Capturing the Scene

 
    At times photography is more about failure than success. As I have said before you can go out with a goal of capturing a full story worth of photos and come back with nothing. Other times the whole story is summed up in one photo. In a kind of backwards irony, if you can capture everything in that one photo it is far better, and more rare, than capturing everything in multiple photos.

   As for me, I struggle with that one photo every day. It's hard enough trying to capture everything you need to say in multiple photos let alone just one. But that one photo is kind of like the crowning jewel. At times unobtainable, but through hard work and perseverance, sometimes you can get your hand around it.

   In Japan I challenged myself to take one roll of film with me and be as selective as I could with it to record a photo I am proud of. Please understand that my favorite style of photography is photojournalism or more specifically, "street photography." I feel I must preface this photograph with that bit of information because street photography is not the glamorous, highly polished stuff that comes from a studio with flawless models. Instead street photography is candid, real, and aims to preserve a fleeting moment in time that will never happen again. Street photography is rarely perfect because it's quick and reflexive, it's rarely beautiful, but it is always interesting.

   This photograph absolutely made my trip. If nothing else had gone right during this trip, and actually the trip was pretty difficult, I really was hoping this photograph had come out the way I thought it did.

   So, the story, that's what we are all here for right? On this particular day I was walking around in Ginza. Ginza is named after a silver coin mint built there in the Edo period. Many years later it became the most expensive part of Tokyo, kind of fitting for a place that once minted silver coins right? So walking around Ginza, the very air smelled of money. I felt I needed to pay 500 yen just to breath there. But just as I am getting sick of the smell, I see the most out of place character imaginable. I saw a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk with a pair of drumsticks. I watched him for a bit from a distance. He didn't ask for money from passersby. In fact he was sitting in an area where you really couldn't walk past him. He was simply sitting there minding his own business. So seeing how interestingly out of place he was, I couldn't resist taking a photo. I walked up, crouched down and prepared to take the photo before he noticed me. But something startling happened. Right as I pressed the shutter button, he looked straight at me and I caught this photo.

   His look was not of surprise or anger. It was simply pure curiosity. As curious as I was of him, he was curious of me. In that moment I felt so much respect from him, and a certain sadness that only comes from looking straight into a defeated man's eyes. It was clear to me that, regardless of why he was on those streets, Tokyo had taken it's toll on him. I don't often give homeless people money, and the people who are in my photos I do not pay either. But this man was different. I walked up to him said, "ありがとうございます," and gave him a few coins from my pocket. It was not much, but he gave me everything I was hoping for from my trip, and I gave him a meal for the night.

   But in that one look we spoke to each other. Two fish out of water, meeting for the first time with completely different situations, and understanding each other without speaking a word. To be defeated so completely must be an unimaginably sorrowful fate. Hopefully you can understand him as I did through this photo.