Sun 13 Feb 2011
I think occasionally I’ll come up with an amazing photograph (or at least one that I find so), simply because I take so many pictures. It’s a law of averages that once every couple thousand snaps I’ll be blown away by what I find. It’s certainly not from a mastery of camera mechanics so much as a massive amount of frames made.
Take the above photo for instance, which I thought was lost when my previous desktop computer crapped out for good last November (but it turned out I’d had the foresight to migrate my photo archives to an external hard drive). It’s a timed exposure — about five seconds in length — with the camera handheld but braced against the balcony railing of our room overlooking Calle Ignacio Allende at the spectacular La Casa de la Marquesa Hotel in Queretaro, Mexico, during our extraordinary visit in the summer of 2008.
I did the long exposure simply because it was too dark to get the scene of the beggar in a doorway without using the flash and destroying all the rich color and texture. And it’s doubtful the flash would’ve illuminated the mood even if I’d used it.
So I opened the shutter it turns out a moment prior to the couple coming from around the corner and walking past the woman ignoring her and her outstretched hand that held a cup presumably to catch any spare pesos that might be offered.
Little did I know that the headlights of a vehicle approaching Calle Madero on Allende from the right would have a bonus strobe effect on the couple’s legs as they walked past.
Pros could certainly argue why it’s not a better fauxtograph than photograph. It’s blurry, busy, and not an easy or quick read. But to me it’s one of my favorite shots of the thousands I took during that trip in large part because of the serendipitous inclusion of the passersby, ghostlike and fleeting against the flesh-and-bone woman looking for a handout. I don’t want to dive too deep into tortured symbolism, but it juxtaposes the fantasy of affluence against the reality of poverty. I couldn’t have intentionally captured that even if I knew what I was doing.