Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Unusual things happen when you don't expect them

Transcendant, originally uploaded by The Glass Eye.

The thing about the really good shots is, they never happen when you go out to take photos. The number of times I've set a day aside to go "trawling" and come back with next to nothing... even in promising locations like the V&A or the British Museum.
But here I was last night, rushing with my girlfriend for a dance class we're already late for, and as we cross the centre of Nottingham we hear the sound of blues guitar from one of the city centre regulars, but there's also this middle-aged guy in big heavy boots dancing his soul out on the zig-zag brick paving.
I often wonder why I persist with candid photography when most of it is fruitless waiting and the remainder is usually frustration at missing the shot - that and the embarassment of confronting people, risking upsetting them for nothing more than a passing whim.
I suppose I should blame a book called Shots From The Hip by "Alias Johhny Stiletto," an advertising copywriter who claimed to shoot three rolls of film a day, mostly not looking through the camera. Shots From The Hip contains more good anecdotes than photographs, but there's one paragraph which is still my photographic mantra today:

"Photography isn't two weeks' holiday in Spain. It's carrying a camera with you when it would be easier not to, a pocket that's always out of shape and a pair of eyes than never stop looking. Unusual things happen when you don't expect them; that's what makes them unusual. If you use your camera when everybody else uses theirs, you'll end up with shots that look just like everybody else's."

And that was why, fourteen years later, I happened to be carrying an SLR while rushing to a dance class, and was able to capture this moment of magic.
Look at the guy dancing; he's completely lost in the music. The expression on the guitarist's face is priceless too, though I can't work out if he's worried about why I'm photographing him with such a big camera, concerned that I'll take a shot that undermines the dignity of the guy dancing, or just afraid that I'll break the spell.
In the end, we were only ten minutes late for the class.

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