The Gentleman – Winner of the “PerfectPhoto” category
I was walking down the street early one morning and saw this well dressed man standing outside a deli. I asked permission to take his picture and after a couple of frames I asked him to hold my umbrella to hide the distracting elements in the background. It was overcast so the light was beautiful on his face.
I asked if he always dressed so nicely and he said he did, every day. I noted that people don’t make as much effort these days and asked about his motivation. He very honestly shared that he had a disability and dressing this way made him feel good about himself. There was a very special quality to his look and expression – his gentleness, charm and dignity. I walked away feeling really happy inside just from this brief, chance encounter.
I made this image because a little voice in my head said, “Oh, he’s interesting, I should take a picture of him.” I had walked by but when I heard myself thinking he was interesting, I spun around and said, “You look nice, can I take a picture of you?” I never keep walking when I hear that little voice! The success of this image has been a great reminder for me to listen to my intuition. Don’t make her scream, let her whisper.
I spun around and said, “You look so nice, can I take a picture of you?”
There is so much beauty to be found in each and every one of us. I want to feel connected to humanity, I want to feel connected and whole within myself. This particular image is a Namaste moment for me. Namaste (derived from Sanskrit) means, “I salute or recognize your presence or existence in society and the universe.”
After this image started getting so much attention, I set out to find The Gentleman to deliver a matted print to him and to tell him he was “famous”. The first day I arrived a little late but when I showed his picture around, a lady said… “Oh, he looks so fiiiiine, he always dresses sharp. He has breakfast here very day from 7 am – 8:30 am, then catches a bus… you just missed him.”
“Oh, he looks so fiiiiine, he always dresses sharp. He has breakfast here very day from 7 am – 8:30 am, then catches a bus… you just missed him.”
On the second day, I found him inside the deli where we first met. I sat down and had breakfast with him and as we talked I would look down at the image, then up at him. I’ve never seen a more honest portrait of anybody. He looked exactly the same in every way EXCEPT he had a different hat, scarf and suit. They were worn in the same exact way, ….hat cocked, and the suit and scarf were impeccable. I asked if he had a stylish sister or did his mother go with him when he shopped. Eyes twinkling and with sincerity, he said he got his fashion cues from the 1940’s movies he so loves. He then talked a bit about “ol’ blue eyes” and how much he liked Sinatra’s version of the song, “That’s Life”. “Nobody can sing “That’s Life” like ol’ Blue Eyes!”
The Gentleman shared his experience of growing up in the country with a disability and how his grandmama always encouraged him to “do his best every day and not to worry about what others thought.” While his biggest goal in life is to live on his own, I’d say he’s an inspiration to all who have the good fortune to meet him. He’s been employed by the government as a messenger for 20 years and does indeed, live on his own.
There was hardly a person who walked in the door that morning who didn’t wave and say hello to The Gentleman. He was charming, kind and tipped his hat to all. Spending time with him was a fresh breath of air, a step back in time when people had the time to sit, talk and connect. I can’t wait until our next visit.
“There was hardly a person who walked in the door that morning who didn’t wave and say hello to The Gentleman.”
I’m genetically wired to make images. My southern Baptist minister grandfather took pictures of everything with a Leica that he bought when he was a chaplain during WWll. He also painted prolifically and played classical piano. My brother has hung Grandaddy Paul’s paintings on every wall, floor to ceiling, salon style. He was a creative guy and so is my Mom, a terrifically talented designer. Photography is the only thing I can do and I’m very passionate about it. Always have been.
I live in the District (DC) so when I step outside my building, I step into a stream of infinite possibilities. I’m always aware of the light but more consciously focused on people that I sit next to on the bus or pass by on the street. It may be a Southern thing but I will talk to anybody and sometimes get amazing stories from people. Maybe it’s the anonymity that allows complete strangers to share so openly. I often get a deeper message from the story, maybe something that I needed to hear and am touched by the vulnerability of the exchange. I’d have to say that my iPhone has opened up these opportunities because it’s so unobtrusive and available. I’m so happy not lugging the big equipment around any more. Anybody want to buy a Canon 5D, Mark ll?
“I’d have to say that my iPhone has opened up these opportunities because it’s so unobtrusive and available.”
When making an image are you more interested in a ” moment in time” or a ” feeling” conveyed by light, shape and color through apping – or both? I relish when I catch a moment in time whether it’s an extremely honest portrait or something unexpected happens to step into my frame. Having said that, I’m a complete app addict and my photography has become much more interesting since I started using them. I am forever changed as an artist and photographer as a result of the new, wonderfully creative technology! I love wandering thru the apps with an image as it reveals itself to me. At some point, I know I’m there and it’s time to walk away. I do previsualize some of the time but the joy of discovery for me is the organic wandering.
- Cindi Hobgood