Patient, Stubborn, Dumb, or Lucky?

How about all four?

Photography isn't always about seizing "the decisive moment" or even recognizing that one has just done so.

Sometimes it's about having the patience of a grazing animal or the stubborness of one that refuses to seek a greener pasture--just yet. The line between stubborn and dumb can be pretty thin, as we often see in our politics.

But whatever drives you on or holds you back can finally tumble you into clover. Which is how I wound up taking the photo I posted yesterday of a busboy sitting on a shoeshine stand in a men's room, thumbs flickering over his handheld device. (Oops, that doesn't sound right.)

Another way to look at patience and stubborness is as manifestations of process. Process is the name of the game, in most everything. It’s the idea of enjoying the journey, especially when the destination is unknown (as in life).

So I thought I’d post three pictures I took in the space of a minute or two before the final picture fell into my lap.

Top picture:

The men’s room at Birchwood Manor in Whippany. End of the Taste of the Nation charity fundraiser. (People buy tickets and browse around the ballroom, tasting foods prepared by dozens of restaurants, wine merchants, cheesemakers, etc. Good marketing for the restaurants and merchants. Proceeds go to feed seriously hungry children.)

So I wander into the men’s room and notice two things. This striking green-gold chair and, in the vestibule behind it, a shoeshine stand with its two graceful metal pedestals. Both against the black and green granite.

I’m not that religious, but a word comes to mind from a song sung at every Passover seder. The word is dayenu, and it means "it would have been enough."

So if all of a sudden the lights had gone out or the men’s room was suddenly jammed with guys who had been eating and drinking all night, I would have hustled out of there and dayenu.

Second picture:

But no, it stayed pretty empty, so I had time to keep looking to see if I could see it better. With nobody else in the room, I could retreat to the other side and, as photographers say, "work it" a little more. At what point would these intriguing elements become as alive in two dimensions as they were in the tangled recesses of my imagination?

I liked this second picture, too, and I was sort of ready to move on in a dayenu way when the most bizarre and unexpected thing happened.

Third picture:

When my back was turned for an instant, somebody came into the vestibule and settled into the shoeshine stand. Suddenly a pair of legs in dress pants and loafers were perched on those metal pedestals.

Now urgency banished patience. I had to get this picture before something changed and the coach-and-four turned back into a pumpkin. If you want to convince yourself of the mystery and mutability of ordinary life, pick up a camera and try to look at everything as a spot on the continuum between landscape (urban or pastoral) and still life (quotidian objects, refuse, the Hope Diamond, makes no difference.)

Fourth picture:

More than satisfied–who could have anticipated such a congress of things?–I walked out of the men’s room and looked back at the occupant of the chair. Another gift. That’s the picture I posted yesterday. Note the body language, hunched over in concentration, a world within a world. The white of his shirt against the dark granite, the swirly pastel tattoos on one arm and the tribalistic bracelets on the other. Along with pants that Fred Astaire might have worn in any of 147 different movies.

I walked out of there thinking, I cannot believe how lucky I am.


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