I’ve written in the blog many times about the people who I have met while walking around the streets of San Francisco making photographs of human expression. Today was no different. Tracy and I spent the day in the City to share the sunshine and meet a man who was selling his Canon EF 24-105 in order to collect enough cash to repair the transmission of his Mercedes Benz 500 SL that is TWO MONTHS out of warranty! I can relate, as I just recently poured $4,000 into my 20 year old German car! UGH. But my friend Vernon, who is visiting from Germany had asked me to find him this lens and it happened to appear on craigslist last night, but I digress…
Today after meeting the aforementioned man in Union Square, Tracy and I began walking around the City. We happened into the Maiden Lane area of Union Square when I spotted Robert, a street opera singer who I photographed and befriended two years ago. I ran up to say hello, introduced him to Tracy and we spoke at length about what has occurred in his life since I last saw him. I also stopped to say hello to Ben, a street bass player who I met at about the same time as I met Robert. Ben has been playing his bass at Maiden Lane for ten years. An ominous looking man of large stature, Ben does not promote people talking to him, but he is anything but dangerous – he just looks that way.
So on we went to photograph in San Francisco’s Chinatown, which is an area we had never photographed before. And after a time we found ourselves in North Beach; tired and in need of a rest and some caffine. So we stopped and sat at a sidewalk cafe to take a rest and have a cup of coffee. Just as we about to leave, a homeless man approached both of us to ask about our camera gear. He wanted to know what types of cameras we used and if we felt that the gear was worthwhile. We spoke for about 15 minutes talking of the ‘old film days’ motor driven cameras, lenses and what a used Canon XT would cost on Ebay or craigslist. He asked if he could look through one of the cameras and after Tracy gave a nervous laugh, he simply said, “Oh, that’s ok, you don’t know me from Adam anyway, so I’m not sure why I asked!” I laughed and told him that he would not be able to see anything through my viewfinder anyway, since my eye sight is so poor and I’ve adjusted my diopter to my vision. He laughed and said he had ‘shitty’ vision too.
It was at that point he said ‘My name is Michael’ and I introduced both myself and Tracy. We said our goodbyes, waved and smiled to one another as he immediately approached the man sitting at the next table to ask him for some money. As in most cases the man attempted to avert Michael’s eyes and question, but eventually told him that he could not spare any change.
It’s interesting that during our conversation, at no time did Michael ever ask us for money. No, instead we spoke as three people would who share a common interest and respect. And as we began our walk back to where our day had begun I was reminded once again that one’s intent in life governs what we encounter.