Bright and alluring, they remind me of my old crayon box. I once had the biggest box of crayons that Crayola made. Even though I loved the idea of so many colors I never, ever used them all—not even close. Mostly, I just liked the *idea* of having so many crayons. Eventually, I'd find a couple crayons that I liked and got to work. The fewer colors I worked with, the better the results seemed to be. Lessons come to us early in life. Perhaps the best way an artist can spark creativity is to establish limits. Sometimes we simply have too many creative choices.
My near vision is softening into a blurry haze. It is nothing more than age-related presbyopia, correctable with lenses. Precise photography is more difficult now as I flip my glasses on and off while working with my camera's tiny typography. Working a 4x5 is particularly challenging. But, it's not all bad. There are times when my fuzzier world is a blessing. For example, looking at myself in the morning mirror is better without glasses than with.
The more public the place the more private we become. It's gotten worse lately. I was having a drink in a bar with a friend when I watched a young man approach an attractive, young woman who was seated on a bar stool. He did his best to charm, cajole, brag and strut his stuff like a mummer in Philadelphia on New Year's Day. The woman was hardly impressed. She turned to her smart phone and disappeared into her own little world. The young guy stood his ground for a few minutes, then tried to look cool as he stuffed his hands into his pockets. He walked away in rejection, his mummer's strut gone.