Sunday, January 19, 2014


Unable to drive after my foot surgery, I rode the bus for several weeks. One day I tossed a book into my purse and hurried out the door to catch the bus. When we made our first stop, we picked up this young man, who was very....very talkative. The bus driver made a comment to me about how much this kid liked to talk just before letting him on the bus. Well, I didn't mind. He asked me where I was going. He asked me what happened to my foot. He asked me what I was reading. At that point, I gave him my book. It was written by Henri Nouwen, and was a gift from my friend. I let him keep the book, and he seemed happy. Then I asked if I could take his photo. He was suspicious and asked me why. I said, "Because I like to take pictures". He smiled for the camera.

22 comments:

nicrap said...

lol. A happy "kid" [how old he must be you think?] ;)

Jen Nifer said...

I'm guessing 16 or 17. He was sweet.

Jen Nifer said...

His mom greeted him when he got off the bus and he showed her the book.

I don't know why this moment stuck with me. Maybe simply because I happened to have my camera ready.

nicrap said...

16, 17 ... really? I was guessing in his late twenties. I am surprised.

-FJ said...

Developmentally disabled? Or just extraordinarily sociable? Given the gift, I'm curious.

Jen Nifer said...

Good question. I'm thinking he had a mild form Spina bifida because he was using a walker and had a typical gait pattern. If that was the case his cognition would be normal.

Jen Nifer said...

P.s. he started quoting Scripture to me when I told him what I was reading.

Jen Nifer said...

What would be the difference, in your opinion, in giving the book to a developmentally delayed person?

Thersites said...

Just wondering the extent to which his disability (or lack thereof) was an influence on your decision to gift him the book...

I take it that you were done with it?

Jen Nifer said...

Actually I hadn't read it yet. I gave it to him because he was much more interested in it than I was. It had been a gift to me so I figured I would pass it on.

:-)

Thersites said...

Ah, an interpassive reading experience! :)

Thersites said...

Please remind me to delete those shows on my DVR that I never watched.

Thersites said...

I usually just put the books I buy and never read on a shelf under the coffee table, and then buy a new one to replace it. ;)

Jen Nifer said...

We should set up a book swap. :p

And his disability had nothing to do with my decision to give him the book. If I have anything to give away. ..it's books.

Thersites said...

Was it a tit-for-tat picture-for-book exchange?

I suspect that you may feel guilty "privatizing" public spaces... but only if someone is watching you... or your subject might "see" you taking their picture.

...and I think that by offering the book, you gave the kid a reason to trust you enough to let you capture his image w/o his questioning why you wanted to take his picture... in other words, it gave you "both" a reason/excuse, where perhaps none was needed.

If the kid walked into a 7-11, he'd be on video until he left the property... permission (and/or tit-4-tat) not required.

If the "duck" had seen the kid, he'd snap away until the kid demanded the film. If you were a police officer, you'd probably have no problem installing surveillance camera's on every street corner.

But you don't seem to be able to take someone's picture without asking...

Why do you feel compelled to ask permission?

Is it because you are stealing their "souls"? Is it because you believe that one's "image" is their own "private" property, even if they're "in public"?

Thersites said...

Now I'll go back to my real vocation, capturing "upskirts" for the local porn mag. ;)

Thersites said...

...after all, it's not like they're going to recognize themselves in a picture of their own faces... ;)

Thersites said...

btw - You could opt for a different camera.

I think that eventually expectations of "privacy" in "public" spaces is going to become a rare quirky old cantankerous bird, indeed!

Jen Nifer said...

I didn't consider taking his photo until after I'd given him the book. It was incredibly uncomfortable for me to just point the camera at him without permission.

Jen Nifer said...

Why do I feel compelled to ask for permission?

Because it's polite.

It's their private moment. If I take the shot without asking, I become part of that moment in an obtrusive way. It feels sketchy, as if I'm too ckicken-shit to deal with human interaction. I got the benefit of a cool photo but didn't pay for it, I took no real risk.

If I approach a person and ask for a photo, I take a risk. I put myself out there and face rejection. There's more integrity that way.

Have you seen or read anything about Humans of New York? I like it. I like that approach to street photography.

Thersites said...

Fair enough.

I prefer the candids, though. They are never quite as "posed"

Jen Nifer said...

True.
I think that what I like about asking is actually the interaction, more than the photo.

It's invigorating to interact with people.

You've definitely made me think about my motives. :-)