(Scroll down for more photos)
Somewhere in New York.
With the exception of the photo at the very top of this page, I probably spent way too much time digging up these photos. The photo above this post, by the way, I took about three weeks ago, unsure exactly when I was going to post it, but that’s not uncommon. Another thing that’s not uncommon? The amount of attention I spend to the behaviour of the different demographics that I photograph on the street. Let me clarify by saying that I’m not talking about stereotypes; I come into personal contact with so many people on a daily basis that it’s become more like a survey. (Yes, that sounds very anthropological. Cough.) There are little things, things like how undergraduate college girls are generally very giddy about having their photo taken by a complete stranger, and how women in their mid 20s try to hide the fact that they’re flattered, while women who are a little older than that try to counter the feeling of flattery by either neutralising it with a self deprecating remark or tightening into a poker face. (When I stop a woman older than 30, she usually takes the situation calmly and with reserve, only to relax when I lower my camera and announce that we’re finished). Older women think I’m crazy, even if they’re flattered. I also notice that women of colour almost always say yes when I approach them for a photo, while caucasian men usually decline, and the older they are, the shorter they are about it. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Which brings me to the something I recently realised about young men of colour. When I catch them alone, the cooler they appear to be, the less likely they are to want to be photographed. When they’re with at least one other person however, the tables flip (girlfriends are the best; they root their boyfriends on and dog them into having their picture taken). But something else I noticed, even more fascinating than that? When they’re in groups, they will often call me over and request that I take their picture!
“Hey man, are you a photographer?”
“No, I’m just carrying a camera.” (I don’t actually say this).
“Yo man, take our picture!”
This happens often, at least once a week, and that’s not even the best part of this scenario. I’ve counted at least twenty instances back in my index of frames that I have comprising of groups of young black men, and in every single instance, they asked me for either my card or my email address so they could “get” the photo, and in every single instance, they never actually contacted me.
Now, think about that for a minute. (Actually, while you’re thinking about it, feel free to scroll through the selection of photos I’ve posted and come back to this point.)
They never contact me! Why ask a person to take your photo if you don’t have the desire to actually retrieve it? I get contacted all the time by the people that I photograph randomly on the street, I probably get at least 3 “inquiries” a week (I say inquiry because they don’t always ask for me to send them the photo; usually they just want to know if and/or when it will post to the blog). But the people who pull me over and ask that I take their photo? Not a single follow-up contact.
For a while after coming to this realisation, I was convinced that this was a wolfpack phenomenon, but then the last photo in this post happened; a large group of kids getting off a subway train on their way to a party asked me to take their photo. Only they weren’t black. When I took the photo and they asked how they could get it, I pulled out one card… and carefully looked each one of them over so that I could hand it to the most responsible/sober looking one. When I did, he even gave me a precise time of when he was going to contact me. That of course was the last time I heard from him, too.