Yesterday I was at Duane Reade trying to work out some discrepancy with my prescription and my health insurance (fun times) and this little guy in the picture came up and was talking to the woman behind the counter in very fast Spanish. This woman pretty much never smiles… she is not typically the most pleasant person to deal with (I’ll add to that later) – but this old man was talking to her a mile a minute and making her laugh. I thought he was adorable. I kept smiling at him because he was so cute and then he told me I had pretty eyes in Spanish (I understood that) – and then he left. I bonded with the not so nice woman after he left by talking about how cute he was. Maybe she’ll be nicer to me from now on.
Then, later in the day, as I was on my way to volunteer at the nursing home, I saw him sitting here on the stoop. He recognized me from Duane Reade so I asked him if I could take his photo – I figured I had already established a little rapport. Even though he didn’t speak any English and I don’t speak much Spanish – we had a little moment together. As I keep having moments like this with people, I am getting more confident in my ability to make strangers comfortable with me as a photographer – and it makes me want to take more and more pictures of people. People are the most interesting and beautiful subjects to me and once I get over the fear of approaching them, I really enjoy the bond that is created in the portrait-taking process.
Meanwhile, I just finished reading the book Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. The author goes under cover to try to see what it’s like to be an American living on minimum wage jobs. She has to find the cheapest places to live (many times it ends up being nasty motels that rent by the night). She works as a waitress, at a nursing home, as a cleaning woman and at evil Wal-Mart, realizing that she pretty much needs 2 full-time jobs just to make ends meet. It is a horrifying and extremely important book that really shows the class difference here in America. It made me want to get involved. I recommend everyone read it. Oh… and after reading this book, I had a little more patience for the woman at Duane Reade who is always so unpleasant. I started to wonder if she is living the kind of life this author lived during her under-cover work. If so – I don’t really blame her for being miserable.
Nice portrait of the old man. Like his subtle smile. Do I see you in his eye glasses 🙂
you DO see me in the glasses! I didn’t even notice!
I LOVED that book. I read it in one go while working a night shift at the hospital. It completely changed my perspective on why people make the sorts of choices they do. Why wouldn’t you go on welfare when the alternative is working 2 jobs, never seeing your kids, having no health insurance or security and STILL not making ends meet?
I know! Right?? It’s a losing battle – welfare is the more sensible option. Ugh – all that stuff about Wal-Mart!!! I NEVER go to Wal-Mart but I swear, now I’m really never ever giving them any of my business. I wish everyone would read that book. I want to buy and mail a copy to every congressperson – think that would make any difference?
Terrific story. I want to do more portraits as well and for the same reasons.
After seeing the documentary on PBS called “The High Cost of Low Prices” I seethed and we boycotted Wal-mart for several years before we moved to a town that has nothing but Wal-mart. My husband has had no income since last October, so about a month ago, I applied there. Boy, have my eyes been opened. I just don’t fit. The people that work there are mostly poor and uneducated and I’ve learned two things so far. The first: “There buy by the grace of God go I”. And second, just because these people can’t do any better doesn’t make them less of a person. I’m a cashier, and would suspect around 75% of the people coming through the lines every day are on public assistance. Now I see first-hand where my tax dollars are going.
I’ve seen the other side of Wal-mart but I still conclude that they’re evil. Enough said.
Well, I guess I should’ve proofed my comment before hitting the post button.
“There but by the grace of God go I.”
wow! ugh – in the book they talked about the hiring process… and how they pretty much just sweep you from your first interview into training without even giving you an opportunity to discuss pay. And how you pretty much have to clock out to take a bathroom break! Is this all true? I just read about a company called Alonovo (http://alonovo.com/about_alonovo) – sounds like a great concept… giving you information about how responsible the company you are purchasing from is at the time of making your purchase. I’m going to look into it further.