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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 …

not just then but before, and slowly after


E turned to me and asked if she could get a haircut. I did not hesitate and told her it was her hair, and she could do whatever she wanted. For her entire life she has never gotten a haircut beyond the random trimming seasons I perform, with her sitting patiently on the edge of the bathtub as I squint, snipping until I think things look alright.
"How short?" I asked her.
Her face twisted around, unsure.
Later, she showed me a picture of Jennifer Lawrence and said "something like this". There were other pictures, all of tough, independent, young women. I did not smile or even joke around with her. I just made a plan, found the right salon and printed out some pictures of what she wanted so we would not leave anything to chance. Ten years old, and her first haircut outside of the house. We tromped through the snow, just on time for our appointment.

They let me sit in an empty chair not far from them. I had the Leica with me but the woman cutting her hair was shy and said please no pictures. She wore Uggs covered in gold sequins, and a sweater dress that hugged her thick frame. Her eyes were kind enough, and she treated E like a young woman not a little girl.

The hair fell in chunks. E held that long stare we all do into barber shop mirrors, seeing herself not just then but before, and slowly after.

It was all over before we knew it. The blow dryer yawned on, making the air smell hot and a little bit burnt.

"I needed a change." She told me, once we were outside.

I leaned my head back, looking at the bright sky, the haze that hid the stars but drew the edges of a collection of clouds.

There was nothing operatic about it, this simple act of getting a haircut but a realization crept along the back of my neck as we made our way home in the darkness. This was just one step that would soon be followed by other ones, the steps of a young woman, not a child.









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