Haunted

The more I look at this photograph the more I see. The more I see the more disturbing I find it. I am so used to flitting around the streets of New York thinking I am invisible, sealed in a camera shaped bubble that disconnects me from what I see through it. Not so here. On the platform of the 6 train at 51st and Lexington I spotted this woman, unkempt and disheveled and importantly, from my point of view, she spotted me. Rarely does something like this phase me, but the look in her eyes, staring straight into the lens and bursting the comfort of my bubble made me freeze. There is so much behind those eyes. Eyes that I am guessing have seen things that would defeat most of us. An arrogant and indignant look carved out of circumstance and fed on continual despair. Needless to say, the train arrived and as I expected, she stayed on the platform. I journeyed on with the rest of New York going about their daily business. It was a haunting and humbling experience for me. I doubt that she will ever give my intrusion a second thought, but those eyes will stay with me for a long time.

Haunted

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37 thoughts on “Haunted

  1. Fabulous image!!! Fantastic text that explains beautifully this disturbing feeling. I feel being observed and her gaze is so intense that forces me to turn my head to see her. Great post!!! 🙂

    • Thanks, it certainly made me question the ethics (if there are any) of street photography. I felt like an intruder, a pompous peeping tom who has somehow made her life a little bit worse by photographing her plight. The funny thing is I saw her again yesterday, ghosting through the crowds in Grand Central Station, same grimy shawl, same severe countenance. I couldn’t lift the camera to my guilty eye. Feeling like some photographic bully, I watched her pass, resisting an overwhelming urge to follow. A fascinating character and one I have a feeling I will see again.

      • I know that feeling!!! But on the other hand, this image is probably the only way that the World will know about her and that situation. It’s a respectful image. Harsh, but that’s real life, and despite some people would prefer to look to other side, it’s real life. How can we help to improve the world if we hide reality?

    • I tried it in black and white and, for me, it lost its power. B/W normally produces such a dynamic image but it also makes it kind of ‘timeless’ and I wanted this to show it was happening now. I think that the color gives it a reality and perhaps its strength.

  2. An amazing image! I have had moments like this when I have caught someones eye and I have seen so much in a split second which has been truly haunting. Eyes are the window to the soul after all. Thank you so much for sharing this photograph.

      • ….but you could have someone co-author a book. Of course people would want to know about depth, like what happened before you found them on the street, the complete story, not something left to the imagination. Just throwing spaghetti against the wall.

  3. I loved this- not just the photo you captured but for your description of the events and how it made you feel.

    It’s ironic, isn’t it? You being accustomed to going unnoticed, safely insulated in your camera bubble, and the one person who does notice you (I suspect) is also used to going unnoticed. She probably felt just as uncomfortable being seen by you as you did being seen by her.

    • It certainly was a moment I will not forget quickly. I am not sure how long it will take to repair my ‘bubble’ it is rather deflated at the moment. I have started using my Canon 5D mk2 with a 28-300mm lens for street photography so it is a little harder to be invisible.

  4. For me the eyes might have drawn you in however the arrogant tilt of the chin is what I feel and see.
    That tilt shows strength possibly learned after years of painfully doing it all on her own.
    Thank you.

  5. I’ve had that happen several times on the streets and yes it can be a haunting experience. We as street photographers strive to be invisible but we are not. We’re real flesh and bones too. What else is there for her to do but look around.

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