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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 …

the heroine's coat


I took this picture right next to our house an a Saturday afternoon. The street this woman is walking down leads to a playground, eventually to a gate and a main road. The only people that walk here are returning to their parked car, or to find a child that has stayed on the swings too long. It occurred to me that this woman was neither of those things. She was just wandering away from traffic, away from the jangle of snowplows. Her hands clasped behind her back are an odd tradition here, some Soviet habit with no name. The snow was falling wet and heavy that day. I liked the trail of her footsteps.

That was almost two years ago.

Today I saw a long coat on a woman and suddenly recognized it. I still could not see her face, but that coat had become legend. I would recognize it anywhere. This is the minor miracle of the street photograph, recording the unnamable. She walked the same way, with a swaying side-to-side penguin shuffle. I hurried home, with a strange sense of satisfaction and possibility.


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