People typically view photography as a one-man (or woman) activity since it involves a single individual looking through a viewfinder and pressing the shutter. And while I wouldn’t argue that perception, there can be opportunities to interact with other members of the human race if one is open to them.
A couple of weeks ago I found myself packing my two old cameras around on the riverfront of Milwaukee, Wis. The excursion was courtesy of my son, Jacob, and his lovely bride, Whitney, who took me there for a photo opportunity.
Jacob and I exercised our photographic skills for a couple of hours along the bike/walking paths that front Lake Michigan. While friendly, most of the people I encountered were either flashing by on a bicycle or had headsets on as they strolled past me.
At one point, however, a fisherman caught my eye. And while I could have taken his image without his knowledge by using a long lens, I instead approached this lone individual to ask his permission regarding being photographed and to strike up a conversation.
The 30ish man, attired in a sleeveless shirt, faded jeans shorts and an old Milwaukee Brewers hat, didn’t mind having his photo taken and proved willing to discuss his angling pastime.
Two days later I was out on a walkabout in the small, central Illinois town where my son, Caleb, resides. While I had intended to climb into my car and look for something to photograph, I found more than enough to hold my interest by simply walking in different directions from the town square. And had I been in a vehicle I would have missed the opportunity to meet three more interesting individuals.
The first person I encountered was a young girl maybe 13 years old, who was out for a morning walk with her miniature 12-week-old terrier. As I played with her dog, the girl happily provided details regarding her pride-and-joy puppy, which she explained was named after a character from “Lord of the Rings,” which I hadn’t recognized.
A couple of blocks later I found a residence with a flowered sun bonnet hanging on its front screen door. As I paused to photograph the hat and an assortment of flora that was growing in the yard, an older man pulled up in a black van and stopped.
I quickly explained who I was and why I was there. The man, whose name was Bob, seemed genuinely pleased that someone had noticed the fruits of his labor. To my surprise, he shut his van engine off and climbed out, seemingly not minding that it was effectively blocking an alley.
Over the next few minutes he took me on a guided tour of his postage-stamp-sized yard, explaining in detail what was planted where. The most fascinating part was the banana trees he had growing. They had me shaking my head in amazement considering how far north they are growing. Bob proudly informed me he had a harvest of 37 bananas the year before.
Roughly a mile away from the “Banana Man” I found an old, concrete sidewalk that ended at a pair of tall trees. Beyond the trees was a corn field. Obviously a house had once stood at the end of the walkway. Nearby was a large trash barrel with purple and white flowers growing out of a pile of yard waste that flanked the barrel.
As I photographed the site a curious older woman appeared, who said she keeps an eye on the lot. Before we parted company I’d heard about the property’s history, a neighbor who also is into photography and her husband’s health issues.
While I would have had fun out taking photos if I’d not met a soul, it’s the people I met along the way who made the experience memorable.