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there is always something (why I shoot film)

There are maybe ten shots left on the roll. Outside the metro, a collection of pigeons sit on minuscule ledges above two old men. They talk as all old men do, with operatic waves of their hands, sour expressions, belly laughs, eventually scratching their chins as they stare off at nothing in particular. I am pretending to take pictures of something near them, then swing across when they are not looking to shoot a few frames. At one point I surrender to the afternoon and move on.

And now, the courtyard that leads to the film lab. A great old building rests here, a school of architecture where students mill around dressed in black sucking on cigarettes with giant portfolios tucked under their arms. A young man approaches me. I am ready to tell him I have no idea what he is saying, but he wants to know where the film lab is. I jut my chin, telling him the door is just beyond a few bushes. He nods his thanks.

There are screens set up in a jagged line, sheathed in filthy white plastic to …

every picture


It was too easy. At one point it seemed like there was an accordion player on every corner, or every underpass dodging the rain. I stopped taking pictures of them, these old men with grave expressions and a little cardboard box on the ground at their feet. The songs tended to be happy ones, nostalgia for the passer-by. Something from a Soviet cartoon, or a children's song.

Some say that every picture we take is a self-portrait, a mirror image of the person behind the camera. I want to agree, and when I do I understand that maybe I see myself as that old man looking out at the people, ignored. Maybe just for that moment. In the next, I am a child with a fresh drawing I am sticking on the door of a refrigerator. I am the chalk drawing on the pavement, the scrawled name on the wall.

There is something so metaphorical about the street musician - the giving it away, the humility of it all, and the occasional reward from a stranger. Great musicians started this way, busking for loose change. It may be the path to glory, or if all else fails, a bowl of soup. Somehow, this image sums all of this up for me - the hope, the ugly truth, the wish, the endless defeat, the fresh possibility.

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