A trashcan at 34th Street
The summer was about to break in our lives once again. A nice and crispy sunlight was blessing the moment. My hands were holding the last black and white roll of the day in front of Macy’s headquarters building. I decided to photograph passers-by randomly. My chose of the north-east corner at 34th Street as point-of-shoot underneath colorful marquees, and next to a big public trashcan, was not in purpose. In New York nothing is in purpose.
The first click. A lady crossed in front of my lens. Another click went off from my waist level. I started to purposely ignore my surroundings while I tried to focus. — that decisive moment is a myth — my mind told me.
A third shot followed by the idea of there is nothing random in life. The Moody Blues’ The Voice on my headphones barely allowed me to hear the trigger in my hands. I was flying back into the 80s.
I couldn’t help to just briefly imagine some stories while pressing the shutter. A divorced woman who met again with her former husband to ‘just talk’ nearby. A full size tourist family trying to digest Manhattan’s mayhem carrying shopping bags. A former police officer feeling identified with the actual one helping the traffic. A young woman feeling proud she is finally living in New York and having the whole experience. A foreign couple hoping for the best. A former male prostitute living his fifth chance. A dancer wanting to become a mother. A little girl just smiling totally unaware of where she is.
Some have noticed my presence already and even heard my clicks. Most people didn’t really care much. It is still a friendly city for photographers, I guess. I’ve only got one woman who started to cover her face while crossing the street. Clearly she saw me and diverted herself away from me. I can vaguely remember that she carried a standard black plastic trash-bag. She probably was recycling cans and plastic bottles.
Couple more shots came after the walk signal became available. It looked like a ritual, an urban etiquette showing our level of civilization. Even a big gypsy bus stopped, allowing citizens to cross safely.
I’ve got only two frames left in my camera. Suddenly someone poked me on my arm. Didn’t know what to think. Maybe a bothered person to ask me why I took his or her photograph. Perhaps just someone to alert me that my shoulder bag was open.
To my surprise it was the same woman who covered her face minutes ago. Moving quickly her right hand out of the smelly trashcan, she handled me a medium format roll, similar to the ones I was using that confusing morning.
I even thought it was mine, but it was wet and dirty, and she started to ask me if the roll was exposed or new.
— Maybe you can use it — she said
— I don’t know, let me see … it’s exposed — I replied
— Oh well, maybe you’ve got some pictures in it! What kind of camera is that — she added
— An old but beautiful Hasselblad — I told her
— Oh, I know very well that famous brand! I used to be a model and my favorite photographer have always used that camera. They are the best in the market.
— I’m glad you know that Miss. It seems we belong to the same tribe then.
— Have a nice day and who knows maybe you’ve got some pictures in that roll. Do you develop films by yourself?
— Not anymore, but I’ve spent years in the darkroom yes. Glad to meet you and take care.
She walked away and faded into our crowded Manhattan under a sunny and perfect day.