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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Only Useful Camera

I missed an image. 

It wasn't because I was too slow or didn't have the right lens or a good angle. It was because I hadn't brought my camera with me. I know better, but I didn't listen to myself. The only useful camera is the one that you have with you.

I was only going to Target, about a mile up an extremely non-photogenic road. A suburban development and a busy intersection with chain stores. All on a drizzly day, what could I possibly miss? On my way back from Target, I saw a heavy-set bike cop ditch his transport and chug up a small hill into a 12' high hedge. A brief moment later, I saw a teenager dart out of the same hedge at which point a police car pulled up onto the grassy shoulder. When he saw the car, he immediately lay down in the grass. Two cops ran over to him and aggressively handcuffed him face down on the grass. At this point, my car was parallel to the kid about 10' away from him. We made eye contact. It could have been an amazing photo. 

It might not have been either - after all, the police seemed to be acting within the bounds of their authority, there was no Rodney King style beating. The kid didn't have blood on his hands and we weren't in some war torn neighborhood. However, I am still kicking myself. Maybe the newspaper would have wanted the picture and I've got to fight for every opportunity I can find to make my way in the world of photography. Maybe they wouldn't have, but it might have been a beautiful piece. The contrast between the white, middle-age, large police officers and the skinny, black youth; the look in his eyes as I looked back at him. The point is, that I won't know any of that and I missed my chance.

One of the reasons why I have gotten so many good pictures is because I always have my camera with me and you never know when something interesting is going to pop up. Even if I'm on my way to Target or Taekwondo or to pick up my kids from school, the world is a fascinating place and those decisive moments don't present themselves more than once. There will be thousands more in my life but that one that was missed will be memorable.

These are some images I have been lucky enough to capture because I had my camera with me when I didn't know I would need it. None of them depict world events or captured fame or the making of a hero. Instead, they were animals standing in just the right place, pilgrims traveling on horseback on the side of the road, and bottles filled with colored water in the room through which I could see an event space. The sign at the cemetery and the sculpture of the cars in the trees were happy accidents.

There will be more. And next time, I will have my camera with me.