Here's Looking at You
15 Minute Write
A sunshine-laden week where you almost forgot the awful summer we’d been having, bleached out, highkey, wonderful. On Regent Street the bunting was out, row after row strung perpendicularly across the thoroughfare. Some royal anniversary or celebration making London heave with humans and their associations. It was great pickings for a street photographer.
It was hard to tell whether the guy talking was a tourist - frankly, everyone looked like one to him nowadays, after 15 years since he called this place home. The question was from a guy who was with a female partner, both in uniformly bland casual dress, like everyone nowadays. In his hand one of those phones with multiple cameras like some 50’s stereoscopic novelty. He was holding it as if to take a selfie of himself and his wife.
“ Would you do us a favour please? ”
He hated this - just because he had a camera people thought he would be happy to take photos of them, always feeling anxious that he was going to drop the expensive-looking new phone, worried that for all his years of experience with ‘the image,’ he would be unable to create anywhere near the perfection they would expect from him - wanting to ask them to send him a copy so he could fix things in post.
“ Sure” he replied, laying bare all these misgivings in his mono-syllabic answer.
“ Would you let us take a photo of your audience, please? ”
He was unsure how to take this - was this a request of muddled language from a tourist? They had seemed, up until now, like native English speakers
“ Sorry? You want me to take your photo ?” he tried to clarify
“ No. We’d like to take a photograph of your audience if that’s okay with you, my wife spotted them ”
Now he was really confused.
“ You’ve lost me. Sorry ”
The couple looked towards each other and smiled, in a ‘we’ll need to explain’ kind of way.
“ You create? ”
“ Well, I’m a photographer yeah, I do a bit of writing too ”
“ Sure, we can see. Well, I say we, it’s my wife. She has a gift for spotting those with an audience, however large or small. I don’t know how she does it but she’s always right ”
“I’m not sure what you mean by audience ”
Here the woman, who had up until now been silent and still bar a few gestures, chipped in.
“ You show your work. People look at what you do, and you have people who regularly look at your work? ”
“ Sure, I post photos online and I write stories which I also publish, but I’d hardly say I have an audience ”
“ One person can be an audience ” came the reply from the guy.
“ Yes ”, continued his wife, “ The important thing is that they are there with you whenever you do anything now. To some degree, you are thinking about them when you create. It’s not necessary that you change what you do to cater for them, but you understand a need to acknowledge them ”
This was doing his head in, who were these people and what did they actually want. What audience were they talking about? She continued:
“ We all create for someone. It starts out as just one person, ourselves. But then, when we let our work go, and give it its freedom, it is taken in by others and made their own. You don’t know who these people are for sure. You create an image in your head, but wouldn’t it be great to actually see who they were? You are a visual person. To see your audience would be to motivate and improve your work. Don’t you think? ”
He could see her point, he supposed.
“ I see your audience. They are with you. My husband will take their photo for you. His phone is adapted especially for the purpose ”
This was weird - he felt - but also slightly intriguing.
“ Sure, why not? What should I do? ”
“ Just stand there ”
The guy raised his phone in front of him and the woman rested her hand on his head, closed her eyes and said, loudly:
“ Everyone, all of you reading right now….. Smile. ”
Photo: Regent Street, London. 2021 Nikon d750
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