August 27, 2005 by Allen George
1 City. 1 Camera.
I can’t remember how old I am off-hand. I interpret that as a sign that I’ve crossed some ill-defined transition between two phases of my life.
I couldn’t care less.
Living in suburbia or a small town is not my kind of life. I no longer justify or defend my choice; I have no need to. Identifying what you don’t like is simple. It’s harder to pin down what like.
In my time off, I ‘walk’ Toronto. I’m working on wearing my shoes out. In the beginning, I limited myself to the downtown core, this vageuly nebulous area bounded by the waterfront and populated by a forest of office towers and uninspired condominiums. Lately I’ve been pushing my boundraries eastwards. As you walk North, density starts to drop off and the city begins its gradual decline into suburbia.
I have always eschewed the common Indian habit of exploring cities by car. There’s a lot you lose; you see the world through a filter. And that’s the key – you see – never experience. I can’t even remember when I first started and today, today I think it just might have been a violent reaction to San Diego.
I have a problem. I have no idea what I’m looking for. Sometimes, when I’m walking I can feel an unease, this tiny niggle at the back of my mind. You don’t have to have a reason for everything, but this, I know there has to be a reason I keep doing it. Maybe a change of pace? A life that’s so different from “university town” and “home suburb”? Maybe my personality’s just a lot ‘lower’ and I need this external stimulation, the energy of hundreds of people around me to feel as if I’m…something?
My camera and I fight a lot of battles. I lose most of them.
Taking pictures is difficult, especially if you’re trying to take candids aka street photography. Whenever I raise my camera to my eye, I have this irrational fear that I’m asking for trouble. Visions of angry people haranguing me cloud my thoughts. I rarely raise my camera towards people and I hate myself for that. I have not mastered the art of affability; my uneasy smile is unlikely to win plaudits. But I am trying and only by being among people every day, working constantly with them and photographing among them will I conquer this. Some days are more successful than others.
Not only can taking pictures be difficult, but taking pictures alone can be even more daunting. Having someone there provides an emotional support. That, and you’re no longer as ‘odd’ now, since you’re accompanied by a friend. Coupled by this desire for company is my opposite and wholly irrational desire to be left alone when I photograph. It takes time for me to walk a scene, take a picture, realize how badly I screwed up and try again. It takes someone who doesn’t care that I’m half-sprawled on the sidewalk, face all-screwed-up, eyes pressed against the viewfinder as I go for that wide-angle shot. It takes a person who doesn’t mind that I take different pictures at different angles of an ‘uninteresting’ subject. In fact, it takes someone who just doesn’t exist.
I know that working alone, I waste only my time, no one elses.