Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Eye of the Beholder

I look through my camera's lens, composing. A passerby sees me taking the shot. Two POVs, sometimes completely contrary.

One time I'm shooting a close-up of peeling paint on a wall; an art image. Two women walk by. One woman says to her friend, judgmental tone: “That's not a good picture.”

It's comes with the territory as a photographer: outside observers who don't understand what you're doing.

Yesterday I noticed orange springs holding up a temporary road sign. The springs are Halloween orange; bits of paint have flaked off, revealing the rust underneath. I squat down, get in close, intrigued by the color and texture, the lighting, the unusual subject matter.

A man walks behind me, crossing the street. I'm concentrating on the shot when he makes a passing comment:

“A good day for Plattsburgh when that's the only problem around here.”

At first his remark doesn't register. What did he mean by that?

I thought about it for a moment, then sorted out this explanation:

The man was probably a “fan” of my blog. He recognized me from around town, the guy on the Web who posts images of bad stuff. The stuff that needs attention: vandalism, garbage, dogshit, etc.

In that context his comment makes sense. He's assumed that I've photographed the rusty springs to show another problem.

Who was commenter? I don't know. I couldn't get a good look at him with the sun in my eyes. Maybe he was a city pol or employee.

Whoever he was, he was wrong. Not all my shots document the bad side of the Burgh. Some are simply “art” shots, images I take because a subject has caught my eye. Why should I care as a concerned citizen if springs holding up a road sign have chipped paint? No problem there. I'm just trying to create art.

As for the non-art images on this blog, if it's not there – busted beer bottles, damaged property, piled up garbage, ossifying dogshit, whatever needs attention – I can't document it.

Like my mother used to say:

The truth hurts.

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