Monday, March 10, 2008

Man and Horse

Horse drawn carriage rides are available downtown for tourists and romantics. The drivers are charming people who love their animals. Last June 1 (before I understood theme days), I had a post about Chrissy and her horse Curley, hiding from the rain under the main highway bridge across the Mississippi. This past weekend, while taking pictures on the riverfront under the Arch, I met John and Shorty. John told me that Chrissy had been sick and we wish her a speedy recovery. He also kept addressing me as "Sir," which made me feel both old and uncomfortable.

It's fun to talk to the people I meet on the street. It is like the the old advice to men who want to meet women: get a cute dog and walk it. The camera, like the dog, is the introduction. Still, lots of us are shy about it. When I took the fabulous Bobbi Lane's portrait photography workshop, she made us go out for an afternoon to take street portraits of strangers, always with permission. There are ways to do it. Still, I only get a few minutes with John and other people I photograph in brief public meetings. It makes me wonder about their life stories. How does he live on this irregular job? How did he come to drive horses in the city? I don't learn many of these details. I've been trained to go for the image, albeit in a friendly, polite way.

Is this art, journalism or voyeurism? What do you think?

TOMORROW: Not part of the Thursday Arch Series, but the Arch is in it. Just a little.


Waldo Oiseau said...

I think it's both art and journalism. Or maybe journalism isn't the right word. Maybe it's being a historian! :)

I'm terribly shy of photographing people. I see people all the time whom I want to photograph. I get up the courage and then quickly talk myself out of it. Pretty pathetic, no?

Mitch said...

This is a great photo, I like them both immediately.

I would call it documentary photography. Art is about reinterpreting life, journalism is about investigating. You aren't exposing any hidden stories, you are merely recording the goodness daily life. Journalism dumps tragedy and evil all over us, never bothering with non headline events like a good man who loves his job and his horse.

That's what I love about the DCPB project, it's a chance to see life around the world that isn't just a backdrop to tragedy or disaster.

That may be why telling a story is so important, it gives meaning and power to the everyday that is so often dismissed, without making a sensation or anyone getting hurt.

Waldo (above) expressed fear of approaching people to ask for their picture, it might be the lack of stories like this that makes people so fearful of others. When all you see is violence on TV, you would be afraid. Huh, I guess I have some thoughts on this that I need write more about later.

- Mitch