Wednesday, October 30, 2013

camera obscura

Someone took my picture last week on the train. He did it more carefully than quickly, on an old fashioned kind of accordion camera with a box. He didn’t want me to notice him, and when I did notice him because he was fiddling with the accordion, he put the camera down and pretended not to be doing anything, which looked silly, but I allowed him this. I went back to staring at someone’s knees, like I was doing when he decided he wanted to photograph me, and he took my picture.

After he had put the camera away, I still didn’t look at him. I waited a few stops, after he was sitting down (he was standing before), looking innocently like any other passenger on that evening train home. He was younger than me, wore a cap, thick glasses. He may have been in art school.

For a second I imagined talking to him, but I quickly made a firm decision not to. He may have found my voice irritating, like lots of voices I find irritating on the train, especially female ones, I hate to say. I couldn’t do that to him, and I liked the way I’d already been formed in his mind.

But I did wonder why he took the picture, just that one in the thirty minutes I was with him in that car. I’m never photographed. Even at fashion parties, even in neighborhoods heaving with street photographers collecting visions and faces. Once when thrift-shopping in Paris with a beautiful friend, a style blogger stopped us and politely asked me to step aside so he could get a better shot of her dress.

Maybe it was the book I had in my hands, forgotten and suspended in the air. It was Alice Munro’s Dance of the Happy Shades, which you should read, which I had picked up from a display on Bleecker Street when I was looking for flowers and not books. Or possibly it was the sunflowers, attention-getting, that I had bought for Andy, my super, because he had moved the sofa into our apartment, though I never would have asked him.

But mostly I thought, because I tend to get fantastical in these situations, that he sensed that what had taken me off somewhere far at that time, leaving the book, the flowers, the train, was something important, which I think it was.

When I stood to exit at Clinton Washington, I glanced at him quickly, and he didn’t look up.

And unrelated, but I love this winter-made Fleet Foxes video. Top image from The Sartorialist.