Sunday, January 15, 2006


Islands in a Chaotic Sea

I was in the Atlanta airport yesterday, waiting for my connection, and I was doing what I frequently do when I'm bored...snapping pictures of things and people and moments that speak to me. I've been doing this for years, and no one has ever stopped me or taken exception to the process....until yesterday.

The place was, as always, packed, yet there were dozens of examples of folks around me who had managed to carve out their own little "private islands" amid all the noise and bustle and chaos. I find that immensely intriguing, as it demonstrates both focus and will-- and reinforces something I was taught from childhood on: that we make our own experience of the world.

I'd only taken a few shots when an imperious elderly woman took strenuous objection to what I was doing. Since I was shooting with a long lens without flash, I'm not altogether sure how she could make any assumptions about my subject matter, but she felt that my use of a camera in a public place was a violation of the privacy of the people in that space.

I put my camera away without comment or argument. Not because I had any qualms whatsoever about what I was doing, (I was not capturing anything that would harm the subjects in any way) but because by her loud and public outburst, she had tainted the environment. People were now aware of my lens, and I was now a focal point, not a piece of the furniture. I make no pretense of being surreptitious-- it's not exatly a spycam-- I had a Sony DSC-F828. If I was trying to get the dirt on people, I'd use a camera phone or a tiny shirtpocket jobbie. But the moment she drew others attention to me, the mood of the environment changed. Technophiles wanted to talk about my equipment, kids wanted to pose, women rearranged their hair and clothing, guys sat up straighter....

But by being a complete PITA, the annoying grande dame sparked a couple of thoughts: Does she really believe mine was the only camera in Hartsfield that might have captured her image? (Dream on, you old bat. You were under surveillance the moment you entered the airport.) And what is it she is hiding? She looks like the type you see sitting on condominium residents' associations and church boards of elders everywhere... so what's the dirty secret that she was afraid I'd reveal (or capture) about her trip from Hotlanta to Motown?

Now, if I were a complete bitch, I'd publish the shot I took of her here. It was actually a rather flattering casual portrait and her white hair and dark sweater made for an intriguing composition... but instead I'll leave you with this testimony to students everywhere-- Yes, Mom and Dad, you really can study anywhere if you're motivated enough. Posted by Picasa

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