Slip a New York City Model in a Red Dress and Platform Shoes Into This Picture and I Am a Millionaire.
This is a depiction of a man I photographed just outside Union Station in Washington, D.C., USA, on Sunday June 3 2012, at about 3 in the afternoon. The man did not notice me when I was taking the shot, which was all right with me. I steal pictures of people when making street photography, hoping always to not be noticed, because I have been the recipient of much disdain, anger, derision and ridicule when I have pointed my camera at people in public.
An example: One night around 9 not long ago, I was in my car, stopped at a red traffic signal over on Glebe Road in Arlington, VA. I had taken a few pictures of a woman in a car next to me (without her noticing me, by the way), and a gentleman in a pickup truck behind me did not like what I had done. He got out of his vehicle and approached.
The gentleman, with a baseball cap crooked on his head, was perturbed and angry and ferocious and maybe even salivating—I swear. He yelled, as if deranged: “What? Are you some kind of a pervert?”
I was scared, much more scared than I was during my first day of school in 1st grade, and I thought that had he a gun—a hand canon or an Uzi, maybe—he would ruthlessly and mercilessly shoot me and terminate my short-lived career as a humble, broke, art-making photographer. As it turned out, the gentleman did not have a hand canon or an Uzi ; or if he did, he didn’t take it out and point it at me and splatter my precious gray matter. That was fortunate, for I was in no mood to teach the gentleman a primer on the wonders and art and history of street photography, and there was more luck for me: The traffic signal changed to green, as if by miracle. I drove off to safety and a new freedom, but I have strayed from our topic: The Sunday picture of a most unfortunate man at Union Station.
I made this picture not because I wish to criticize our society for condoning homelessness and poverty. Nor did I take it to try to say through art that these tragedies are inexcusable and condemnable. No, I took it because I am selfish. I took it because I want to become rich and famous (probably just like you). I took it because I want to win a photography contest. I am submitting the photograph to a contest sponsored by the China Internet Information Center. The center is calling for pictures on poverty and poverty relief efforts, and I want to win it. As I said, I want fame.
My initial, straight, unedited version of this shot is good, but by no means a prize winner. I like the edited version I have posted here much better, although I doubt judges of the contest will go for it. The picture is unconventional and probably wouldn’t make sense if it were shown with a group of traditionally made photographs. The picture probably will make no sense to many while it is shown by itself here on this blog, now that I think about it; however, I think the photograph is a great work of art.
If it does catch on, keen critics might talk about it in the same breath as Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist,” which is one of its inspirations; and if you ask me, the picture ought to be hanging alongside this essay (as an art, art-essay sort of thing) in Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art or in the Hirshhorn Museum or, better still, in the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, but who cares about a broke photographer’s grandiose ideas and opinions?
Now, let me contradict myself. Upon consideration, I think the damned thing—the damned picture, that is—just might help shame us all into eradicating homelessness and poverty. It might do this despite the contention of the many pessimists who conclude that these scourges—homelessness and poverty—are inherent to, and an incurable malady in, any human society.
June 6 2012