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.
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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.
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.
“I need to photograph more,” I said to myself on a crisp, spring day. I was in one of those artist’s slumps where I felt the desire to make something but not quite having the energy to lift myself from my chair. Instead I rocked myself into further justification for doing nothing. I looked out my window knowing that I was wasting a perfectly good day.
The San Francisco waterfront was still gray from the early-morning summer fog. For the second time in two weeks I’d visited this very spot with my camera. The waterfront seemed different on this day. As I looked deep into the bay, the reflections danced with a darkness that I found compelling. Mostly amorphous, they changed as we came up adjacent to the San Francisco Bay Bridge. These long, linear reflections made me stop in my tracks. The bridge has become familiar after ten thousand visits to this waterfront, seaming nothing like it did the first time I laid eyes on it some thirty years ago. Back then the sight of the bridge made me gasp, now it brought a faint smile and a deep breath of gratitude.
It is a grand notion to think of suburbia as being monumental. Normally perceived in daily life, it seems like a monotonous parade of one block after another, one lawn after the next. If one is attracted to the grandiose, suburbia can often be numbing
The city, San Francisco or most any city, is full of small, fleeting treasures. Riches are everywhere—little vignettes of joy, intrigue, and ephemeral pleasure that compel me to click the shutter of my camera. Many are haphazard collections of life’s serendipity. Most affirm my belief that the cosmic powers that run this universe of ours have a very good sense of humor.
On the ferry ride into San Francisco I could hardly contain myself. The morning air was brisk and the low light golden as I ran from side to side in the boat, searching for the best photos to make. I must have driven the other, more placid passengers crazy as I walked past them a hundred times. There was simply too much to see. The day and my disposition were fresh and I was getting overstimulated.