He arrives early in the morning, balancing a load of bread on his head. He sets up a makeshift stall on the banks of the Bosporus. If you get there early, you would get a fresh piece. We sat, and spoke for a while. I spoke no Turkish, and he spoke no English. The bread tasted sweet.
By Ismail Lagardien
15 February 2018. They are everywhere. Always there. On the beach. On the promenade. In the parking lot.They are there when you arrive. They stand around. Waiting. Hustling. One step forward. Two steps back. They circle around. They make sure not get too close. Well, not always. They’re quite gutsy. Persistent. Annoying.
You sit on a bench. They are there, always. Waiting. One step forward. Two steps back. Another one arrives. They joist gently, but with purpose. The dominant ones often get their way: “I was here first. He is mine.”
They are interested in your food. They will take any morsel. You were warned not to give them any food.
“It just encourages them,” a woman said.
You sit. Eat fish and chips. You try to ignore them. You know it’s not fair. You turn your back to them. One slips into view, again. One step forward. Two steps back. Standing still. Looking woeful. You wave them away.
“It’s no use,” the woman said, “they are here everyday”.
They are supplicants, scavengers. They’re everywhere the same; from the beach to the Red Light District. They are everywhere, these pesky gulls.
By Ismail Lagardien
16 August 2017. There are times when the simplest, the most every-day scene, stands out, and presents itself – intact. There were any number of these arrangements (above) at a cafeteria at Schipol Airport.
What makes photography special is that the most ordinary, the most banal scenes almost create themselves, and present themselves intact in the photographer’s mind. This, surely, is the power that lies where the creative impulse and the gesture of photography intersect, and when the photographer captures something that everyone looks at every day, but sees it differently and does something more than.
On the beachfront, were I live in Port Elizabeth, there are everyday scenes that, when isolated from its surroundings, photography thrives, as much as it does, on decontexualisation. This is one of the reasons why photographs often need a good caption. Below is an everyday scene on the beachfront in Port Elizabeth.
5 January 2017. I recently read a story on the power of a single photograph, published by Time Magazine. The Time story was inspired by an exhibition, One Image, described as a pièce de résistance, featuring just one photograph, a seemingly inconsequential, blurred image of a young girl sat on a deck chair. It recounts how, with the ubiquity of cellphone cameras, we are swamped, daily, by hundreds of images. The writer presents the one image, this particular case, as an experiment to force us to look at one image, and push us to look more closely at the back story of the picture. One Image was part of a larger exhibition, Podróż do nieśmiertelności fotografii: Photography Never Dies (The Journey to Immortality: Photography Never Dies) held at the Main Railway Station in Wroclaw, Poland.
The story drew my attention to the very many pictures I have made over the years, and especially, to the ‘back story’ of each picture or set of pictures. It also reminded me of the way that I have drifted away from photography, the act of making pictures, towards the philosophy and sociology of photography. I want to share, then, short stories on some of the pictures I have made in places around the world, as a way to give greater meaning to what I originally considered to be the time and spaces between photographs.
Notwithstanding the catchy idiom that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ (Read a piece on this meme, here) there are times when a caption, or a short story on the context of a photograph tells us more than what is depicted in the image. Sometimes, as with the photograph, below, it simply tells a story. This, then, is the first in a series of short takes on the back stories of pictures, and short takes on photographs.
Morning in an Istanbul Bar
I was sat deep inside a bar in Istanbul drinking coffee. The entire front of the bar was open to the street. A tram line ran along the front edge of the bar. It was a cold December morning. A man walked into the bar. He was bundled in a red parka. He sat down, ordered a beer and lit a cigarette. He took a sip of beer. A toke. A picture of Kemal Ataturk on the back wall of the bar flickered in pink fluorescent light. He took another sip. A toke. A tram sped by, barely two metres from the man. He did not flinch. Nobody flinched. There were three of us in the bar. The barman was arranging glasses on the counter. The man was lost in reverie. He took a sip. A toke. Kemal blinked in pink luminescence.