Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Man
I never knew his name. My entire "contact" with him was, maybe, 30 seconds. Then, I moved on.
It was during a trip to Israel, and we were in Jerusalem near the Arab quater. I had my old (and first...but I digress) digital camera and was no yet fluent in its use. As we walked along, I saw this man up ahead. He was sitting there and, as you can see, eating some bread. His face wreaked of character, and I knew I wanted to photograph him. But should I?
I didn't know if he was an Israeli, a Palestinian or an Arab-Israeli. I didn't know if he was rich or poor or whether or not he would take offense if I pointed a camera at him. I kept approaching until there came the moment when I was in front of him. It was now or miss the picture. He was still looking down at his food. I brought up the camera, happy that he did not seem to notice me. I could grab the shot and be off walking in seconds.
The old Minolta was not a SLR, and it didn't focus as fast as today's digitals so, it took a second or two until everything was clear in the view finder. At that very instant, as I was about to take his picture, the man looked straight into my lens. I froze and did not breathe.
His expression was inscrutable. Was he angry? Did I see a hint of amusement? I didn't know. Everything in me screamed put down the camera and get moving. But I couldn't. I was held captive by that face. I was nearlly half way around the world from home, and this moment would never occur again. I pressed the shutter release, and continued to hold my breathe. What would he do?
He continued to stare for a few seconds, then looked back down at his bread and went on eating. The non-event, for him, seemed to be over. I exhaled, turned quickly and walked off with the knowledge that I had captured one of those once-in-a-lifetime shots.
Paddle safe...

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