His name is Scott, but his friends know him by his middle name, Mordecai. I met him while shuffling my way up Colfax. I dug in my pocket and gave him a dollar to which he replied “I need a dollar like I need another hole in my head.” I said “Oh, I’m sorry I hope I didn’t offend you.” He assured me there was no offense taken and that he would go ahead and accept the money this time. I spent about 15 or 20 minutes with him, we chatted about life and he told me many stories. Eventually his good friend Al joined us and Mordecai explained his situation with much care. You could tell that he held his friend in high regard and was proud of their friendship.
He spoke about his belief that Al will someday walk again, and proceeded to justify his case by physically showing me why he believed it. We didn’t really talk about anything in particular, we just talked about whatever came up.One of my biggest obstacles as a photographer is my ineptitude in social situations. While walking down Colfax it dawned on me that I talk to more people on Colfax then any other public place that I frequent with my camera. Some of my favorite street portraits I’ve taken happened on this street.
The people I meet on Colfax are almost always outcasts by nature. Every encounter with an actual human being is a valuable learning experience for me. I’m learning how to listen. Taking street portraits is a little different than just snatching a decisive moment discreetly, it is slightly more direct. You have to talk to people, hang around with them and just let them tell their story. I only asked one question: “What happened to your face?” he never actually answered the question, but he talked a great deal on many things for a good while. I was just grateful to be talking to someone in person.
The people I talk to might not know it, but they are making my day by letting me into their world for a brief moment. Each experience like this makes the next one that much easier. I’m infinitely curious about everyone I come across. I hope to continue meeting more people and breaking down those ridiculous barriers that are only holding me back from living my life to its full potential. We don’t talk enough anymore.
In my experience it’s been avoid any unnecessary human contact at all costs. Don’t make eye contact, don’t get in anyone’s way, don’t even say hello. Just put your head down and carry on. Then I got into photography and all that changed. Instead of staying home to avoid the crowd, I insert myself into the middle of the throng and I watch life happen before my eyes and I compulsively start click, click, clicking away, but this isn’t really about me. It’s about my new friends Al and Mordecai, two guys down on their luck, two kind strangers, two human beings who can still smile despite it all. They are the people who inspire me to keep working through the uncomfortable moments and click the shutter anyway. Sometimes I close my eyes while I take the shot, in anticipation of a possible punch to the face. Maybe that is just the nature of a photographer. That slight amount of risk that makes the experience that much more memorable. Thank you guys for letting me turn my lens on you. I appreciate it more than you know.