It seemed like such a great idea: five folks who like to take photos meeting up in Philadelphia on a late-July weekend. Vera and Kristina organized a hotel room in Center City. Tammy volunteered to show us a really cool spot. Dana could only come for a little while, just long enough for lunch and a selfie/us-ie at a restaurant with all-day dim sum and a pretty chandelier.
And then we got started on our wandering.
I love street photography. It’s what spurred me to learn how to take photos for real.
I don’t know how the expression “fly on the wall” came to pass–why not “butterfly on the bush,” for example?–but it’s my favorite way to view people. Unaware. Unposed. Unforced.
I could look at street (and off-street) photos all day long. They make me want to enter into subjects’ lives, to create a story for them.
However, we were in Philly to photograph people on purpose. Kristina had found a lovely little girl, Emma, to model for us; she and her mom were driving in from far away, so while we were waiting for them to arrive, we landed on the notion of hitting up strangers to pose for us.
Well, more often three cameras, since I found myself seeking side angles or wandering off to take photos of the photographers taking photos. Did I think my photographs (and/or my self-esteem) would suffer by comparison? Did I feel intimidated by directing subjects in front of my peers? Yes. Although there was something of the grinch in my reluctance, too, the same obstinate grump who rears up when I contemplate how many trends I’ve inadvertently followed over the years: marathons, California wines, photography itself.
(I did offer one good suggestion that day–that Lizzy get in the frame with Emma and their dog Reeses, though she said she was dressed down for driving. Photographers do make a good argument when they tell you not to wait till you look perfect to take photos.)
The next morning, Kristina, Vera, and I met up with Tammy for a session at Graffiti Pier, an abandoned railway line known as a quasi-outdoor art museum. Tammy’s stepdaughter, Lindsay, was our model, but the location was a character all on its own.
We spent two magical hours there, 10:30am to 12:30pm, and I never would have guessed that the wide-open sunlit parking lot, populated by tourists and kids and photographers and written up in guidebooks, would be where Vera’s car would be broken into and many thousands of dollars’ worth of camera gear and personal items stolen from Vera, Kristina, and me. I don’t want to be overly melodramatic, and I’m not quite sure why it happened this way, but the robbery and its aftermath shut me down emotionally for at least a week, despite the awareness of much bigger, badder incidents going on in the world.
(Ironically, my eight-year-old just came in, pointed at the photo of Graffiti Pier, and asked where that was. “Creepy” was his comment. So maybe I’m underestimating the ick factor of the area and the experience.)
In any case, I didn’t start feeling better about life again until I replaced my stolen eyeglasses and camera body. My new glasses are even better than the old ones because the prescription is brand-new, and the new camera is a notch up from the old one. So that’s the silver lining. And while I’m still trying to find a moral or meaning in the story . . . in the meantime, I’m looking up.