USED TO BE
I once read somewhere that we are only capable of seeing ourselves in other people and other things. What we see in another person or how we perceive the world is limited by our own capacity and experience. In other words, if it’s not in us… we can’t recognize it in another or elsewhere.
In simple terms, a person who is pure and honest, is more likely to be deceived because they do not have enough larceny in themselves to recognize it in another. Likewise, a person who is deceptive, will have trouble appreciating truth and honesty, as they will always think that others are performing a masquerade.
This is one of the reasons why I love shooting on the street. It’s my own little narcissistic drama played out right in front of me, reminding me of the places I’ve been and all the characters I’ve met along the way. For instance, I often forget that I’m among the world’s advertising elite and often sell myself short.
As a humble inventor and product designer turned local media salesperson decades ago, I ultimately arrived at various global marketing communications director assignments with some of the worlds largest corporations. And from there, I’ve ascended to maximum humility, permitted the privilege of teaching others, at one of the most prestigious universities on the planet.
But when I take to the streets, I can see myself in various stages of my past. Like take this gentleman on the bench who has lost his pride. He see’s not, cane smudges on his sweat shirt, his overall sloth nor his gluttony resting on his lap. His sin might just be that he’s forgotten who he is meant to be.
Oblivious to how he is perceived, he just wants to impress oncoming pedestrians with his creativity as he converts his cane and baseball cap into a unique invention from which to beg money. Like the mere presentation of something clever is all that’s needed to solicit payment in exchange.
And I watched this guy from across the street. I saw some people pass him by, some disgusted by his crude pitch… while others were impressed and dazzled, rewarding him with their hard-earned cash, dropped into his hat.
Further down the road, a bucket of ice was tossed on the sidewalk, left to change phase from hard frozen rocks to a puddle of dirty drench and eventually evaporate into mist, far from what it was originally meant to be.
I wanted to capture its shiny cool, as it sparkled in the sun, once of value to improve taste and moments later perishable and soon forgotten.
Further down the street a man leans against a pole. As I was just trying to get him in focus, he lifted his hand and unexpectedly had to clear his nostril with a farmers blow or what we affectionately refer to as the snot rocket.
It made me think of all the times that I too may have had to perform a discrete bodily function and just hoped that no one was close enough to tell.
Further down the road, a thin woman reclined with purpose. I watched her for a while and saw that she wasn’t moving, just staring. I couldn’t tell if her haircut and leather jacket made her fashionably paused or was she a street person just taking a load off.
She could have been out all night partying like a rock star, and just now waking up. Or, she could just be a resident of that bench. It made me think about how Steven Jobs got his first job at HP despite him interviewing for the job in his dirty bare feet.
At what point does madness get perceived as genius? And at what point does genius get discarded as unacceptably weird? I guess it all boils down to surrounding oneself with those of like mind who can see and appreciate one’s gifts and who looking to see their value.
Later that day I craved some undeniable beauty. I wanted to go to a place where everyone thought the same as I did. And at that place while I ordered Sushi and the person behind me ordered burgers, we both agreed that the silent breezy and beautiful sun setting view against the deep blue bay was extraordinary.
Just then, without notice, a biker gang on jet skis drove across our view. I stood and shot them as they cruised by at low-speed like I was a bystander on a side-walk watching them roll in formation at Sturgis. It reminded me of my days as a biker.
Back then I visited my advertising clients via motorcycle. My tent and sleeping bag was strapped to the seat behind me and my creative presentations were carried in a messenger bag slung over my shoulder. I would work by day and find someplace beautiful and peaceful to sleep at during the night, out in the open under the stars.
I woke from my SAMCRO memory and returned to the waterside restaurant to find the sun glistening off the spice shakers. Was it just me that thought it to be the ideal black and white photo? Or was it just too obvious an a-salt on unsuspecting viewers? Whatever… I like it… I shot it.
As the sun started to set, I went to do a little holiday shopping at a quaint little village area called Hyde Park. There I found gateways into the great beyond, salt and pepper doggies, smiling kids playing by a fountain and a mysteriously strange and lovely lady walking around.
No matter where I walked, she seemed to be coming at me from the other direction. The first time I saw her, she smiled and said hello to me, then again it happened outside another shop and then again walking down another side street.
Friendly, warm and unguarded she said hello to me each time as if we were familiar. I wondered who she was and if she knew how nice it made me feel to be recognized by her. Was she a student? A wealthy daughter of a Trinidad Doctor, who was home for the holidays? Was she a model or simply a nanny on her day off?
I wondered how she perceived herself and I wondered if anyone else saw what I saw in her.
And as the day finally came to a close, I bought some new dishes at West Elm and sat on a bench in the park, waiting to catch the best drops as they poured off the edge of the silver, purple and green fountain .
In my mind, a lifetime of advertising adventures rolled like an endless movie. To anyone else in the park if they saw me, they wouldn’t know what movie I was watching in my head. They might easily see just another ordinary bum in the park with his possessions in a shopping bag.
Then it occurred to me… if I only had a cane and a baseball cap… I could earn some extra money.