City Photo Bureau: Boston

I like the idea of an old-fashioned journalist especially the man-on-the-street style reporter who happens on the scene at the right time with a camera , a notebook, and the inability to mind his own damned business. Of course I am not one of those reporters, I am but a lowly blogger with a big imagination and a camera. The City Photo Bureau was created so that I can post interesting street photos from cities that I visit along with some commentary. My first installment will come from my current hometown of Boston, Massachusetts (even though I actually live in Quincy). All photos were taken on 2 July 2012.

The picture above is the first “street” photo that I have ever taken. I discovered, quite by accident, a YouTube channel devoted to street photography and produced by a guy named Eric Kim who begins every video with the phrase “What up Streettogs?”. I was annoyed by the greeting but the information that he provides in the videos as well as on his blog is good practical advice for people who like to walk around town and capture life as it happens – whether the subjects know/like it or not. Street photography is a bit of a sticky subject because many people think that it is an invasion of privacy – but laws in America allow photos to be taken in any public area for the most part but before you start shooting folks on the street I would consult local laws on the matter – you’ve been warned.

A quiet man.

I am not comfortable with taking photos of homeless people because I don’t want them to think that I am using their misfortune for my own gain – even though in a way I am. I asked the gentleman above if I could take his photo and he was all for it as long as I made a donation. I asked his name and he mumbled something I couldn’t understand then I asked him how long he had been on the street and he said since noon with a glint in his eye that passed almost instantly – Hard luck cannot kill a good sense of humor. I would have liked to talk with him more but he had a good spot with a lot of tourists coming by so I moved on after a few shots.

She looks like she would rather be anywhere else.

Chinatown in Boston is a challenge to the senses. Good food smells intermingle with whiffs of foreign languages while people from all corners walk quickly past – darting in and out of shops and restaurants that I am afraid to enter. The dynamics of the neighborhood are perfect for taking photos of people and it also holds a certain degree of danger because some folks just do not want their pictures taken – I found that out the hard way. Before I received my lesson in photographing Chinatown I met one of the gentleman in the picture below.

The Old School

They were sitting in the square near the Chinatown Gate taking a break from their missions and I assume they spotted me leaning up against a building to take their picture – Sometimes I imagine that I am a forgettable “grey man” but certainly not in that neighborhood. The gentleman on the left, John, found me a few blocks away scrutinizing the photographic possibilities of a phone booth that was decorated to look “Chinese”. We exchanged names and talked at length about the pros and cons of the business – Mind you, I made it seem as if I had been doing this for a while and that I was an old hand in the game. John mentioned that he and the other gentleman had worked for every newspaper and local magazine since the 1970s but now the options for a hard-boiled newspaper/magazine photographer are few so they do a lot of freelance work. He also warned me about taking photos of people in the neighborhood – a warning that I did not heed because soon after our parting I walked up the street and started shooting some men who were unloading crates of brightly colored fruits and vegetables from a graffiti covered van. At first no one paid any attention to me but I changed my position so that I was looking at a large pile of crates as well as a smaller gentleman wearing a royal blue bucket hat and a blood stained white butcher’s uniform. As soon as I put the viewfinder to my eye I could see the man stepping back to get out of the picture but I snapped the shutter and got him full in the frame. As I stood smiled and waved, like I do to all of the other strangers I shoot, he approached me and began yelling a combination of his native language interspersed with “Fucks – You FBI – I break the fucking camera!”. During this exchange of cussing and counter cussing a group of workmen slowly enclosed our conversation into a semi-circle. I was scared at this point but mostly scared that someone would try to smash my camera so I positioned myself against the wall so no one could get behind me and started to talk my way out of it. There is a certain group of people in the world that cannot understand why an able-bodied man would be out taking pictures for fun and art at noon on a Monday rather than working for his daily bread  – this group of workmen were of that group and they found my explanations to be weak and suspicious. I showed them a number of shots that I had taken and offered to erase the few shots I had of them. This last offer seemed to please the man in the blue hat and the workmen surrounding us started to disperse after a few more tense moments of finger-fumbling deletion. The situation with the man in the blue hat was what my dad would call a character builder and I swore to myself during the briskly paced walk to Downtown Crossing that I would approach that sort of situation much more cautiously in the future. Once I felt that the adrenalin had waned I did what any man in that situation would’ve done – I called my mom.

Oh God, he’s going to spew!

The photo above looks quite confusing so let me set the scene. Just a few moments before the gentleman in the blue t-shirt sat in front of the storefront next to an entrance to the Orange Line in Downtown Crossing. He cracked open that fresh bottle of blue Listerine in the center of the photo and took a long hard drink. The three bicycle cops did not just happen upon this scene nor were they called by someone – they were actually parked at the curb in the foreground talking amongst themselves when this chemical addled albeit normal looking moron decided to have some minty refreshment. I couldn’t get much information from the scene but what I could gather was that this was not his first bottle of the day and that the stress of the police and forthcoming paramedic interruption was making him feel sick so he shakily got to his feet and stumbled (shown) into the vestibule of the store to the left and yakked frothy blue all over the windows and floor of the entryway.

Below are a few more shots from the day that don’t come equipt with an interesting story but I like them and this is my blog so I can do whatever the hell I like.

Anyone that knows my wife and I knows that we enjoy traveling as well as showing off our photos from said travels (half the fun in life is showing off), but we also love to hear about other people’s adventures so if you actually read this last paragraph and would like to show off some photos and travel stories of your own I would be more than happy to host them here on Afield Book. Just leave me a comment or a message on Facebook if you are interested in doing so and please don’t be scared to submit something because everything is better when it’s shared with and judged by complete strangers.

 

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