Inverted Diner


Downtown’s best (top photo)

I’ve always had a great fondness for urban subjects – from Edward Hopper and the earlier (under-appreciated) George Bellows, to photographers like Feninger and Nan Goldin, all exploring the built environment and it’s inhabited feel, from a huge variety of insightful and technical perspectives.

When it comes to street-photography in-particular (a product of the 35mm camera, really) there seem to be more than the usual number of sublime-alignment factors which come into play – zen archery comes to mind – not just vision and imagination, but timing, too! The narrative appears out of the background for a moment and then is gone – and woe-betide the one too slow, removing their lens-cap!

The curious thing is that though one can analyze the aesthetics involved halfway to death, that does not necessarily help one achieve better next time – because the deliberating reductive mindset of clockwork disassembly and study, is not at all the same as that playful empathic mindset most sensitively attuned to emergent potential aesthetics, and the feel evoked by relationship of sublime non-numerical properties.

Anyhow, don’t mean to be long-winded (it’s involuntary) – I count these as some of my all-time personal favourite street photographs – for the moment caught, the narrative, the feel, and the implied city around each small vignette.

And in gathering them, I couldn’t help noticing that in a way, the food cart or truck is a super-compact visual distillation of my most-beloved greasy-spoon. One that you can reveal entirely, and yet also photograph the whole of, from outside, instead of trying in vain to capture the essence from one corner booth seat alone (a really tough problem of perspective, sacrifice and decision, considering all the juicy visuals abounding within).

Ghouls love fries

This fantastic piece of luck came to me from the marvellous fan-expo a couple of years ago. A photographer’s dream – all the wacky costumes and characters you can imagine, and everyone in a party mood – super-fun!

Free ice cream

This photo made me laugh for a few reasons. First, because one wonders how the poor fellow is going to get away on crutches with an ice-cream cone in his hand (is the ice-cream guy looking back to see if he has someone to help?). But even more because it really was completely free ice-cream, and, since it was very early in the afternoon, and I’d had a good breakfast, I declined.

Thus proving to myself that I am quite a bit older than I usually think I am. Sigh.

Second shift

While less clear and explicate than the top photo, I think I like this one better still, just for the way the subject sinks into the night itself in a more painterly way, instead of sitting atop it, in a more object-over-background manner.

It also feels one step lonelier, which is a right-on catch for the poor buggers stuck working the late-shift at these carts (about ten-thirty PM, here). They aren’t seeing the business (or the tips) they do during the day, and though they do still have a view of Nathan Phillips square (which is sure to contain at least a couple of folks acting silly, all night long), it’s much harder to see, and the antics generally tamer (the square is also a cycle-cop short-cut, being only a few blocks away from 52 Division headquarters).

These sausage-sellers do at least have each other – only a few feet away, night after night. Which instantly makes the writer in me wonder. Romance? Feud? Complete disdain? Shy fantasy of eternal friendship?

Or is it really just a matter of, “Morning Ralph.” – “Evening Ralph.”

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