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Friends and Photographs

When in Oklahoma City, I had written about an artist friend who grew up there and had only perfunctory recommendations about places to go in her native state. She and her husband, also Oklahoman, have been friends of mine since the mid-nineties, when we were trustees of our condo association in Brighton, sharing frustration about the old lady who regularly left an empty shopping cart next to the telephone pole outside our place. Things began falling apart when Eric in 8A moved in, convinced that everyone in his orbit is out to screw him, including unpaid trustees. These many years later, he still nominates himself for trustee, a job no one really wants, providing a “bio” that is actually a litany of complaints about various forms of corruption and ineptitude her perceives are being heaped on the condo association. Invariably, someone else has to quietly step up at the last minute and gets the nod.

When my friends and I got to child rearing ages, I left for Brookline and they went to Holliston for the French immersion program. Their 1850s farmhouse is on a dead end street, has lovely creaky floorboards and brush painted walls in a delicious array of colors. A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of making the trip west on Route 16, getting there in time for a walk along a tow path, and a luxurious chat with David while Lisa made dinner, waiting until we were confident she was done preparing, to ask if she needed help. I wrapped up the cheese.

While Lisa has spent her life being a creator of all kinds of things: paintings, fabric, products, toys, words, children's books, photographs, the most beautiful scarves, and famously, a crocheted bikini made of the long hairs caught in her brush, David, a professional in his earlier life, is purely a photographer. They had invited me out so that I could learn more about taking photographs, particularly portraits, after they had challenged me to diversify on the trip.

After a killer dinner, David brought out a beautiful, handmade book that had been his college project, in which he challenged his shyness by roaming around Norman, Oklahoma with a Polaroid, asking unknown people to be in his photographs. .He not only took some wonderful photographs, which is not easy to do with a Polaroid, but got some unlikely people to participate and write some pretty profound things next to their photographs.

Here is one of David's (and my) favorite entries. Unfortunately Polaroids don't scan particularly well. The writing is the subject's, David did not read it until he had parted.

It would be dismissive to David’s book to say that his work was a prelude to Humans of New York, because his has more spontaneity and art, there is none of the photographer’s prompting or editing that you see in HONY.

Later, David & Lisa patiently did their best to explain how apertures affect depth of field, which I had been trying to work on, I asked David if he would join me on a springtime wander in downtown Boston, allowing him to revisit his most excellent portrait taking while I learned from him about both photography and the approaching of random strangers. I hope he’ll agree to it as there’s no better way to learn than watching a master do it.


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